I am not opposed to invading Iraq. Though I am troubled by the Congressional passage of President Bush’s war resolution last week, as I do not support a presidential blank check, I understand the need for intervention. If U.N. inspections fail, there is no other way to stop Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his criminal regime. Saddam is firmly in control of Iraq and there is no effective opposition within the country. Given his intricate security services, headed by his ruthless son Qusay, the chances of a successful coup or assassination are small.
Military action may be the only way to stop Saddam. It is imperative that his country be disarmed, and that any weapons of mass destruction be dismantled.
I acknowledge that legitimate concerns exist. Given that relevant intelligence remains classified, ordinary citizens like myself have difficulty evaluating exactly how advanced Iraq’s weapons programs really are. We must therefore place our faith in our leaders, and we must do so in a manner that is not naive, yet ever mindful of the dangerous precedent set by President Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Our government should consult with and seek the approval of other U.N. member states before embarking upon a course of war, but we have a moral responsibility to act that should not hinge on the support of other nations. A review of the facts about Saddam provides impetus enough.
For one thing, Saddam is responsible for initiating wars against Iran and Kuwait. He has used chemical weapons against his own people, whom he continues to brutally oppress. He is a threat to our ally Israel, and to Saudi Arabia. According to a CIA report declassified on Oct. 4, Saddam has reinvigorated Iraq’s missile program and revived its biological and chemical weapons programs. Frighteningly, the report states that he “remains intent on acquiring [nuclear weapons],” and could possess a weapon within a year should he obtain the proper fissile materials from foreign sources.
What’s more, the Iraqi president is a compulsive liar. His diplomats, most notably Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, have succeeded over the years in dividing and stonewalling the U.N. Security Council with a “cheat and retreat” stratagem, a game of inviting inspectors to Iraq and then reneging on previous agreements by imposing new, impossible conditions.
Saddam is incapable of negotiating in good faith. Once the weapons inspectors return to Baghdad, he will probably do everything in his power to thwart them once again. Wafiq al-Samarrai, a defector in charge of Iraq’s military intelligence during the Persian Gulf War, told Newsweek Online on Oct. 10 that it is unlikely “Saddam will give [the inspectors] anything.”
The last peaceful resort is in Saddam’s hands. He must allow Dr. Hans Blix and his inspections team unfettered access to all of his numerous palaces, as well as to the approximately 700 weapons development sites throughout the country. All of Iraq’s stockpiles must be accounted for and destroyed, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 687.
But if Saddam double-deals, I fear we must invade.
Not everyone agrees. Some argue against invading on the grounds that Saddam can be contained. They posit that he is above all concerned with his own political survival, and will not use weapons of mass destruction in most circumstances, for fear of provoking U.S. intervention. An invasion would represent an enormous miscalculation, as it would remove Saddam’s only impetus for restraint.
These analysts are correct about the possible risks of a U.S. invasion, which include a chemical or biological attack on American soldiers. Nevertheless, I believe they fail to appreciate how much a nuclear-armed Iraq would alter the balance of power in the Middle East, as well as hamper our efforts in the war on terror. If Saddam acquires a nuclear weapon, he will be able to blackmail the entire region. We would be unable to stop him from harboring Qaida agents if he chose to do so; his nuclear umbrella would provide adequate protection. It is even conceivable that Iraq could morph into a training camp for terrorists. As a more or less secular Ba’ath socialist, Saddam might not be cut from the same cloth as Osama bin Laden, but he remains a consummate opportunist. He may well embrace fundamentalism in his singular drive to become as mighty a conqueror as his hero, the medieval leader Saladin. Such concerns provide a sufficient rationale for intervention.
Who will lead Iraq after Saddam is toppled? An interim government, headed perhaps by a leader of the Iraqi opposition in exile, would provide the most suitable option. Once the country is stabilized, the choice of a successor should be left to the Iraqi people. In the meantime, all of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction must be destroyed.
These are not easy times. Like President Carter, I would rather see the world solve its disputes peacefully, working through the United Nations. But should war become necessary, I am convinced there is reason to support it.
Matthew Nickson is a senior in Berkeley College. He is a former editorials editor of the Yale Daily News.