by David R. Wells and
Lawrence H. Wells
25 January 2003
Slightly Revised 18 February 2003
Things are complicated right now. There are four major topics for discussion:
Overall, the War on Terror seems to be going fairly well, if quietly. Several important points:
The Bush administration claimed that many of the more questionable "homeland security" measures were needed to improve the government's ability to gather intelligence on terrorists. We must point out that the September 11 debacle did not result from inadequate intelligence gathering; the failures were in the analysis and dissemination of the intelligence data that had been gathered. Gathering more intelligence data will do nothing to improve faulty intelligence analysis, and could actually make matters worse by further overloading the analysts. We also don't like the civil liberties implications of some of these "homeland security" measures. What is the point of protecting our freedoms from foreign aggressors if we are going to surrender that freedom to our own government?
[ The Case For War
| The Case Against War
| Skepticism is Warranted
| Military Analysis ]
[ The Coup/Exile Option | Conflicts of Interest | Should We Declare War? | The "Peace Protesters" ]
There is no question in our minds that Saddam Hussein is indeed a dangerous, even evil person. The question is whether he is an immediate threat to the United States, or to put it constitutionally, a "clear and present danger". Lest we be accused of supporting him, here are some of the reasons we think he is a bad and dangerous person:
A fair amount of skepticism is warranted concerning the pending war on Iraq. In fact we're skeptical of almost everyone involved on all sides!
Iraq's recent arms declaration to the U.N. is clearly false. Paragraph 3 of U.N. Resolution 1441 required Iraq to declare all its "weapons of mass destruction" and any related production facilities. Iraq's declaration claimed that all were destroyed after the previous arms inspection team was kicked out in 1998. Saddam Hussein did everything in his power to hide these weapons and production facilities during the 1991-1998 arms inspections; it is impossible to believe that he would have voluntarily destroyed them all after the arms inspectors were ejected.
All three of these important nations are opposed to using military force to disarm Iraq, but their opposition must be viewed with considerable skepticism. All three have significant conflicts of interest concerning Iraq. More on this below.
We should state for the record that we are most emphatically not in the "peace camp" that is making such a fuss right now. We feel that most of the peace demonstrators are just hopelessly naive. In many cases, these are the same people who in 1991 said that we should give sanctions a chance, then later in the 1990s said that sanctions were too cruel. We know that sanctions will not stop Saddam Hussein. If not war, and if not sanctions, then what course of action do the protesters propose? Do they seriously believe the world will be a more peaceful place if Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons? We do not think that if we are simply nice to Saddam, he will suddenly become a peaceful, happy, fuzzy bunny.
In a few cases, the peace protest organizers are openly Stalinist! Among the groups comprising International ANSWER are the International Action Center and the Workers World Party, which are both openly Marxist. If you don't believe us, look them up! We've provided links to their web sites below. While the political positions of these groups do not automatically invalidate the arguments against war, these groups clearly have other reasons for opposing US action that have nothing to do with peace. Lest you consider us right wing cranks, one of your humble authors (DRW) heard this on WNYC radio, an especially left wing outlet of the notoriously liberal National Public Radio. We cross checked it with the right wing group Accuracy in Media, and they reported the same thing. We aren't terribly thrilled with either the left or the right, but when both sides agree, there's got to be something to this.
We favor continued arms inspection, problematical though this may be. We believe that Iraq is indeed hiding banned arms, probably chemical and biological. It is likely that they are trying to violate restrictions on ballistic missiles as well. It is our hope that that the arms inspectors will find clear and compelling evidence that Iraq has violated its various treaty obligations to disarm. The sticky bit is that, in the past, arms inspections have only worked when the nation involved truly wished to disarm. Arms inspections succeeded in South Africa, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine because those countries all wished to give up their nuclear weapons or weapons development programs. Iraq, in contrast, appears to be working very hard to avoid disarming. We hope that arms inspections backed by a credible threat of military force may yet succeed in disarming Iraq, but as far as we know there is no historical precedent for this.
As we understand the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Iraq must prove that it destroyed its "weapons of mass destruction"; it's not up to the inspectors to prove their existence. Still, our allies seem to think that some proof of their existance is required, whether the resolutions demand it or not. It is pretty ludicrous to assume that a couple of hundred inspectors could find relatively small weapons in a country approximately the size of California, at least without intellegence support from outside. Iraq has been trying to stop U-2 overflights, in our opinion to help prevent the inspectors from finding anything.
One possible reason that the Bush Administration may be reluctant to share intelligence information with the inspectors is that they fear giving away targeting information. If all of a sudden, the inspectors start showing up at the exact sites where the banned weapons are located, Iraq will move them after the inspectors leave, and then we will have to track them down all over again when it's time to drop bombs. We're not sure that this is the highest concern, though. Another reason is that Iraq might be able to identify our intelligence sources, and then those sources would be lost. As stated above, we need logistical and political support from our allies, and we're not going to get it without proof. In fact, without proof, Americans should be reluctant to support this war.
We have as yet seen no conclusive proof that Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" still exist. While we suspect that these weapons do in fact exist, proof is required, if only to persuade reluctant allies "Proof" does not need to be given to us personally. It may not need to be made public. But there are other people who are charged with evaluating secret information, such as congressional intellegence committees. This is what congressional oversight is for. From what we can tell, the Bush administration supplied enough information to the US Congress to convince them to pass a war powers resolution. Perhaps we could use diplomatic channels to similarly convince our allies.
Militarily, we strongly suspect that the United States would win any war with Iraq. The question to our minds is what the cost in lives will be.
American forces in the region are vastly smaller than those used in 1991. In 1991, we used about 600,000 men at arms to easily defeat Iraq's 1 million. This time around, we are planning for about about 150,000, and in some ways, their task is more difficult this time. In 1991, US and allied forces only had to liberate Kuwait, a fairly small country. This time, we are planning on capturing and holding a nation about the size of California. Also, we expect that Iraqi forces will attempt to fight an urban campaign, which is the the dirtiest, nastiest form of conventional warfare. It tends to kill lots of people, both military and civilian. Further, since this will be a war to change the regime, Saddam Hussein has no reason to withhold any of his "weapons of mass destruction" We can expect him to use any and all of his chemical and biological weapons.
Many weapons we had available in 1991 are missing today. Our aircraft carriers no longer carry medium attack aircraft, such as the old A-6. The smaller carrier-based A-7 is gone as well. Today, carriers rely instead on aircraft such as the F/A-18, which is notorious for its short range and lack of bomb load. In fact, from some figures we've seen, US carriers no longer carry a complete air wing. During the Cold War, a US supercarrier typically carried 80-90 aircraft. Figures we've seen published more recently suggest that they currently carry 50-60, even though the F/A-18 is smaller than its predecessors. We'd love to complain about the lack of battleships, but we suspect that they would not be particularly useful in this circumstance. The F-111 tactical bomber is essentially gone, and it used to be the only plane that could carry the GBU-28 "Saddamizer" bomb. (F-15Es can carry it now.) The amazing F-14 Tomcat is slowly fading away, and while the remaining examples are still very formidable their numbers much diminished compared to 1991.
Nevertheless, we still believe that the United States can win militarily. Iraq's forces, which proved to be a paper tiger in 1991, have been further weakened since. Still, a hard core of the Iraqi military remains. Most of the reductions in Iraq's military have been among the "cannon fodder" forces: ill-motivated draftees armed with obsolete equipment. They largely surrendered en masse in 1991, and the remaining forces of this sort can be expected to do the same this time. Saddam's politically loyal and better equipped Republican Guards put up a better fight in 1991, and were not decisively defeated. They are still out there. These are the troops we can expect to find fighting in the streets of Baghdad. In 1991, on those occasions where US forces did directly engage the Republican Guards in the desert, US forces won handily. US forces did not, however, engage the Republican Guard forces when they were holed up in Basra at the end of the war. We feared too many casualties in urban warfare. Sadly, urban warfare is exactly what we can expect this time. The Iraqis know that we don't want an urban fight, and so they will try to engage us in one. We're pretty sure that American generals are smart enough to do their best to avoid a direct urban fight. We hope that they are successful. Urban warfare tends to produce lots of casualties. Ideally, we will attack and destroy Republican Guard forces before they can deploy to the cities.
In 1991, the United States leveraged its enormous advantages in air power, electronic warfare, and precision guided weapons to speed its victory. We can expect this to happen again. While our air power is somewhat diminished, Iraqi air power is greatly diminished. We don't expect the Iraqi air force will put up much of a fight. The United States can be expected to use even more precision guided weapons.
The United States has some other advantages that we did not have in 1991. Kurdish areas in Northern Iraq are already effectively liberated, and the Kurds are willing to help us. (despite the numerous occasions that the US has hung them out to dry in the past) We can essentially use all of their territory as a base. There is also an organized (if VERY imperfect) government in exile waiting to move into Baghdad upon our victory. Used correctly, they could help transition Iraq to a true democracy. This will be difficult! The government in exile is notoriously fractious, and the various factions have many ulterior motives. One is suspicious about whether any of them are true democrats.
One significant problem we have is timing. The Bush Administration wishes to start the war early in the year, before the hot weather makes it harder for our armed forces to protect themselves against biological and chemical attacks. Most authorities believe that it would be best from a military perspective to start the invasion before March 2003. We would urge the Bush Administration to line up more international support before then.
Right now, there is a diplomatic initiative to encourage Saddam Hussein to go into exile, perhaps in Libya. This seems like an imperfect, though perhaps acceptable solution. Saudi Arabia is leading this initiative. This proposal has the advantage of avoiding war, but could have some problematical consequences. We are left with the impression that the Saudis are trying to replace Saddam with Saddam Lite, (one third less murderous than your regular tyrant) that is some other members of Saddam's regime who might be almost as bad. This might ease some of Saudi Arabia's fears, (see "Conflicts of Interest", below) but we are concerned that the replacement authoritarian regime might be almost as bad as Saddam. We'd really like to see Saddam replaced with a real democracy, but a less-bad dictator might be a tolerable alternative to war.
In any case, we are not at all convinced that Saddam would ever accept exile. Other members of his regime might consider this initiative a signal to start a coup in exchange for amnesty. We're not thrilled about the idea of amnesty for Saddam's thugs, but we have to wonder if it would produce fewer casualties than a war.
Some important nations have conflicts of interest where Iraq is concerned. We feel that most of the media have overlooked these important considerations:
Further, due to a much more recent agreement, Russia has a major interest in Iraq's oil industry.
We suspect that cash-strapped Russia mostly wants a financial settlement, and guarantees that its interests in Iraq's oil are protected.
The Chinese government owned oil company, CNPC, has interests in Iraq's oil.
Like Russia, China wants to get paid. They also have a long-term strategic opposition to the United States, so to an extent, they might want to block action by the United States just to limit us. On the other hand, we are the major market for goods produced in China, and a major source of hard cash. China also doesn't like to use its veto power on the UN Security Council.
Two major French oil companies, Elf-Aquitaine and Total, have interests in Iraq's oil.
Should We Declare War?
If the United States is going to attack Iraq, we believe that the United States should formally declare war. This would have several advantages:
The usual "excuse" for waging war without formal declaration is that it's necessary to deal with some rapidly emerging situation, and going to Congress would take too long. This is clearly not the case with Iraq. It's been months since the UN resolution passed, and it will probably be at least another couple of months before any shooting starts.
The latest situation in North Korea is very bad indeed, and we aren't sure exactly how to handle it.
Like Iraq, North Korea has one of the world's cruelest, most repressive regimes. In addition to the usual repression of human rights (torture, political prisoners, etc.), North Korea's old-style Stalinist/Communist economic system has not surprisingly totally failed. The population is underfed, and is dependent on foreign food aid. Today much of this food aid comes from the People's Republic of China, where the Communist Party is still very much in absolute power, even though Marxist/Maoist economic theory has been largely abandoned. North Korea is currently ruled by the dictator Kim Jong Il, son of the previous dictator Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Il is a rather eccentric, reclusive man. He is noted for his love of fast cars and cognac, as well as his fear of flying. Some of his eccentricities are rather more frightening than charming, though. He has reputation as a "palace brat", having grown up as a privileged child in his father's palaces. He has reportedly killed numerous people accidentally with his reckless driving.
If this were not bad enough, North Korea is also a "serial proliferator". North Korea already sells weapons to all sorts of unsavory people. They have sold ballistic missile technology to hostile regimes such as Iran, and to unstable regimes such as Yemen and Pakistan. Would a starving, broke North Korea be tempted to sell nukes? We are certain they would.
In Iraq, we are afraid the Saddam Hussein may develop "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and are contemplating bombing him before he does. North Korea probably already possesses one or two nukes, which means the genie is already out of the bottle. It would be hard to bomb North Korea's Yongbyon reactors as Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 because unlike the Osirak reactor, the Yongbyon reactor is now fueled. Bombing it could contaminate a huge area, almost certainly including South Korea and possibly parts of China, Japan, and Russia.
North Korea also has an enormous amount of conventional artillery within range of Seoul. They could easily lay waste to the city before we could destroy it all. While North Korea would eventually lose any war with the South and/or the USA, they'd do a lot of damage before they were defeated.
This one is not going to be easy. We think that diplomacy is necessary, and war should be a last resort. So far, this seems to be the current (as of early 2003) policy of the Bush administration. To that extent, they have our support. With pressure from Russia and China, it's possible that North Korea can be, at least temporarily, contained. Given its past record, we have little faith that the regime of Kim Jong Il will abide by any diplomatic agreement should that agreement become inconvenient.
Due to earlier blunders on the part of several different US administrations, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and we will have to deal with North Korea as a long term problem. It took 45 years and uncounted billions of dollars to defeat the late, unlamented Soviet Union in a nuclear standoff. We are most emphatically not looking forward to doing that again.
This is another area where George II's "Axis of Evil" speech created far more problems than it solved. The word "Axis" implies an alliance, but Iran is a mortal enemy of Iraq, and Iran has only a customer/supplier relationship with North Korea.
The government of Iran is a major problem for the United States. While they have many of the trappings of democracy, the elected reformist government has little real power. Despite the reformists control of the presidency and the parliament, few if any reforms have been implemented. The real power, and thus the real problem lies with the unelected, hard line Council of Guardians. Because of these hard liners, Iran has been known to aid terrorists. Iran has also been working on a nuclear arms program, and has been buying ballistic missiles from North Korea. The United States obviously cannot tolerate a hostile regime armed with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles..
Still, there are signs of hope for change from within. The populace is not nearly as hard line as the Council of Guardians, as evidenced by their repeated election of reformers. The United States should take a very subtle approach here, relying more on carrots than sticks. If we take quiet steps to gently support the reformers, (being too obvious would backfire, as the hard liners could claim the reformers are American puppets) when the Council of Guardians eventually loses power, we could end up with a friend rather than an enemy.
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