TCS Daily


The Cruel Calculus

By Dale Franks - August 22, 2002 12:00 AM

It is not a question of if, but when.

That is the general consensus of opinion among those thinking about a war with Iraq. By all accounts, the Bush Administration is committed to removing Saddam Hussein from power. What, then, must be done to ensure that such a campaign is accomplished in the most effective manner?

First, the President should ask for congressional authorization to launch any attack. Our Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to declare war against foreign countries. This provision was intentionally placed in the Constitution to prevent one person, or single group of persons, from having the power to take the nation to war. The president has some latitude in cases of insurrection or invasion, but generally, the decision to go to war is solely the prerogative of Congress. The president's job is to win our country's wars. Congress' job is to decide whether the President will have a war to fight. The question of Iraq is becoming the most important single question of US policy today. Congress must authorize any attack on Iraq.

Second, we should do everything in our power to secure the use of bases in the region, in a country contiguous to Iraq. American forces use food, fuel, ammunition, clothing, and many other types of supplies at a prodigious rate. We must have an adequate logistical base to keep our fighting men well supplied with the equipment they need.

All of Iraq's neighboring countries, except Turkey, have categorically stated that their soil may not be used to launch an attack. This strikes me as a good time to consult with our close friends, the Turks, to see if there's anything they need. Perhaps we might prevail upon our other close friends, the British, to put pressure on the EU for quicker consideration of Turkey's membership application. In fact, we should probably be fairly magnanimous to Turkey on a wide variety of issues, if necessary, in return for the privilege of using Turkey as a logistical base for an assault on Iraq.

Third, we must prepare ourselves for casualties. I do not intend to be a doomsayer, but one is compelled to note that war is a dangerous business, and that blood is often the currency of victory.

The main threat is not the Iraqi Army, of course. They are poorly trained, poorly disciplined, and poorly equipped. No matter how courageous the individual Iraqi soldier may be, the deficiencies of Iraq's military organization practically ensure that their forces will face a crushing defeat. The Gulf War should have provided ample evidence of this. Now, with the Iraqi army only a shadow of its pre-1991 self, it is not unreasonable to expect their utter, unmitigated defeat. Make no mistake: we will win.

The problem, of course, is that Saddam Hussein surely knows this just as well as we do. In 1991, as long as the existence of his regime wasn't threatened, his best course of action was to refrain from using chemical or biological weapons. Using them might have - indeed, probably would have - resulted in a change of mission that included the destruction of his regime, rather than simply the liberation of Kuwait.

In this war, which is aimed solely at removing Mr. Hussein's Ba'athist government from power, those considerations would no longer apply. If Hussein does have significant stockpiles of such weapons, the temptation to use them might prove overwhelming. He simply cannot count on his army being able to stop US forces, or even slow them down considerably, without resorting to WMD attacks. Indeed, he may order such attacks from sheer spite.

We hope, of course, that our procedures against such attacks will be sufficient to protect our troops. But we must understand that, once we launch any ground attack, lives - perhaps many lives - may be lost. That is part of the cruel calculus of war. We must accept it, and be prepared for it, even while hoping that our worst fears never materialize.

Finally, we must be prepared to stay in Iraq for a while. Iraq is a country without strong civil institutions, or the ameliorating influences of intermediate groups that stand between the citizen and the government. A stable, tolerant, non-aggressive society must be built to replace the despotic regime currently controlled by Mr. Hussein. Moreover, a decisive victory combined with the existence of a peaceful, democratic Iraq might go far towards soothing tensions in the region.

Or, at the very least, serving notice to other would-be despots.

 

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