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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Historical footnote

I'm giving some thought to trying to produce a book based on material I've produced for this blog. Anyone think this could work -- and would a publisher go for it? Please let me know in the comments.

Specifically, I'm thinking of producing a work about Iraq, though I need to figure out the balance between the international and domestic politics.

Of course, this is something I've been thinking about for a long time. The following unpublished op-ed was dated December 5, 2001, and thus pre-dates my blogging:
The Case Against Attacking Iraq

Lately, news reports have been filled with speculation that Iraq might be the next target in America's war on terrorism. Not enough attention, however, has been directed at whether the US should go to war against Iraq.

The case for war is built around two points. Bush administration officials emphasize that Iraq supports terrorism with a global reach and has long sought to develop weapons of mass destruction.

While these facts are troubling, they are certainly not new. Indeed, the US has regularly bombed Iraq over the past decade; yet, the threats have not been viewed as sufficiently compelling to trigger a larger conflict.

To date, no American official has accused Iraq of playing a role in the horrible events of September 11, nor has any hard evidence been revealed. The State Department's April 2001 report on global terrorism even acknowledges that Iraq "has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack since…1993."

If Iraq is not implicated in the September 11 terrorism, few nation-states, not even America's closest allies, are likely to support a new war. The German Foreign Minister, for instance, has already cautioned against war and claims that all European nations would be skeptical about attacking Iraq.

Lack of international support would clearly mean significant costs for the US and pose numerous logistical difficulties. Before the Persian Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker spent months building an impressive international coalition against Saddam Hussein. Consequently, most of the funding for that war, amounting to tens of billions of dollars, came from partners like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan.

Literally hundreds of thousands of American ground troops were also deployed in willing host nations. Where might troops land now? Neither Saudi Arabia nor Kuwait is likely to allow new deployments. Israel might be willing to let the US use its territory as a base for operations, but a prominent Israeli role, following recent retaliatory attacks on the Palestinian Authority, would scuttle any hope for renewed peace talks, aggravate regional tensions, and probably fracture the coalition that has been assembled against terrorism.

Since Turkey borders Iraq and is a NATO ally, it might be considered as a base for a US attack. However, Turkey struggles to balance secular government with a large Islamic population, and would likely face serious internal pressures if it agreed to host an unpopular American war.

Finally, not even the threat of weapons of mass destruction justifies making Iraq the next US target. Arms inspectors were banished years ago, so Iraqi scientists might well have secretly produced new stockpiles of chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons. Though some see this as a rationale for war, note that Pakistan has actually tested nuclear weapons and is not targeted in the war on terrorism--no matter how terrifying its weapons might seem to India or other states.

Rather than going to war, the US might want to recall a basic security tenet from the cold war era: mutual deterrence. It would be devastating if Iraq used WMD against the US, but Iraq surely knows that it could be destroyed if the US was compelled to respond in-kind. However, Hussein might also figure that he has nothing to lose by using WMD if the US ignores the risks and launches an all-out effort to topple his regime.

The US should not, of course, simply ignore Iraqi WMD threats. The US long sought to counter proliferation with tools of international diplomacy, including a mix of political and economic disincentives. Therefore, the US should negotiate the reintroduction of international weapons inspectors in Iraq and end its opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an accord that enjoys widespread international support that is aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons.

The US might also want to prioritize non-proliferation goals if it is serious about such threats. Under US law, various sanctions are automatically levied against states that develop WMD. However, sanctions imposed in 1998 upon Pakistan were reversed this fall in appreciation for its cooperation in the war against terrorism. The US certainly wants to end both terrorism and proliferation--but it should not sacrifice one goal to support the other.
I should have edited this a bit more to have a serious shot of publication in 2001, but I think this was better argued that most of the administration's case for war in 2002.

Note also that many months later I worked on a revised version of this op-ed with Avery, but we didn't have any luck finding an outlet either. Avery, mind if I put that on the blog?

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