I was doing some websurfing and found this:
News From Representative James A. Leach
The Challenge of Iraq
Representative James A. Leach
Before the House of Representatives
October 9, 2002
Mr. Speaker: As all Members know, this resolution involves a difficult set of decisions that neither the Congress nor the Executive can duck. Anyone who is not conflicted in their judgments is not thinking seriously.
For myself, I have enormous regard for our President and great respect for his foreign policy advisors, but I have come to the conclusion that this resolution misfits the times and the circumstances.
There may be a case for regime change, but not for war against Iraq and its people.
Because time is brief I would like to emphasize three points:
- 1) Given the events of 9/11 a doctrine of preemption has a modicum of legitimacy. But the greater our power, the more important it is to use it with restraint. Otherwise it will be seen as hubristic with a strong prospect of counter-productive ramifications. Engaging in war the wrong way can too easily jeopardize the underlying conflict against terrorism and undercut core American values and leadership around the world.2) There are many so-called “end game” elements that have not been adequately addressed. They range from the dilemma of street combat to problems of post-war governance to world-wide Muslim reaction.
3) And most profoundly, this resolution is based on a misunderstanding of modern science as it applies to weapons of war. The assumption is that there is a compelling case to preempt a nuclear weapons program. But what is little understood is that Iraq already controls a weapon of mass destruction more dangerous than nuclear bombs — biological agents — and what is underestimated is the nature of his likely response to outside intervention. The tactical assumption is that Saddam will be on the defensive with an American and British attack. But the likelihood is that as troubling as “end game” problems are, the “beginning conflict” issues may be the most difficult ever confronted in the region and possibly in all of modern warfare. When a cornered tyrant is confronted with a “use or lose” option with weapons of mass destruction, and is isolated in the Arab world unless he launches a “jihad” against Israel, it is not hard to imagine what he will choose.
Israel has never faced a graver challenge to its survival. The likelihood is that weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents, will be immediately unleashed in the event of Western intervention in Iraq. In the Gulf War Saddam launched some 40 Scud missiles against Israel — none with biological agents. Today he has mobile labs, tons of such agents, and an assortment of means to deliver them. It is true that his stockpiles could be larger in years to come, but Members must understand that the difference between a few and a few hundred tons of anthrax or plague may not be determinative. These are living organisms that can multiply. They endanger the region and potentially the planet.
The most important issue is not the distinction between the various resolutions before us — each should be defeated — but the need to rethink our responsibilities and the manner in which they are carried out. Regime change can be peaceful; it can be discretely violent; but it need not necessarily entail war. Over the last half century America has led the world in approaches to expanding international law and building up international institutions. The best chance we have to defeat terrorism and the anarchy it seeks is to widen the application of law and the institutions, including international ones, that make law more plausible, acceptable and, in the end, enforceable. Strategies of going it alone, doctrines of unilateralism, must be reviewed with care. Nothing plays more into the hands of terrorists than America lashing out. Nothing is more difficult for them than international solidarity. Americans would be wise to craft strategies which are based on our original revolutionary appeal to a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.
We used to have a doctrine of M.A.D. — mutually assured destruction — between the United States and the USSR. No one seriously contemplated aggression because of the consequences.
Today for the first time in human history we have a doctrine of mutually assured destruction between two smaller countries — Iraq and Israel — one with biological weapons, the other nuclear. The problem is that an American intervention could easily trigger an Iraqi biological attack on Israel which could be met by a nuclear response. Not only would we be the potential precipitating actor, but our troops could be caught in crosswinds and crossfire.
This is a strategic precipice we should step back from.
The United States today faces a series of challenges unprecedented in our history.
The 20th century was symbolized by three great international struggles: World War I and the challenge of aggressive nationalism, World War II and the battle against fascism, and the Cold War challenge of defeating communism.
Now the United States is confronted with the menace of international terrorism, a phenomenon as old as recorded history, but with elements that are new because of the potential for access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the manipulation of religious precepts, and the transnational character of international terrorism in a globalized world.
At issue today is the potential crystallization of these challenges in the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, and the appropriate response of the United States and the world community.
In American history explaining what we do and why we do it is important. Our first revolutionary document, the Declaration of Independence, was an exposition of political philosophy and an explanation of grievances that compelled Americans to act. Today, in a world in which rumor and paranoia and distrust is pervasive, we are obligated to be precise in laying out our objectives and the rationale for military or other actions.
In this regard, there is in Western history a hallowed intellectual methodology for determining when a particular military intervention may be considered ethical. This doctrine, developed by ecclesiastics and jurists, followed by statesmen, instinctively accepted by the peoples of many countries in tradition and right, is the doctrine of just war. What is this doctrine? Briefly, it holds that for war to be considered just, it must be animated by a just cause and informed by righteous intention, that it be undertaken by lawful political authority and only as a last resort, and that resort to force be proportionate to the nature of the wrongs committed.
The just war issue is relevant for two interrelated reasons. First, the issue of war involves the gravest of moral questions. Second, not merely the theory but the history of international relations since the First World War embodies distinctions between just and unjust causes of war. The Covenant of the League of Nations, the United Nations Charter, and the Charter of the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg all reject the doctrine of realpolitik, the anarchical notion that ours is a Hobbesian world where might makes right.
Although there is a “realist” school of international relations theory which asserts that raw national interest considerations alone should govern all policy making, the more progressive view is that modern world politics are founded upon a conception of international society analogous to the laws and customs of coercion in domestic societies, that resort to violence in international affairs must be regarded either as response to lawful police action or crime. In other words, resort to armed force in international affairs is legitimate only if it is used on behalf or in service to the fundamental principles and purposes undergirding international law.
Thus the moral philosopher Michael Walzer observes that “aggression is the name we give to the crime of war.” Indeed, the founders of the United Nations were determined, in the words of the Charter, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war… and to ensure, by the acceptance of the principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.” Similarly, the Charter obligates the Member States of the UN to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” as well as “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (Articles 2(3) and 2(4)). Instead, the Charter attempts to enshrine a system of collective security in which the Security Council is authorized to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to “decide what measures shall be taken … to maintain international peace and security” (Article 39).
In postwar American diplomacy, the classic exposition of this principle was stated by President Truman in October 1945, when he declared that the fundamentals of American foreign policy would rest in part on the proposition “that the preservation of peace between nations requires a United Nations Organization comprised of all the peace-loving nations of the world who are willing to use force if necessary to insure peace.”
The concept of international law enforcement through collective security, therefore, is embodied in the UN Charter and is an integral part of international law, as well as – through the Supremacy Clause – the law of the United States.
Here, the constitutional duty of Congress is clear. Not only does the Constitution vest the power to declare war in Congress, but also it further contemplates that a status or condition fairly described by armed hostility between the U.S. and another state – whether a declared or undeclared war – must be legislatively authorized.
The framers of the Constitution believed that the gravest of all governmental decisions – the making of war – should not be the responsibility of a single individual. It should be taken by a democratically elected, geographically and socially balanced legislature after careful debate and deliberation. It would either be tyrannical or irresponsible for a Congress of, by, and for the people to shirk its responsibility and transfer the power to make war to the Presidency. In America, after all, process is our most important product.
In this context, neither the Congress nor the Executive can duck the fundamental question of Constitutional fidelity.
Perspective is always difficult to apply to events of the day, but it would appear that in the wake of the events of 9/11 a watershed in American history occurred. A concerted terrorist attack was perpetrated against our institutions, people, and way of life. The imperative to respond is clear. Less clear is how and against whom.
In the period following 9/11 the Executive Branch began to articulate a bold new doctrine of national security, both to shape our response to the new dangers of international terrorism and to define a new vision of leadership for the United States in world affairs.
According to this new national security concept, the United States should be prepared to act decisively and unilaterally to eliminate potential terrorist threats. Because suicidal terrorists use anarchist techniques rather than rely on traditional armies, the case for America to reserve the right to take preemptive, anticipatory military action in the name of self-defense must be considered. In practical terms, since terrorist groups may either be assisted by foreign powers, or seek sanctuary in weak countries with limited control of their own borders, the option to intervene in another nation-state to constrain rogue behavior cannot be ruled out. Likewise, the doctrine contemplates the need to counter the threat that certain despotic regimes – like those the President labeled as evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea – may develop or actually possess weapons of mass destruction and threaten to use them or put them in the hands of terrorists. In addition, because our own power is so extraordinary, and because the threat from international terrorists so grave, the strategy suggests that America need no longer be constrained in its actions by international rules, treaties, and even traditional security partnerships.
While elements of this new doctrine are not new, the public articulation of a doctrine of preemption is in fact a novel departure. In terms of precedents, the Congressional Research Service reports that the U.S. ” has never, to date, engaged in a ‘preemptive’ military attack against another nation. Nor has the U.S. ever attacked another nation militarily prior to its having first been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens or interests having first been attacked, with the singular exception of the Spanish-American War.” The latter being unique, in that the principal stated goal of U.S. military action was to compel Spain to grant Cuba its political independence.
There is of course ample precedent for the United States using its military to intervene in other nations to support our national security interests. Citing the Monroe Doctrine, which outlined American objection to European colonialism in this hemisphere, the United States intervened repeatedly in the Caribbean and Central America in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, the U.S. employed overt military force to seek regime change in Mexico in 1914 and Panama in 1989, as well as covert action in Iran and Central America in the 1950s.
Of greater historical relevance, the most significant instance in which the U.S. seriously contemplated preemptive military action was during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. Despite the introduction by the Soviet Union of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles into Cuba that could threaten most of the eastern United States, President Kennedy considered and rejected preemptive options, imposed a U.S. military “quarantine” around Cuba, and ultimately reached a peaceful diplomatic solution.
Hence it is imperative that Congress and the American people debate the long-term foreign policy consequences of a potential, largely unilateral, strike against Iraq that may well not be supported by many of our historic allies. It is also crucial that Congress review the logic and implications of a new global strategy apparently premised on go-it-alone interventionist themes which, if taken to extreme, could erode the foundation of the rule-based, post-World War II international system the United States largely helped to create.
While the threat of transnational terrorism self-evidently requires a robust response, the implication of the United States using its extraordinary power and authority at this critical juncture in world history to ensconce and legitimize the principle of preemption as a basis for conduct in international relations is profound. One need only to contemplate the application of this principle by others elsewhere, such as South Asia, the Taiwan Strait, or the Middle East, to grasp its potential reach.
It is argued by many around the world that the United States may be disproportionately relying on military power rather than the strength of law and persuasion to attempt to “lock in” a favorable order that commands the allegiance of others. In the language of political scientists, our new approach could suggest a strategy less of transformation than dictation.
The question is not simply whether the new doctrine of preemption has a modicum of legitimacy — the events of 9/11 suggest it does — but whether it is applied with proper judgment and appropriate restraint. Iraq is a case in point. The goal of regime change must involve an approach that enhances rather than retards international support for core American values like democracy and respect for individual rights. Engaging in war the wrong way can jeopardize the outcome not only of the underlying conflict against terrorism but American leadership on a host of international issues from arms control to commerce to the environment.
Unilateralist approaches sow unease and distrust of American power and American motives from Brussels to Johannesburg, from Sao Paulo to Seoul. They dissipate reservoirs of good will for the United States and reduce, rather than expand, the pool of cooperation that we can draw on in the future.
The nature of the foreign policy challenges we face – curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, eliminating terrorism, combating the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDs, promoting free trade and market economics, advancing respect for human rights and the rule of law – cannot be met by one country, no matter how powerful, acting alone.
Three years ago in one of the most irrational acts of the Senate in the 20th century a comprehensive test ban (CTB) was turned down. Upon taking office, the Bush Administration concurred in this judgment, and then in a little noticed decision rejected a protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) that had been long in negotiation which would have added new verification provisions to that treaty. Ironically, if a CTB had been ratified, there would be more worldwide support for U.S. efforts to deter smaller states from obtaining nuclear arms and if the BWC protocol had been adopted the case for inspectors entering Iraq would be iron clad.
Count me among those who believe Saddam Hussein must be removed from office and his weapons of mass destruction destroyed, but also as one who is concerned with the unilateral veer in American foreign policy. We cannot lead the world unless we pay attention and, to the maximum degree appropriate, give respect to the judgments and opinions of others.
Policeman for the world is a lonely beat. It makes us a target. More, not less, vulnerable.
Leadership requires resolve; it also demands restraint, and an understanding that there are both prudential and real limits to America’s unparalleled power. Likewise leadership requires magnanimity, an understanding of what causes people to rebel, and an uplifting, inclusive vision of a world order which realistically deals with the causes of conflict.
At issue with the Iraqi crisis is less an outcome where individual nation-states may be winners or losers, but one in which the international system has an enormous stake. From challenge springs opportunity. Hopefully, once the storm clouds have passed, the international community will be able to conclude that the United Nations has functioned as its founders intended. But if this conflict is not resolved in a way that upholds the authority and the credibility of the United Nations, our current international structure will be seriously deranged and grievously jeopardized.
In this regard, as the prospect for conflict increases, the danger of unintended martyrdom also rises. The United States must be careful to ensure that its policies do not turn a tin-horn Hitler into an Islamic Allende.
Hence I would urge the Administration to make it clear to Saddam that in the event he continues to defy the will of the United Nations he will inevitably find himself in the docket before Nuremberg-like proceedings – either the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) or perhaps an ad hoc tribunal – for egregious violations of internationally recognized human rights and arms control conventions.
Potentates, whether petty or mighty, who through violation of international law attempt to take the world hostage must be held accountable.
Likewise, the United States and U.N. should make clear that if any individual in Iraq participates in usage or unleashing of a weapon of mass destruction, they also will be held accountable as war criminals.
Tragically, the United States has not been able to become a party to the new ICC, which will be the first permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute the most heinous individual violators of human rights – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
By background, the United Nations, many human rights organizations, and many U.S. allies have expressed support for the new court. The Administration, however, has renounced any U.S. obligations under the treaty.
Although the U.S. has valid concerns about the ICC – chiefly that the ICC might become politicized and capriciously assert jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers or high officials charged with “war crimes” – our belligerent opposition to the Court also carries obvious downside risks to American leadership.
America’s well-deserved reputation as a champion for human rights and extension of the rule of law has been called into question. Our efforts to play hardball in the UN Security Council by threatening to withhold support for UN peacekeeping missions unless the U.S. is granted immunity from the ICC alienated friends and allies abroad. The withholding of military assistance to members of the ICC may be seen as an attempt to undermine the court and influence the decisions of other countries to join the ICC. By demanding special treatment in the form of immunity from the ICC, the United States is seen as bolstering the perception of its preference for a unilateral approach to world affairs and a determination to operate in the world exclusively on our own terms. As a result, U.S. efforts to build coalitions in support for the war against terrorism as well as the enforcement of UN resolutions against Iraq may have been impaired.
As an early advocate for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court based on balanced recognition of international statutes, I confess to being chagrined both at the inability of the international community to accommodate legitimate American concerns, and the all-or-nothing approach of our government that has left us without effective means to ensure that the ICC operates in ways that are consistent both with credible rule-of-law principles and with sensitivity to U.S. interests designed to advance democratic governance.
The problem is that as a great power called upon to intervene in areas of the world or disputes such as the Balkans, Afghanistan and troubled areas of the Middle East, the U.S. is vulnerable to charges being leveled against actions which we might reasonably consider to be peacekeeping, but another power or government might charge to be something very different. For instance, what would happen if Serbia were to bring a case against an American naval pilot when such a pilot is operating under both a U.S. and NATO mandate? The President has suggested we should, exclusive of all other countries, be allowed a veto over applicability of international law with regard to the ICC. Many other countries, including strong U.S. allies, have angst about this demand because they see this approach as establishing the principle of one country being entitled to operate above the law.
This is not an irresolvable dilemma. When the ICC treaty was under negotiation, it was the assumption of many that the Security Council where all the permanent members have a veto would play a determinative role in bringing matters before the ICC. If such was the case, the United States because of its veto power within the Security Council could fully protect itself as could the other permanent members. Unfortunately, because the past administration played an ambivalent role in development of the treaty, it failed to get the nuances right. This common sense approach was not adopted and the Bush administration was put in the embarrassing position of objecting to an important treaty because of the failed diplomacy of its predecessor.
Based on discussions with European officials it is my understanding that there may be an inclination to seek a reasonable compromise on treaty language, even at this late date. It would appear to be an umbrage to many countries to craft a provision excluding the United States alone from ICC jurisdiction, but it would seem reasonable on a process basis to return to a Security Council role. On this basis the U.S. and the international community could be credibly protected.
The court would function as a treaty organization founded on state consent, while respecting Security Council authority to refer any matters affecting international peace and security to the court’s jurisdiction. This approach has the advantage that it does not make a pure exception for the United States. Understandable concerns of some countries about inequitable protection of the nationals of permanent members of the Council would need to be balanced against the enhanced durability and legitimacy of the court. A protocol to the Treaty ensconcing this approach should be actively pursued today.
Laws, to be effective, must constrain governments in their foreign policies as well as individuals in domestic acts. In order to hold governments accountable there must be individual accountability at the highest as well as lowest levels of society. Justice must be brought to the international frontier or life for too many will, in Hobbes’ piercing phrase, continue to be “nasty, brutish, and short.”
The central issue in classic just-war theory is the cause question. Just-war theorists from Augustine to Grotius typically referred to an offense that was a just cause for war as an “injuria,” a term that meant both injury and injustice. There were three generally accepted just causes of war: defense against aggression, recovery of property, and punishment. Wars waged for the first cause were by their nature defensive. Wars taken to avenge injustice and to punish the perpetrators of injustice were offensive in the sense that defense of one’s own territory was not necessarily at issue.
It is sometimes forgotten that the United States is engaged in military combat operations over Iraq almost every day, maintaining “no-fly” zones over the northern and southern parts of the country. A decision by Iraq to ban almost all U.N. inspections on October 31, 1998, led the U.S. and Britain to conduct a 4-day air operation against Iraq on December 16-20, 1998 (Operation Desert Fox). The two allies launched approximately 415 missiles and dropped more than 600 bombs targeted at Iraqi military and logistical facilities. Since the December 1998 operation, the U.S. and Britain have carried out air strikes against Iraqi air defense units and installations on a frequent basis, in response to Iraqi attempts to target allied aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones. However, to launch a full-scale military invasion of Iraq, fully considering its potential consequences, based solely on violations of the no-fly zones would appear to be out of proportion to the offense occasioning it.
A potentially more compelling basis for just cause would be action undertaken in self-defense, in this case anticipatory self-defense.
Although the UN Charter is premised on the concept of collective security, it is important to recognize that the Charter also recognizes the right of nations to use force for the purpose of self-defense. Article 51 provides that nothing in the Charter “shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense” in the event of “armed attack.” The question, of course, is what constitutes armed attack.
In this regard, no American administration has ever sought to give an expansive interpretation to the definition of an armed attack. Indeed, none of our interventions since the end of World War II have relied for justification on the doctrine of preemptive attack.
Tellingly, when the United States was directly threatened during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy did not invoke any notion of “anticipatory self-defense.” While the risks of nuclear conflagration were high, the president’s legal arguments were conservative: the imposition of a naval quarantine was justified by reference to the regional peacekeeping provisions of the U.N. Charter. More recently, when America has claimed self-defense, it has been in less controversial settings — citing a clearly defined threat to U.S. citizens or, after September 11, the need to prevent a second attack by terrorists.
Rather than expanding the scope of preemptive attack, American statesmen have historically played leading roles in carefully limiting the doctrine.
The classic formulation of the right of preemptive attack was provided by Secretary of State Daniel Webster. In 1837, the British sought to stamp out a simmering revolt in Canada that had received support from private militias in the United States. To cut off this source of support, British troops launched a night raid into New York, burning an American ship and sending it over Niagara Falls.
Some five years later, Secretary of State Webster reached an agreement with the Foreign Office that prohibited future cross-border raids. Preemptive force under customary international law could be justified only if there was a “necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation,” and if the use of force in such circumstance were proportional to the threat – not “unreasonable or excessive.” Webster’s formulation remains the core sense of international law today.
Some might object that these standards are unreasonable and inappropriate for a new era of global insecurity hallmarked by the threat of stateless terrorism. On the other hand, it surely cannot be in our interest to legitimize war by hunch. The danger is that new standards we seek to reserve exclusively for our use become legitimate as well for other nations – such as Russia, China, India and Pakistan. Do we want to empower others to claim that issues relating to self-defense are not a proper subject of international concern, but are solely unilateral national decisions unreviewable by any state or multilateral organization? Without clear standards, whenever a nation believes that its interests, which it is prepared to characterize as vital, are threatened, then its use of force in response would become permissible.
As to the precise nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the historical record is well-known. Saddam Hussein is a menace to his own people and a continuing threat to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Saddam is without question an international criminal with a long rap-sheet.
He began successive wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait, amassed a large inventory of chemical and biological weapons in violation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and has feverishly sought to build nuclear arms in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). On the orders of Saddam Hussein, his army committed some of the worst war crimes in half a century, gassing Kurdish villages and killing thousands of innocent civilians. Even after Iraq’s defeat in the Persian Gulf War, Saddam sought to hide and even reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction in violation of numerous UN Security Council Resolutions. There is little dissent, therefore, from the proposition that the Iraqi regime represents a continuing threat to the region and a challenge to international order. Indeed, regime change has been the official policy of the United States under two presidents, Bill Clinton and George Bush, since 1998.
What is the urgency of the current threat from Saddam Hussein? Despite some uncertainties, a great deal is known about Iraqi military capabilities, particularly its conventional forces.
Despite the loss of some 40 percent of its army and air force as a result of the Gulf War, Iraq remains a major military power by regional standards. Iraq still has armed forces with around 425,000 men, with some 2,200 main battle tanks, 3,700 other armored vehicles, and 2,400 major artillery pieces. It also has 300 combat aircraft with potential operational status.
By all accounts, sanctions and the impact of the Gulf War have had a substantial negative impact. The regime’s inability to recapitalize and modernize its armed forces means that much of its nominally large military capacity is either obsolescent or obsolete, with doubtful combat readiness, and will be difficult to sustain in combat.
Much more ominous are Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). By way of background, UN Security Resolution 687, passed in April 1991, established the formal cease-fire between Coalition forces and Iraq. Key among the terms was the prohibition against Iraq retaining, acquiring, or developing WMD and long range missiles. In addition, there was a demand that Iraq unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless its WMD under international supervision. However, from the start of United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in 1991 through their termination in 1998 Iraq engaged in the techniques of deception and denial in order to conceal the full extent of its WMD programs. Although there were some successes in defeating Iraq’s concealment efforts, many others failed.
In December 1999, one year after UNSCOM left, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1284, reaffirming all previous UN Security Council resolutions, disbanding UNSCOM, and establishing the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Until September 16, Iraq had rejected resolution 1284 on the grounds that it does not set a clear timetable or criteria for lifting sanctions. Although the Iraqi position may well be a ruse, Baghdad now claims with semantic waffling to be willing to allow the return of weapons inspectors without conditions.
As is well known, on the eve of the Gulf War, and in violation of its commitments under the NPT, Iraq was on the verge of producing significant amounts of heavily enriched uranium that would have allowed it within two or three years to produce a nuclear weapon. Fortunately, the Gulf War heavily damaged Iraq’s nuclear facilities. By the end of UN inspections in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was confident that Iraq’s indigenous nuclear weapons program had not produced more than a few grams of weapons useable material. However, Iraq’s nuclear potential was not completely eliminated. The scientific and technical expertise of Iraq’s nuclear program survived, and Baghdad has tried to keep its core nuclear teams in place.
Publicly available consensus analysis produced by the London Institute of International Strategic Studies and others suggests that: Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons, that it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities, but that it could assemble nuclear weapons within several months to perhaps one or two years if it could obtain relevant fissile material.
Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq produced Biological Weapons (BW) agents in volume. Subsequent to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Baghdad accelerated large scale BW agent production and assembled rudimentary BW munitions. These weapons were distributed to military units, who were delegated to use them if allied forces advanced on Baghdad or used nuclear weapons. Most of the regime’s key BW facilities, which had been hidden from Western intelligence agencies, escaped attack during the Persian Gulf conflict. But in violation of the BWC that Iraq ratified as a condition of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire agreement, Saddam continued to conceal his BW program until 1995. Since December 1998 when UN inspectors left the country, there has been virtually no verifiable information about the status of Iraq’s BW program.
Credible, public reports suggest Iraq can produce new stocks of bulk BW agent, including botulinum toxin and anthrax. BW agent could be delivered by short range munitions including artillery shells. Delivery by ballistic missile is more problematic. Refurbished L-29 trainer aircraft could operate as weapons-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a range of over 600km. Such UAVs might be considerably more effective than ballistic missiles in delivering chemical/biological weapons CBW. Commando and terrorist attack is also possible.
The best estimates of the current situation suggest that: (1) Iraq has retained substantial growth media and BW agent (perhaps thousands of liters of anthrax) from pre 1991 stocks, and the regime is capable of resuming BW agent production on short notice at existing civilian facilities and in new mobile laboratories; (2) it could have produced thousands of liters of anthrax, botulinum toxin and other agents since 1998, but actual stocks are unknown.
As is well known, Iraq used chemical weapons extensively against Iranian troops from 1982-1988. In the years immediately prior to the Gulf War, Iraq made further progress in developing binary chemical munitions, producing and weaponizing the advanced nerve agent, VX. The Gulf War however devastated Iraq’s primary CW production facilities and a large portion of its stockpile of CW munitions.
Through 1998, UNSCOM was able to dispose of large quantities of CW munitions, bulk agent, precursors and production equipment that were not destroyed in combat. In addition, unless Iraq has managed to modernize its 1990-era special warheads, its ability to disseminate effectively CW agent on ballistic missiles is questionable, since so much agent would be destroyed on impact. Iraq’s known ability to marry chemical warheads to its rocket and artillery pieces (with ranges at least up to 18.5 miles) could complicate operations for opposing forces, who would be required to wear protective gear.
The best publicly available assessment of the current situation is that: (1) Iraq has probably retained a few hundred tons of mustard and precursors for a few hundred tons of sarin/cyclosarin and perhaps similar amounts of VX from pre-1991 stocks; (2) it is capable of resuming CW production on short notice (months) from existing civilian facilities; and (3) it could have produced hundreds of tons of agent (mustard and nerve agents) since 1998. Actual stocks, however, are not known.
Iraq is of course prohibited by UN Resolutions from possessing ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150km. In the 1970s Iraq began to import Scud B missiles with a range of 300km from the Soviet Union and acquired roughly 820. In the 1980s Iraq worked to modify the Scud missiles in order to double their range. The new missile, called the al Hussein, with a range of 650km, was used during the war against Iran. In the wake of the Gulf War, much of Iraq’s missile infrastructure lay in ruins. Moreover, the U.S. and U.K., during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, attacked a number of missile related facilities.
During the inspections period Iraq continued to conduct small scale covert research and development on proscribed missiles. In addition, Iraq continued missile related procurement efforts. UNSCOM attempted to account for all imported missiles and for indigenously produced missiles, but that accounting was incomplete. It is prudent to assume that Iraq has been able to retain some of its proscribed missiles. Also, it is likely that Iraqi engineers will have been able to increase the range in its short-range al Samoud missiles to 200km with a few hundred kilograms payload suitable for CBW delivery.
The publicly available estimates of Iraq’s missile capabilities suggest that: (1) Iraq has probably retained a small force of about a dozen 650km range al-Hussein missiles, which could be armed with CBW warheads, capable of striking Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait; (2) the Iraqi regime does not possess facilities to produce long range missiles and it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to construct such facilities; (3) it may have a small number of al Samoud missiles with ranges of up to 200km able to strike Kuwait but only if deployed within the southern no fly zone; (4) Iraq is capable of manufacturing rudimentary CBW warheads, while its development of more advanced designs is unknown; and (5) Iraq has been developing very small unmanned aircraft suitable for CBW delivery.
According to the Department of State, Iraq is also a state sponsor of terrorism. Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime has provided headquarters, operating bases, training camps, and other support to terrorist groups fighting the governments of neighboring Turkey and Iran, as well as to hard-line Palestinian groups. During the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam also commissioned several failed terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities. After the war, Saddam attempted to assassinate former President Bush. More recently, the question of Iraq’s link to terrorism has become more urgent with Saddam’s determination to develop weapons of mass destruction, which could be shared with terrorists.
At the present time, there is no hard evidence linking Saddam to the 9/11 attacks, and Iraq denies any involvement. However, his government expressed sympathy for those who attacked us and some Iraq watchers suspect Saddam was at least indirectly involved. In this regard, Czech officials reported last year that Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 ringleaders, met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague months before the highjackings, but U.S. and Czech officials subsequently cast doubt on whether such a meeting ever happened. Some militants trained in Taliban-run Afghanistan are helping Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish extremist group that Saddam uses to harass his own Kurdish foes. Finally, al-Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan have reportedly hid in northern Iraq, but in areas beyond Saddam’s control. In addition, evidence has recently come to public light suggesting a wider array of contacts between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime than had previously been known, including hospital care for an al-Qaeda leader.
In this context, the case for military intervention at this time rests on three key assumptions: that the containment of Iraq through sanctions is a failed policy; that the Cold War concept of deterrence is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with an erratic Iraqi leadership potentially allied with al-Qaeda or other terrorists; and that new unrestricted weapons inspections, even if Saddam were to agree to them, are unlikely to be effective.
There is perhaps a fourth, albeit often unstated basis for intervention: that deposing Saddam and establishing a democratic, western-oriented government in Baghdad would decisively reshape the politics of the region in a manner highly beneficial to the United States, by delegitimizing the forces of radicalism and creating a powerful model of Islamic modernity and moderation.
Taken together, these assumptions make a compelling case for the United States and the United Nations to seek, both through the enforcement of existing resolutions as well as the enactment of one or more additional resolutions, Iraq’s complete and unconditional compliance with all relevant UN resolutions, particularly those demanding the disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction.
To paraphrase the just war theologian Michael Walzer in his discussion of the ethics of Israel’s preemptive intervention against Egypt in 1967 and an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Saddam Hussein, through his continued efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery has demonstrated a manifest capability and intent to injure, and a degree of active preparation that makes that intent a positive danger. The great judgmental question is, to again cite Walzer, whether in the current situation waiting, or doing anything other than militarily engaging, magnifies the risk.
It is perhaps likely, even highly likely, that Saddam will ultimately refuse to meet the demands of the world community. Particularly if this is the case, authorization by the Security Council for regime change would be an appropriate response. But there is little evidence that suggests the immediate, urgent “necessity of self-defense,” so instant, and overwhelming, as to leave the United States no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation. The case for regime change is compelling, but precipitating a change in leadership is different than going to war with a country and its people.
Containment through targeted sanctions — in effect, coercive arms control — is fraying, in part because of irresolution on the part of key members of the UN Security Council, such as Russia and France, and because both Iraq and key regional states profit from sanctions-busting. According to the General Accounting Office, Iraq may have earned as much as $2.2 billion last year in illicit exports and oil surcharges. Over time, the breakdown in containment would almost certainly create conditions under which Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon.
Nevertheless, flawed as sanctions may be, published reports in the press this summer suggested many senior U.S. military officers believed that Saddam Hussein poses little immediate threat and have concluded that the United States should for the time being continue its policy of containment rather than intervening directly.
Can Saddam be deterred from aggressive action now and in the future, particularly if he is able to successfully accelerate development of weapons of mass destruction? The evidence is mixed. During the Persian Gulf War, he refrained from using weapons of mass destruction, perhaps because of American and Israeli capacity to retaliate with nuclear weapons, perhaps because rolling back aggression, rather than regime change, was the objective of U.S. led, U.N. sanctioned forces.
Yet today Saddam is so hostile to the United States and Israel, so bent on regional domination, his frames of reference and decision-making processes so opaque, and possibly irrational, and his ties to international terrorism such an obvious source of concern, that it is at best an open question whether a nuclear-armed Israq is ultimately deterrable. In the long run, it is highly probable that no American president can afford to take that risk, thus making covert if not overt intervention likely if internal change does not occur.
As to inspections, the evidence suggests that an intrusive inspections regime can produce positive results, but can never be fully reliable or completely effective. In their first five years, the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) made some progress toward inspecting and disarming Iraq’s chemical, biological, and missile materials and capabilities. The so-called IAEA Action Team did the same for Iraq’s nuclear program. The main problem was that UNSCOM was never allowed to fully scan the country or finish its work. Since the Iraqi government terminated its work four years ago, the country has been free of monitoring and inspection.
Just war doctrine focuses on right intentions and prospects for success. Intentions and goals matter in war. A nation should only wage war for the cause of justice, rather than for self-interest or aggrandizement. The issue of intention must be balanced with concern for practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered before declaring war. The decision to go to war must be essentially protective; the goal of war is to obtain a just and durable peace. The ancillary requirement that there must be prospects for success means that the use of arms must not produce negative effects and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
In this case the risks of inaction are real; the risks of action extraordinary. The only certainty is that any military action involving a great power will bring about unintended consequences. It is a distinct possibility but not certainty that conflict with Saddam will be short and decisive, as it was during the Gulf War. It is also possible that a new regime can be found and put in place with as much ability and legitimacy as in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, one should always hope for the best but plan for the worst. America’s greatest living statesman, George F. Kennan, recently made the sage observation that “war has a momentum of its own, and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq… you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.”
Many have expressed concern about the “end game” — the difficulty of potential street combat, of establishing legitimate government, of dealing with the long-term implications for American interests in the Muslim world of an intervention in Iraq. But concern for the “end game” should not cloud the enormous difficulties of the “beginning game.” What happens when a strike commences?
What happens to our ability to secure cooperation in the long-term campaign against global terrorism? What about American leadership in the global economy?
From an operational perspective, the assumption in some quarters appears to be that once we initiate conflict Saddam will be on the defensive, hunkering down, perhaps waging defensive guerrilla warfare in the cities and countryside, while the United States and its allies enjoy the initiative.
This may be the case, but Saddam has had a lot of time to strategize on how to maximize American casualties, energize potential support outside Iraq – including terrorists – and increase his martyrdom.
My concern is that Israel may be underestimating the potentially devastating effects of a biological weapons assault while the United States may be underestimating the potential of a pan-Muslim backlash.
In terms of military pitfalls for the United States, one “nightmare” scenario involves determined resistance in Baghdad and perhaps other major cities by the Iraqi Republican Guard. Should we be compelled to engage, the casualties on both sides, including civilians, could be substantial.
But the greatest danger that we cannot ignore is the possibility that a campaign against Iraq expands into a wider conflict within the Arab world against Israel. Indeed, it is virtually inconceivable that military intervention against Iraq will not cause an immediate retaliatory strike against Israel. In the Gulf War, Iraq sent 39 scud missiles against Israel – missiles that could have been but were not tipped with chemical weapons. Chemical weapons were used with some devastation in World War I and in closed settings with gruesome ramifications in the Holocaust. Today the vastly greater danger is biological agents. Biological weapons pose a danger thousands of times greater than chemical weapons. The delivery of such weapons on missiles, unmanned aircraft, by hand and or through the mail could be traumatic for Israel and world society. Likewise, if Iraq were to launch any kind of weapons of mass destruction against Israel, Israel would have to seriously consider a retaliatory response, perhaps including nuclear weapons.
It is also conceivable that action against Iraq, particularly a prolonged campaign with significant civilian casualties, could spark outrage in the Muslim world, and unleash a new surge of anti-Americanism. While there is little support for Saddam Hussein outside of Iraq, there is extraordinary opposition to America going to war against a Muslim country. Terrorism around the world could be supercharged. Even without Israeli involvement, friendly governments in Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia might be destabilized. A multi-year, multi-decade or multi-century conflict could ensue.
Should Saddam’s hold on power or his personal security be in imminent jeopardy, it would appear probable that he may utilize the techniques of terrorism – possibly including weapons of mass destruction – to defend his regime and wreak revenge on his enemies.
In addition, it is also conceivable that new dangers would emerge with a feeble or hostile successor regime. Chaos, bloodshed and revenge might follow. Weapons of mass destruction might fall into a greater number of hands. An unstable Iraq could be a haven for terrorists and a continuing threat to regional peace.
Indeed, it is impressive how little, not how much we know, especially attitudinally in Iraq and the Muslim world about the potential of American intervention in Iraq. To what extent will support be manifested for Saddam? Will there be disorder, chaos, bloodshed and revenge? Will the Shii’a turn on the Sunni minority? Will the Kurds seek an independent state?
Moreover, it is important to ponder whether an invasion of Iraq would worsen rather than reduce the threat of terrorists gaining control of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam could decide to disperse his weapons stockpiles, and the scientists who build them, into the hands of global terrorists. Even if he did not order such, in the chaos of war it is conceivable that individual Iraqi commanders and scientists might make their own profit-oriented accommodation with terrorists.
More broadly, it is by no means clear that regime change in Iraq, even if successfully carried out, will significantly diminish the threat from Islamic extremists who share little in common with Saddam Hussein.
Hence the need for the United States to pursue a vigorous two-pronged approach in the Middle East: intensified efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and greater focus on economic development and democratization in the region.
The importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian standoff cannot be underestimated. We know from attitudinal surveys that Muslims generally like Americans and admire American culture. Many have chosen to immigrate to the United States. They do not, however, trust our government. To win the war on terrorism we will have to convince Muslims throughout the world that we, in fact, favor justice and the creation of just societies everywhere.
All Americans understand we share a common concern for the fate of the Israeli people and the viability of the Israeli state. The commitment of the United States to Israel must be bedrock. We must support Israel and help bring peace and stability to the region. There must be continuity of commitment, but there must also be recognition of opportunities to lead. Unfortunately, critical opportunities have been lost in partial measure because Presidents were imperfectly skilled and in some cases wanted to operate in relationship to timing they hoped to control rather than in relationship to circumstances and events in the region.
For example, optimism surrounded the Oslo Accord precipitated by President Bush’s father. Yet the United States lagged in efforts to push immediately thereafter the logical steps that should have been taken to create a long-term framework for peace. To his credit, President Clinton pressed at the end of his administration for a breakthrough agreement. At Camp David, Arafat turned his back on the most forthcoming peace proposal Israel has ever formally made. The tragedy of Arafat was not that he had to accept every parameter of the proposal put forward by Prime Minister Barak, but that he failed to make a counteroffer, thereby destroying prospects for peace, thumbing his nose at Israel and implicitly at the prestige of the American presidency.
Following the breakdown of the Camp David talks in July 2000, and the subsequent outbreak of violence on September 28, the sides nevertheless agreed to continue negotiations at lower levels during December and January 2001 at the Egyptian town of Taba. As President Clinton left office, Barak’s government had but a few weeks of life left before the election that brought Ariel Sharon to power. The outbreak of the violence had made it unlikely that Israelis would approve any proposal of concessions to the Palestinians in a referendum. Nonetheless, both sides hammered out proposals that came much closer to each other’s positions than before.
No official summaries of the proposals were issued, but subsequent leaks provided some details. The Palestinians, according to Israeli sources, agreed to a map that would allow Israel to keep most of its settlements and about 4 percent of the territory.
But given the short time left to the Barak government, the preoccupation with the transition in Washington, and the continuing violence, the proposals came to nothing. Both sides had agreed that the proposals would be binding only if they resulted in an agreement. The joint communique noted, however, that foundations had been laid for future discussions.
The new administration held that President Clinton had attempted to negotiate on his time frame and increased tension by seeking a resolution that was not ripe. My sense is that the Bush team was half right. President Clinton had pressed on his time frame but erred by being tardy instead of premature. If pressed two or three years earlier by the Clinton Administration, the Barak approach would have been more sympathetically received. And if the Taba framework had been immediately pressed on the parties by the new Bush foreign policy team which was initially so well received in the Arab world, quite possibly a breakthrough agreement could have been made.
Two opportunities for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, one in this and the other in the prior Administration, were not grasped and this circumstance hangs like dangling fruit to terrorists the world over.
The major U.S. foreign policy concern in the region must be resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. All administrations at all times must dedicate themselves to this challenge. In this context, the need to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians is of far greater significance than waging war with Iraq. Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or rational or not, we are simply in a far better position to deal in whatever way we choose with Iraq after an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It is a far less favorable circumstance if we attempt to deal with Iraq beforehand.
Some contend that Israel is in a far stronger strategic position if the United States quickly and successfully disarms Iraq. This may be the case. But no country carries greater risks during the conflict and in its aftermath than Israel if intervention proves messy, if Iraq is able to unleash an attack on Israel.
In the Middle East , there are two sets of value scales. From a Western perspective, the case for creating and protecting the state of Israel because of the history of pogroms and the Holocaust is compelling. From a Muslim perspective, an argument can be made that Arab peoples have a historical claim to parts of the Holy Land and its holy places and no responsibility for the Holocaust. The challenge is to take these juxtaposed value systems and reach a reconciliation both sides can respect and live with on a long-term basis. My sense is that somewhere around the points laid on the table at Camp David and Taba there is a basis for a credible resolution, but it is very doubtful given the current state of enmity and distrust between the parties that slow-paced, partial steps can lead incrementally to a larger vision of peace and accommodation.
Nation-building was used pejoratively during the last campaign, but America has no choice but to do more ourselves and to press our allies much more forthrightly for assistance to Afghanistan, a country in which we effected a constructive change of government. For all the unfortunate consequences that can sometimes befall policy, we are most fortunate to have a leader in charge that the world can respect. This circumstance, however, may change quickly based on reaction to actions inside and outside of Afghanistan. A U.S. war with a Muslim country will have wide consequences elsewhere, some good, some bad, most unpredictable.
Here it should be noted that there has been relatively little discussion about the commitments, likely to be of a long-term character, that Washington must undertake after a military campaign against Iraq. The term ‘regime change’ does not adequately describe the full scope of what we expect to achieve as a result of a military campaign in Iraq. We would be expected to work with Iraqis, including those outside Iraq, to both develop a new constitutional structure as well as find credible post-Saddam leadership – leadership that hopefully would share our objectives with respect to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, development of democratic institutions, etc. We will almost certainly need substantial forces on the ground in order to prevent bloodletting, secure important economic and military assets, and prevent possible Iranian meddling. And although Iraq has substantial oil reserves and therefore a better resource base than Afghanistan from which to assist in financing reconstruction, the costs of humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation could nevertheless be in the billions of dollars.
We lack firm estimates of the domestic cost to the U.S. of a potential conflict. Seat-of-the-pants White House estimates range from $100 billion to $200 billion, with the price of oil estimated to rise to perhaps $30 a barrel for some unknown period of time. More recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that fighting a war with Iraq could cost the U.S. between $6 and $9 billion a month, with preparing for a conflict and terminating it later adding another $14 billion to $20 billion to the total.
The 1991 Persian Gulf War cost $60 billion in 1991 dollars, with the brunt picked up by our friends and allies, notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Japan. It is unlikely there will be comparable help in defraying the costs of a military action and any subsequent nation-building in Iraq.
Our war aims with Iraq also need clarification. The goal of the U.S. should not be the total disarmament of Iraq, as some appeared to have called for, but the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction. Disarmament implies that Iraq cannot have an army, a proposition no sovereign state is likely to accept. Indeed, Western policy in the region for decades advocated a balance of power, not vacuum of power. The reason to distinguish the elimination of weapons of mass destruction versus total disarmament is more than theoretical. U.S. policy should be based on establishing a strong unitary Iraq with a professional army accountable to democratic forces. As we proceed toward possible invasion, the goal should be to have the Iraqi army to identify with the United States, not Saddam.
The challenge is to make it clear that our goal is the uplifting of Iraqi society, one which can lead the Muslim world with a model of modern democracy and prosperity.
Saddam is a rogue leader, but Iraqis are not a rogue people. Care must be taken to distinguish the leadership from the country itself. No country or peoples are intrinsically evil, though individual leaders such as Saddam can clearly be malevolent.
In historical terms, Saddam is a Stalinist. The case for regime change is real, but the prospect of our demolishing Iraqi society or Saddam blowing up his own country’s infrastructure — bridges and oil fields — is not a happy one. Perhaps the prospect of such a catastrophe will lead to regime change precipitated internally, which could be the maximum outcome for all.
In just war theory, the criterion of right authority determines who is to decide whether or not resorting to war is justified.
Reasonable men and women can agree in a “just war” context on the moral and legal authority of the President, acting with the express authorization of the Congress of the United States, to initiate a police action to enforce international law.
Likewise, reasonable men and women generally ought to be able to agree on the moral and legal authority of the Security Council to authorize the enforcement of UN resolutions requiring a country to abide by international conventions on weapons of mass destruction.
It should be self-evident that while a country like the United States has an obligation to protect its citizens without a formal UN resolution, it is vastly preferable for American strategy to be based on formal international support.
UN support would impress upon Saddam Hussein that he is not just facing a United States Administration, but the will of the world community. Security Council endorsement would bolster American security by helping make it politically possible for others to join in enforcing international law and by undercutting the legal and moral base of those who might object.
In this context, the President is to be commended for taking the case to the United Nations. He is to be commended for endeavoring to reach out to the world community by deciding that the United States should rejoin UNESCO. He is to be commended for laying out the challenges Iraq poses to the world community and to the region. He is further to be commended for bringing his case to the Congress.
Words matter. Care must be taken in their use. Words lead to processes that sometimes make careful judgments difficult to obtain. At this time, for instance, the case for regime change is powerful. But this does not necessarily mean that urgency for military intervention, even with UN authorization, is compelling. There have been too many instances in history where leaders have boxed themselves in with words, and when actions tied to words may cause, domino fashion, further actions to transpire which might not be contemplated or warranted by the initial statements made.
Utterance restraint is an attribute that has received less attention and less approval than should be the case in statesmanship. In this context, the unintended consequence of describing countries as evil and personalizing strategic doctrines must be recognized.
In Vietnam, for instance, the basis for our engagement stemmed more from a domino theory of decision-making than the more widely discussed domino government-toppling potential. When American presidents make statements, policy decisions can result which lead to actions which may not fit the circumstance in which the statement was originally framed.
More recently, in the Balkans, America got involved after giving a series of warnings that if Serbia didn’t go along with the Rambouillet Accord, the United States and NATO would intervene. The United States made threats which were not taken seriously by adversaries which led to intervention that might not have occurred if the warnings weren’t made. The decision to intervene was made in part because of a concern about preserving presidential credibility, and the need to make a particular president’s words meaningful, despite the fact that few Americans knew the president had made statements in this arena.
In the case before us it is suggested that authorization for use of force may cause others to act in such a way as to make use of force unnecessary. But the greater problem seems to me to be the problem of a leader who pushes for authorization and then faces the question of follow through. The logic is force may not be inevitable but its authorization surely makes a decision for restraint difficult.
There is a thin line between the exercise of superpower responsibility and the prospect of superpower folly. The timing, perhaps more than the substance of this resolution is in doubt.
Judgment and timing must go hand in hand. It may have been a mistake back in 1991 not to have pursued Saddam because of our assumption that the Iraqi people would come to their senses and replace him. But that failure to act does not necessarily legitimize assumptions that intervention today can legally be carried out in the context of resolutions both Congress and the UN applied a dozen years ago. The greatest legal case against Saddam relates less to Security Council resolutions than his development of biological weapons which contravene international law and jeopardize the health of the region.
In general, the criterion of last resort has a common sense interpretation in which it functions as a reminder that the resort to violence must be, to a significant degree, reluctant. It enjoins us to make serious efforts at peaceful resolutions of our political problems before going down the path of war. The term “peaceful” is itself open to varied interpretations, but is usually taken to include a comprehensive range of nonviolent methods that may involve “coercive diplomacy,” including sanctions of an economic and political character.
The principle of proportionality evaluates the effects or ends of war. In this regard, proportionality is “counting the costs” or cost-benefit analysis. In just war theory this principle insists that there be due proportion, that is, less evil following from acting rather than not acting in the manner contemplated. War is not justifiable if it will produce more death and destruction than it prevents. Understood properly, proportion has the potential for overriding just cause.
Although Iraq is clearly a menace, there is little evidence to suggest that it poses a direct and immediate threat to the vital interests of the United States sufficiently grave as to lead to no other credible alternative to war. As former NATO commander General Wesley Clark testified before Congress, “There is nothing that indicates that in the immediate – the next hours – the next days – that there is going to be nuclear missiles put on launch pads to go against our forces or our allies in the region. And so I think there is, based on all the evidence available, sufficient time to work through the diplomacy of this.”
Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft argued this summer in the Wall Street Journal, that Saddam’s strategic objectives appear to be to dominate the Persian Gulf, to control oil from the region, or both. This clearly poses a real threat to U.S. interests. But there is little hard evidence to suggest Saddam has close ties to al-Qaeda, and even less to the 9/11 attacks. Given Saddam’s psychology and aspirations, Scowcroft considers it unlikely that he would be willing to risk his investment in weapons of mass destruction by handing them over to terrorists who could use them for their own purposes “and leave Baghdad as the return address.” Saddam, Scowcroft suggests, seeks weapons of mass destruction not to arm terrorists, but to deter us from intervening to block his aggressive designs.
In addition, as of this moment, with current sanctions in place and the Security Council contemplating reintroducing weapons inspectors under existing or new UN resolutions, it cannot credibly be claimed that America or the world have exhausted non-violent alternatives.
I accept in principle that military intervention against Iraq might be considered legitimate law enforcement under just war doctrine. What I do not accept is that it is justified at this time because of the disproportionately horrendous consequences such action may precipitate.
The reason I am so doubtful relates less to the risks to American national interests which accompany intervention in the Muslim world, as real and as large as I believe them to be, but principally because of the risks invasion may pose to civilization itself.
As I have listened to various proponents, the efficacy of military intervention is based on the assumption that a cornered tyrant will not order or his subordinates will not obey commands to initiate the use of weapons of mass destruction, providing the U.S. and others the opportunity to destroy or otherwise seize effective control of such weapons and delivery systems before they are launched.
This assumption may represent the most dangerous intelligence estimate and the most frail tactical assumption in human history.
What is known is that Saddam Hussein controls tons of biological agents. What is known is that he is attempting to develop a nuclear explosive device, and while it is unlikely, it is conceivable he may control such a weapon today. Even if we assume our intelligence to be correct and his nuclear capacity is yet to be achieved, we can be sure he has a BW capacity, portable and hidden. We know he has the means of delivery.
Therefore, intervention assumes Saddam’s delayed contemplation or inability to effectuate through commands of BW usage. But what if Saddam and his cohorts are prepared to use BW immediately? What if he seeks wider Arab support by attempting to engage Israel? And what if Israeli leadership responds proportionately, perhaps disproportionately?
If biological agents are released in Haifa or Tel Aviv, the prospect of a nuclear response is not remote. American troops could be caught in the crossfire and crosswind of two sets of weapons of mass destruction coming from different sources, each equally dangerous. Is not the next few months the most dangerous in the history of the region?
Before any strike, it would seem to me the U.S. must know the location of every biological weapon cache in Iraq and have a clear plan and capacity to destroy or control these weapons within minutes of the initiation of military action. Absent that capability, military intervention would be based upon inadequate intelligence and a potentially catastrophic misjudgment of intent.
The risks are extraordinary. However, it is suggested that as large as the risks are today, they will be graver in subsequent years. Surely, it is said, we cannot allow Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction to deter the United States from taking necessary action.
This line of argument has substantial merit. But it does not necessarily provide a compelling rationale to intervene today. The reason it doesn’t is because of a lack of understanding of the danger of biological agents. Pounds or ounces of biological agents, such as plague or anthrax, can be devastating. Saddam Hussein controls tons. Given these quantities, adding more does not make him that much more dangerous.
While a shield may be technologically feasible to develop to shoot down a missile that leaves the earth’s orbit, there is no such thing as a biological shield. Delivery systems can be rudimentary and multi-faceted.
The coming conflict with Iraq is not only symptomatic of the problem of terrorism but arguably stands as the most difficult confrontation in world history. If biological weapons through usage are legitimized as instruments of war, the survival of man is in desperate jeopardy. While the Middle East contains many conflicts rooted in differing approaches to faith, the issue of Iraq is fundamentally different. It has far more to do with the conjunction of science and despotism than a clash of civilizations.
The reason the United States led the world community in the development of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in the 1970s to prevent the development, production, and stockpiling of biological weapons is that we came to the conclusion not only that the use of biological weapons could jeopardize society itself but we also decided that even experimenting with these weapons was too dangerous in the world’s most sophisticated scientific community. It is a public health trauma of unprecedented proportions to stockpile these agents, let alone use them in war.
In this context, the case that Iraqi leadership is lawless is compelling. And the case for lawful regime change is real. But we are courting unprecedented danger to the American national interest and the existence of the state of Israel to move from a policy of containment and deterrence to a policy of military intervention that may actually precipitate usage of such horrendous weapons of mass destruction.
Based upon the mendacity of leadership in Iraq, it is hard not to provide our President with full discretionary support. The problem is that this resolution contemplates an act of war of unprecedented consequences. The logic of its words leads to consequences too awful to contemplate. I must vote no.