Play It Again Sam! (A Look Back on The Bad Idea of Invading Iraq: August 28th, 2002)
Note: This is the final installment of a special three-part series on the US plan to invade Iraq.
As the Bush Administration forges ahead with planning for another US invasion of Iraq, it does so having failed to carefully consider the many risks, which would accompany such an invasion and its unpredictable aftermath. Such an aftermath would likely include a US occupation of the country with no end in site and a fracturing of Iraq which would, at best, turn it into a patchwork of opposing ethnic and religious groups very similar to the Bosnian Federation. Moreover, an invasion of Iraq would threaten another major economic downturn in the US economy and likely result in thousands of US casualties that would make the war unpopular and seriously endanger the President’s re-election prospects. An invasion of Iraq could also turn most of the Arab world against the US and thus destroy the war on terrorism. These risks far outweigh the benefits that the US could possibly hope to yield from an invasion of Iraq and an eventual overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Brent Scowcroft, a retired Lieutenant General and former National Security Advisor to President George H.W. Bush, recently appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation where he stated his opinion that an invasion of Iraq would completely eliminate regional support for the US war on terrorism, result in a powerful potential backlash against the US and “turn the whole region into a cauldron and, thus, destroy the war on terrorism.” Scowcroft said the US should first focus on fighting the war on terrorism and resolving the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. He also disputed those who said that Hussein would attempt to use weapons of mass destruction against other countries and suggested that his survival in power was his most important policy imperative when he asserted, “this is not a man who will risk everything on the roll of a dice.” Morton H. Halperin, a former US State Department official, echoed Scowcroft’s views in stating “it is likely that an American military conquest of Iraq will lead many more people in the Arab and Muslim world to choose the path of terror.”
There are three major groups in Iraq – the Kurds in the north, the Sunnis in the center and the Shiites in the majority. Although the Sunnis have ruled Iraq for most of its recent history and is probably the most hated group, there is no love lost between the Kurds and the Shiites either. Despite statements to the contrary emanating out of the Bush Administration, there is no effective opposition to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and no one strong enough to succeed him. The Administration has received a lot of criticism of late regarding the fact that it has failed to plan for the aftermath of the invasion or consider the risks that the removal of the largely secular, though clearly evil Hussein regime would entail for the country.
Among the proposals for the postwar reconstruction of Iraq most likely to be implemented is a representative government in which all three of the aforementioned groups would be represented. Such a governing arrangement would be difficult to maintain and would likely leave the country about as unified as say–Bosnia, which has a similar representative arrangement. Without a prolonged occupation force of tens of thousands of US troops, an invasion of Iraq and the forced removal of Saddam Hussein from power would threaten to break up Iraq and empower the fundamentalist Shiite population in southern Iraq to make a bid for power with Iranian help and transform Iraq a clone of revolutionary state sponsor of terror Iran. An Islamic led alliance of Iran and Iraq against the US would have to be one of the worst-case scenarios for US policymakers.
It would cost tens of billions of dollars for the US to invade, occupy and rebuild Iraq. In addition, an invasion of Iraq would spark a rise in oil prices, which would likely cause a further economic downturn in a repeat of the 1990-91 recession that caused voters to reject the President’s father’s bid for re-election in 1992. Such an Iraq war caused recession could very conceivably cause the voters to vote the current President Bush out of office in 2004 as well. In short, it seems that President George W. Bush is determined to pursue a policy, which will result in his repeating the mistakes of his father.
In addition, a US invasion of Iraq would likely result in thousands of US casualties. Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that he has learned from the lessons of Desert Storm and would order his Army to fight an urban warfare battle of attrition for which the US Army is poorly prepared. Such a strategy would be guaranteed to maximize US casualties by forcing unprotected infantry rather than well-protected heavy armor to lead the fight against the Iraqi Army. Saddam also has a very potent arsenal of Chemical-Biological-Radiological (CBR) weapons. While his primary interest is self-preservation and retention of power and he would be highly unlikely to risk destruction by launching weapons of mass destruction against another country if left alone, Saddam might very well unleash these weapons against US troops if they threatened to depose him. Faced with being killed or captured by invading US forces, he would have no reason to refrain from using CBR weapons against US troops or even Israel in a bid to rally Arab states to his cause.
If ten thousand US casualties were to result from such a CBR attack on US troops by Saddam Hussein, the President would pay a tremendous political price at the polls and would in all likelihood be defeated in his bid for re-election in 2004. The US would be hard-pressed to respond in kind to such an attack since its own arsenal of CBR weapons has been largely unilaterally destroyed over the past few decades. The Bush Administration might feel pressured to resort to the unthinkable in such a scenario – the employment of tactical nuclear weapons against enemy troops, a precedent which would likely one day lead to the use of such weapons against US troops as well. President Bush would do well to more carefully consider the serious risks presented by an invasion of Iraq if he has serious hopes of being re-elected. ***
David T Pyne currently serves as DUV-PAC Chairman, President of the Utah Republican Assembly, and as Vice President for the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter. A former national security expert, he has served as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, worked as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager, as an International Analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of the Navy, and as a Research Assistant for the Center for Security Policy.