TCS Daily

Out of Options

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 10, 2002 12:00 AM

Can an action short of all-out war with Iraq solve the problems the United States has with that country? This question is at the heart of the current debate over Iraq.

One attempt to avert war while putting muscle into the weapons inspection process was advanced by Jessica Tuchman Matthews, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Gen. Charles Boyd (USAF, Ret.) in a hearing before the House International Relations Committee on September 19th. This idea consists of having inspection teams enter Iraq backed up by a "robust" international force. But as Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the Committee pointed out, the idea, while theoretically sound, is in fact entirely unworkable. Here is why:

Assume (and this is a huge assumption) that every soldier on this international force is as well trained and well equipped as an American soldier would be in a hostile environment. How many of these soldiers will be sent to back up a new inspections regime? 20,000? 30,000? An international force that size is too small and will be subject to interference and even attack by Iraqi forces, which would vastly outnumber it.

Even if the number of soldiers sent in as part of the international force were increased to 50,000-75,000, those soldiers would still be vastly outnumbered. At 100,000-150,000, the international force begins to be respectable in terms of numerical strength, but a risk is still being taken, especially considering that many of the soldiers on the force will have never fought or worked alongside one another, and could therefore still have organizational problems in protecting the integrity of the weapons inspection teams.

If the number were increased to about 250,000, then the international force would at least have the numbers to stave off and defeat any interference in its mission from the Iraqi armed forces. But at 250,000 troops, the international community would then have the equivalent of what is required under the "Franks Plan" (named after General Tommy Franks, the Supreme Commander of CENTCOM) to occupy Iraq and change regimes. As such, we would have a situation where we would help pay for the implementation of a plan that is equivalent in scale and scope to the Franks Plan, with the exception that regime change would not be part of the package. In other words, we would pay for the implementation of the Franks Plan, without getting regime change as part of the package. This is hardly a good bargain.

In addition, even if the inspection teams are able to destroy the weapons stockpiles Iraq has, they will be unable to rid the Iraqi regime of the knowledge of how to make weapons of mass destruction. This means that once the inspection teams leave Iraq, the Iraqis will simply reconstitute their weapons stockpiles, just as they did after weapons inspectors left in 1998. As such, the Tuchman-Boyd plan, like other inspection schemes, seems utterly unworkable.

The Tuchman-Boyd plan also suffers from the fact that it concentrates on the wrong issue. The goal of the United States is not, and should not be the mere existence of weapons inspections in Iraq. To make a fetish of weapons inspections, to advocate their existence for the sake of weapons inspections alone, is to miss the point entirely about Iraq. The goal for the United States should be disarmament, and the Tuchman-Boyd plan will fail to disarm Iraq because it makes no provisions whatsoever for regime change.

The regime of Saddam Hussein is hopelessly wedded to the idea of preserving and maintaining a large stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Even after the weapons inspectors did their job and reduced the Iraqi stockpile to the greatest degree possible, Saddam would seek to reconstitute his arsenal. The nature of Iraq's regime makes it unlikely that it will abide by U.N. resolutions on the issue. So what is the point of the Tuchman-Boyd plan? It only serves to kick the problem with Iraq down the road, postponing it to the future. But Iraq will inevitably have to be dealt with. And why not deal with it now, when there is at least a strong domestic consensus behind military action, instead of postponing the day of reckoning to a point where American resolve may have weakened, and Iraq's ability to engender catastrophe may have been enhanced.

Let us not forget, as well, that there is more at issue than just Iraq's weapons stockpiles-important as that issue is. Independent of any possession of weapons of mass destruction, Iraq is a terrorist state. It finances and supports bombings in Israel by partnering with terrorist groups determined to kill both Israelis and Americans (and not making a distinction between the two). As is well known, Saddam Hussein sought to assassinate the former President Bush nine years ago. He will no doubt strike again if he is given time to plan an attack against the United States. Weapons inspections do nothing to remove the terrorist threat that Saddam's regime poses. As such, they are no substitute for a comprehensive plan to effect regime change in Iraq.

It is understandable that people would seek alternatives short of war to reduce the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, it appears that we no longer have the opportunity to resolve differences with the Ba'athist regime in Iraq. The only way to ensure that U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq are fulfilled is by force of arms. No one celebrates this fact. But it is high time to face up to it. If we fail to do so, we will only postpone the day of reckoning-perhaps to a point in time that will not be nearly as favorable for the United States as now.



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