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464 December 17, 2002

Why the United States Should Not

Attack Iraq
by Ivan Eland and Bernard Gourley

Executive Summary

For months the Bush administration has been An examination of his past actions indicates that
preparing the country for war with Iraq. The his principal need is to maintain his own physical
administration has argued that only a forcible and political survival. Using that knowledge,
regime change can neutralize the threat that Washington can develop a strategy that would
Saddam Hussein is said to pose. But the assump- allow the United States to deter Hussein from tak-
tions that underlie the administration’s policy ing actions detrimental to U.S. national security,
range from cautiously pessimistic to outright fal- without engaging him in warfare.
lacious. First, there is a prevalent belief that if Iraq The key to neutralizing the Iraqi threat is to
is able to obtain nuclear weapons it will inevitably deter Hussein from aggressive action by sending
use them. Second, there is a notion that Hussein is a clear and credible message of commitment to
totally irrational and cannot be trusted to act in a protecting the United States against any chal-
predictable manner; and, because of that, his lead- lenge to its security; it is essential to communi-
ership creates a substantial risk of instability in cate a willingness to massively retaliate in
the Middle East. Finally, many people in the response to attacks against our homeland. This
United States have come to believe that war in Iraq is crucially different from President Bush’s mes-
may be the only means of nullifying the threat sage that overthrowing Hussein must be a top
posed by Iraq’s nuclear, biological, and chemical priority, regardless of his actual behavior. If
weapons programs. Hussein believes that his political survival is
There are less costly strategies for dealing with being threatened, and there is nothing he can do
Hussein than conducting a war. Hussein, while he about it, he may respond in a dangerous and
may not act morally, is rational in the sense that unpredictable manner—with weapons of mass
economists and political scientists use the term. destruction.

Ivan Eland is director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute. Bernard Gourley is an independent foreign pol-
icy analyst.
According to does appear that Iraq is unrelenting in its
the Pentagon, Introduction pursuit of NBC weapons. Although much of
Iraq’s capability has clearly been damaged, it
extant and The Bush administration is readying plans is known that Iraq has the knowledge and
emerging threats to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime from capability to produce quite an array of chem-
power in Iraq. Last summer, plans about pos- ical and biological weapons and their associ-
include sible strategies for ending Hussein’s rule were ated delivery systems. The consensus among
12 nations with leaked to the press. Members of the Bush experts is that Iraq does not yet have a
nuclear weapons administration have met with leaders of Iraqi nuclear weapon, but it is working on one.
opposition groups to discuss the possibility of Iraq has produced chemical weapons such
programs, ousting Hussein and what an Iraqi govern- as mustard gas, as well as nerve agents such
13 nations with ment might look like in the aftermath. Vice as sarin, tabun, cyclosarin, and VX.2 Iraq has
biological President Cheney went as far as to tell the admitted that it produced a number of bio-
opposition leaders that the United States was logical and toxin weapons as well, including
weapons, committed to ousting Hussein and replacing botulinum toxin, anthrax spore slurry, and
16 nations with him with a democratic system.1 On October aflatoxin. Iraqi scientists have grown castor
11, President Bush received congressional beans for the production of the toxin ricin.3
chemical authorization for military action against Iraq. According to Khidir Hamza, the former head
weapons, and On November 8, he obtained a unanimous of Iraq’s nuclear program, who defected in
28 nations with UN Security Council resolution that threatens 1994, if Iraq had an adequate amount of fis-
serious consequences if Iraq fails to fully com- sile material, it could probably manufacture
ballistic missiles. ply with unrestricted weapons inspections and a nuclear bomb in a matter of months.4
demands for disarmament, which could pos- Hamza has placed Iraq’s timeline for obtain-
sibly avert war. While administration officials ing the requisite enrichment technology
have not yet irrevocably committed the nation (gaseous diffusion technology needed to
to war, it seems that they have taken the need make fissile material from natural uranium)
to remove Hussein as a foregone conclusion. to make its own nuclear fuel for a bomb at
This paper will examine the assumptions two to seven years, depending on what work
that underlie the Bush administration’s con- Iraq has already completed.5 In addition, Iraq
viction that Hussein’s ouster is essential for has developed a number of delivery systems
the national security of the United States and for such weapons, most notably ballistic mis-
will challenge those assumptions on the basis siles. Although, without forward deploy-
of a close examination of the historical ment, Iraq has no means of reaching the
record. Next, the paper will examine the true United States with its missiles, they do con-
risks that Iraq poses and to what degree they stitute a substantial regional threat.
present a realistic threat. Finally, some policy Of course there must be more of a basis
options will be outlined that will allow the for concern than the mere acquisition and
United States to deal with the Iraqi threat possession of such weapons. After all, several
without going to war. nations have acquired NBC weapons and are
not viewed as nations of concern by our
national leadership. India, Pakistan, and
The Iraqi Bomb Israel are all nuclear powers; Iran is believed
to have a nuclear weapons program; and
At the forefront of concerns about Iraq’s North Korea has admitted having nuclear
leadership is its desire to obtain nuclear, bio- weapons and an ongoing nuclear program,
logical, and chemical (NBC) weapons and the which is in violation of international agree-
belief that its doing so will have disastrous ments. According to the Pentagon, extant
ramifications. At first glance, this appears to and emerging threats include 12 nations
be a reasonable enough cause for concern. It with nuclear weapons programs, 13 nations

with biological weapons, 16 nations with defeat during the Gulf War, because he knew
chemical weapons, and 28 nations with bal- that using chemical weapons on the United
listic missiles.6 But no other of those nations States would be inviting disaster (the United
is facing the threat of having its leadership States had threatened to retaliate with its
overthrown.7 Moreover, it is not the case that huge nuclear arsenal if such agents were
the only reason Iraq could possibly want used). Although there is little doubt that
NBC weapons is to threaten U.S. security. Hussein has acted immorally, it does not log-
The possession of those weapons increases ically follow that he is irrational and cannot
Iraq’s status as a regional power and helps it be deterred.
to deter regional enemies. Many observers argue that, although the
So what makes the Bush administration, United States may be able to deter Hussein in
and others, pessimistic about the prospects of principle, he has a history of bad decision-
Iraq using such weapons? Hussein has a histo- making, which makes him prone to stum-
ry of breaking the international norm against bling over the brink. Kenneth Pollack made
using chemical weapons. First, Iraq used chem- just such an argument in Foreign Affairs, stat-
ical weapons against Iran in 1982 and 1983, ing that, although Hussein may be rational,
during the early part of the Iran-Iraq War. The he is prone to making risky decisions based
Baghdad government openly stated that it on information of dubious character.11 While Hussein was
would use such weapons if Iran pushed the it is certainly true that Hussein is prone to deterred from
Iraqi army back across the border and contin- make poor decisions and is not risk averse, he using chemical
ued the fight on Iraqi soil. When Iran did just has always stayed clear of actions that would
that, Iraq made good on its promise.8 A second be likely to lead to his removal. There are weapons against
use of chemical weapons under Hussein’s some boundaries that Hussein won’t cross an adversary
authority was the unconscionable use of a mix because he knows they will lead to his own
of mustard gas and nerve agents against two political destruction. As Lawrence Freedman
capable of mas-
Kurdish villages in northern Iraq in 1988.9 and Efraim Karsh, scholars at King’s College sive retaliation.
It is undeniable that Iraq has both sought at the University of London, put it, Hussein
and used NBC weapons in the past. But is it will not sacrifice his political survival.12 That
logical to assume that it will seek to employ fact can be seen in Hussein’s decision to with-
such weapons against the United States? The hold his best fighting units from combat in
answer is no. Hussein had an opportunity to the Gulf War so that they would be free to
use chemical weapons against U.S. troops protect him.13
during the Persian Gulf War, and he did not Let us examine one of the most blatant
take advantage of it. The lesson to be drawn examples of Hussein’s risky strategic maneu-
from this is that Hussein was deterred from vers. In January 1991, Iraq launched several
using chemical weapons against an adversary Al-Hussein missiles (an indigenous Iraqi mis-
capable of massive retaliation. In contrast, he sile based on the SCUD-B) at Israel. That tac-
was not deterred from using them against tic was designed to draw Israel into the fight
the Iranians and the Kurds who had no abil- in hopes of splitting up the coalition, which
ity to retaliate in kind for such actions. After included several of Iraq’s Arab neighbors.
the revolution that deposed Mohammad Israel, although it has not openly admitted it,
Reza Shah and brought to power an Islamic is believed to be a nuclear weapons state.
theocratic government, Iran decided not to Hussein apparently believes that Israel is a
continue the shah’s NBC weapons program nuclear power, judging from comments he
on religious grounds.10 (Of course, Iran later has made about Israel’s working to maintain
resumed NBC research and development.) a nuclear monopoly in the region. (The com-
Hussein showed restraint in not using NBC ments were made in the aftermath of the
weapons against U.S. and coalition forces Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in
even when faced with an inevitable military June 1981.)14 Given that belief, it seems odd

that Hussein would conduct an attack that oil wealth by the Iraqi regime.
might seem to invite nuclear retaliation. On September 22, 1980, Iraq invaded
Does Hussein’s willingness to attack a Iran—an event that resulted in a destructive
nuclear power show that he is excessively eight-year-long war. Almost a decade later on
prone to risk taking, cannot be reliably August 2, 1990, Iraq attacked Kuwait, initiat-
deterred, and is likely to stumble into nuclear ing a second Persian Gulf War. In both of
war? One must first consider why Iraq fired those invasions, Iraq wantonly disregarded
ballistic missiles armed with conventional the international norm against violating
tips, as opposed to chemical warheads. another nation’s sovereignty. If Hussein is a
Hussein was obviously counting on a rational actor, one might wonder how he
response from Israel, but he did not want to thought he could get away with such actions.
take an action that would justify the most Were those invasions rational decisions?
severe Israeli reaction possible. He realized Again, one must distinguish between ration-
that there is a strong international norm al and moral. Certainly it is not moral to
against using nuclear weapons, and only the invade a neighbor who has no intention of
most serious threats to national survival will attacking, but that does not mean it is not
lead to their use. Israel has been quick to state rational. Hussein was acting to achieve his
that it would not be the first nation to use goals, and there was adequate reason to
nuclear weapons in the region.15 That state- expect he could achieve them without facing
ment stands as evidence that Israel under- a substantial risk of defeat. How could he
stands the seriousness of using nuclear expect that the outcomes of his acts of
weapons, and it is not likely to respond with aggression would be successful? In the case
nuclear weapons to any attacks that do not of the invasion of Iran, Hussein recognized
put the nation in imminent peril. According that the Iranian regime was very unpopular
to Avner Cohen, Israel had nuclear weapons in the world community after the recent rev-
but did not deploy them in 1973 when Israeli olution that had installed a theocratic gov-
forces were attacked by Egypt and Syria.16 ernment run by strict fundamentalist Shiite
From that Hussein might conclude that he Muslims. America was particularly unhappy
could taunt the Israelis into some form of with Iran because of the 1979 hostage crisis.
measured response without fear of a massive According to James Bill and Robert
retaliatory strike. Chemical weapons, which Springborg, two experts on Middle Eastern
are viewed as weapons of mass destruction politics, “Despite the fact that Iraq was clear-
(WMD), might have incurred a more severe ly the aggressor state, the international com-
It is not moral to response. munity at the UN turned a blind eye to Iran’s
predicament and Saddam Hussein found
invade a neighbor himself holding a blank check for aggres-
who has no inten- Hussein’s Penchant for sion.”17 America not only turned a blind eye
tion of attacking, Invading Other Nations but proceeded to provide Iraq covert assis-
tance in the form of intelligence information
but that does not After the pursuit of NBC weapons, the and satellite imagery.18 The United States
mean it is not next most serious concern is Iraq’s history of also helped Iraq plan attacks on Iranian
invading other nations. The administration forces. With Iran as his only opposition
rational. and its supporters worry that if he is left (Iraq’s Arab and largely Sunni Muslim neigh-
unchecked, Hussein will engage in expan- bors were unlikely to intervene to help
sionist behavior that will have dire ramifica- Persian Shiite Iran), Hussein may reasonably
tions for regional stability. The principal have thought victory would be easy. His mil-
impact of such actions on the United States itary, after all, was technologically superior to
would be a possible reduction in the available Iran’s. However, Hussein misjudged the
supply of oil and the acquisition of yet more strength of the Iranian resistance.

The invasion of Kuwait, on the other remaining) and the harsh economic sanc- Although
hand, was widely condemned by both region- tions and limited military actions that have Hussein is prone
al and Western powers. Given that the United followed. Hussein likely recognizes that any
States and the international community dis- attempts to violate the sovereignty of other to take risky and
approved of Iraq’s moves against Kuwait, states in the region would lead to a renewal of even foolhardy
why would Hussein have believed that he the coalition that stood against him during
could do as he pleased in Kuwait? Surely, he the Gulf War. One should not be too quick
actions, he always
must have realized that he could not win the to believe that Hussein did not learn some does so with one
war if the United States became involved. lessons from the Gulf War. Lately, he has eye focused on
According to a compelling argument by been seeking favorable relations with most of
Janice Gross Stein, a political scientist at the the other nations in the Persian Gulf region. maintaining
University of Toronto, the reason Iraq was power over Iraq.
not deterred was that the messages sent by
the U.S. administration were “ambiguous Rationality
and contradictory.”19 Stein points out that at
times members of the first Bush administra- Hussein’s international conduct suggests
tion said that the United States had no par- that he is essentially a rational actor. By
ticular commitment to assist Kuwait, which examining his past actions we can see that he
Hussein might have read as a green light. apparently holds his physical and political
Other officials stated that the United States survival as paramount among his prefer-
was committed to supporting the free flow of ences. Although he is prone to take risky and
oil and to the sovereignty of the Gulf States.20 even foolhardy actions, he always does so
One must also consider Iraq’s likely calcu- with one eye focused on maintaining power
lus in invading Kuwait. Although these rea- over Iraq. This premise, combined with the
sons were largely ignored by both the media fact that America has the military might to
and the politicians planning a response to destroy the Iraqi regime, leads to the conclu-
Iraq’s aggression, they should be given due sion that Hussein can be deterred from
consideration in evaluating the nature of attacking America by threat of such destruc-
Hussein’s decisionmaking. First, Iraq tion. (That is, provided he believes that not
believed that Kuwait was “slant drilling” in conducting aggression will keep him free
the Rumaila oil fields.21 Second, Iraq was from such destruction.)
angered by Kuwait’s lack of compliance with Hussein is clearly concerned about the
production restrictions on oil that had been outcome of an attack by the United States.
agreed to by OPEC. The Iraqis therefore He is prone to spouting rhetoric about how
thought they were losing money because of hard his forces will fight if war occurs. Those
such perceived Kuwaiti transgressions. While statements are likely for domestic consump-
those are no justification for the full-scale tion both in Iraq and in the United States (in
invasion that Iraq carried out, Hussein may Iraq to show that he is willing to stand up to
well have thought that they would give other the United States and in America to convince
nations pause in deciding to get involved. In the U.S. public that President Bush will get
particular, he may have believed that other their sons and daughters slaughtered).
oil-producing Arab states might side with However, the fact that Hussein is so quick to
him or, at least, remain neutral. engage in stalling tactics may indicate that he
It should be noted that Iraq does not is not ready for a war. His response to U.S.
appear to be likely to invade anyone in the invasion rhetoric was to invite both UN lead-
near future. This inactivity has not resulted ers and members of the U.S. Congress to visit
just from Iraq’s being in a weakened state in Iraq to see what is going on with their own
the aftermath of the Gulf War (Iraq has only eyes. That apparently concessionary behavior
a fraction of its pre–Gulf War military seems to be designed to stave off attack. He

has also welcomed the UN inspectors back not willing to take an action that will incur a
into Iraq to search for weapons of mass massive retaliatory strike from the United
destruction. Of course, presuming that Iraq States means he would be unable to take
is actually pursuing NBC weapons programs, credit for any terrorist bombing using such
Hussein is in a Catch-22 if he actually allows weapons. Thus, he would get none of the per-
the legitimate return of inspectors. If he per- ceived benefit that he gets when he lends
mits unhindered inspections, the inspectors public support to terrorists in Palestine.
may find evidence of the programs, and that Despite such public support for Palestinian
finding will invite attack if he fails to allow terrorist groups, Hussein has never given
destruction of the weapons. If he fails to them weapons of mass destruction to use
allow such inspections, he will incur an against his archrival Israel.
attack for violating the terms of his agree- Would it be worth it for Hussein to give
ment with the United Nations. His solution away WMD purely for the motive of revenge
has been to attempt to stall, while advancing without being able to claim to the world that
relations with nations other than the United he has acted as a defender of the Arab cause?
States to isolate American policy. That seems unlikely. First, Hussein trusts only
a small handful of people in this world, and
Despite his public they are all people close to him. To trust an
support for The True Risks outsider with a WMD and to not implicate
Palestinian terror- himself in any use of the weapon seems out of
If Iraq can be deterred from taking overt, character for Hussein. He has been unwilling
ist groups, direct action deleterious to U.S. security, is to trust his own military commanders with
Hussein has never there no threat posed by Iraq whatsoever? control of NBC weapons.22 Trusting an out-
What if Iraq gives terrorists an NBC weapon? side party is even more unlikely—especially an
given them That is a valid point of concern, so analysis of ideologically incompatible one like al-Qaeda
weapons of mass the likelihood of such an event is required. that could ultimately turn on him and use the
destruction. The evening news regularly airs stories about weapons against him.
Hussein’s giving the Palestinian suicide- Second, Hussein has reason to believe that it
bombers’ families payment for the deeds of would be hard for him to get away with such an
their “martyred” kin. If Hussein is willing to action without being caught. When the tragic
blatantly support terrorists in that way, Bush events of September 11, 2001, took place, many
administration officials ask, how can we be people considered Iraq one of the prime sus-
sure he would not supply anti-American ter- pects. So even if Hussein is not responsible for a
rorists with a “super weapon”? Hussein gets terrorist action, he might well get blamed for it;
utility from publicly awarding Palestinian at a minimum, he would probably be a target of
terrorists’ families money. By giving away any investigation after the use of WMD by ter-
that money for all the world to see, Hussein is rorists. Because of an alleged April 2001 meet-
presenting himself as a leader willing to ing in Prague between an al-Qaeda member,
stand up to Israel and the United States. September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, and a
Such actions gain him support on the “Arab man believed to be in the Iraqi intelligence com-
street” and, perhaps in his eyes, move him munity, there are still some observers who
closer to the coveted status of being the Arab believe that Iraq was involved in the September
world’s premier leader. But Hussein would 11 attacks. But, despite pressure from the Bush
likely be deterred from giving or selling radi- administration, the CIA has been unable to
cal terrorist groups super weapons because confirm the meeting or Iraq’s link to the
any exposure of such activity would invite September 11 attacks. Nevertheless, with the
severe retaliatory attack by the United States. Bush administration looking for a good excuse
After all, terrorists do not have a return to eliminate Hussein, any evidence, no matter
address and Hussein does. The fact that he is how slim, that tends to incriminate him might

be used as justification for an invasion. must be understood. Contrary to popular
Finally, WMD—especially nuclear weapons— belief, Hussein makes decisions in the same
represent substantial investment, and it is manner that other rational actors do. That is,
unlikely that Iraq would be willing to hand he develops a perception of what the payoff
over what it has worked so hard to achieve. will be for a given action, taking into account
Unlike the case of conventional bombs, Iraq the expected response of other actors. From
cannot just set up an assembly line and start this he determines whether the reward for an
manufacturing one nuclear bomb after action outweighs the costs and consequences
another. The Iraqis need to acquire adequate of the action. As noted earlier, Hussein is
amounts of fissile material, and that is a prone to misjudgments based on a skewed
painstakingly slow process when the world is worldview. That skewed worldview is caused
watching your every move. by getting bad information from his small
inner circle and by an unrealistic perception
of the capabilities of his nation. However, as
Invading Iraq and the War this paper has argued, some of Hussein’s
on Terrorism miscalculations have been influenced by
mixed messages from external actors.
Although the Bush administration has jus- With that in mind, the most critical poli-
tified its bellicose posture toward Iraq as part cy requirement vis-à-vis Hussein is to send a
of the war on terrorism, that claim rings hol- clear message of commitment to protecting
low. Hussein supports terrorist groups in the the United States from threats to its security.
Middle East, but most of them do not focus Hussein must be made to know that if he
their attacks on U.S. targets. Instead of being uses NBC weapons against America, or if he
part of the war on the terrorist network that assists others in doing so, he and his regime
remains viable and is still attacking the United will be destroyed as the Taliban were. Of
States, an unprovoked invasion of Iraq would course, it appears that Hussein already
detract from it and actually cause more retal- understands that message because, even in
iatory terrorism against U.S. targets. Scarce the face of defeat in the Gulf War and for a
intelligence resources, special operations decade afterwards, he has avoided using bio-
forces, and the attention of policymakers logical and chemical weapons against
would need to be shifted to an attack on Iraq. nations with the capability to retaliate. But if
Furthermore, invading Iraq would inflame there is any doubt that Hussein understands
radical Islamists around the world, acting as a this point, Washington should make it
virtual recruiting poster for al-Qaeda and explicit. Hussein supports
destabilizing friendly regimes in the Middle On the other hand, the signals that the
East. An attack on Iraq would play right into current administration has been sending
terrorist groups
al-Qaeda’s hands. Terrorists hope for an exces- may have dire ramifications. By holding in the Middle
sive, intrusive response by their adversary so meetings with the Iraqi opposition groups, East, but most of
that they can recruit more supporters. Instead by leaking plans for conducting an invasion,
of launching an excursion against Iraq, the and by the strident rhetoric in which his them do not
Bush administration needs to put all of its administration has engaged, President Bush focus their
resources and efforts into fighting the “enemy has strongly communicated his intent to get
at the gates”—al-Qaeda. rid of Hussein. A recent issue of The Economist
attacks on U.S.
quoted John Bolton, under secretary of state targets.
for arms control and international security
Policy Recommendations affairs, as saying, “Our policy at the same
insists on regime change in Baghdad and
To reduce the threat to the United States that policy will not be altered whether inspec-
from Hussein, his decisionmaking process tors go in or not.”23 So the message to

An attack on Iraq Hussein is, no matter what you do, the U.S. great usefulness to be able to track Iraq’s
would play right government is coming to eliminate you. That NBC weapons and delivery system capabili-
only gives Hussein more incentive to plan a ties and to be able to follow Iraqi military
into al-Qaeda’s counterattack—in the event of a U.S. inva- movements as they occur. By following mili-
hands. sion—using WMD against U.S. forces, Israel, tary movements closely, the United States
or Saudi oil fields, or perhaps even smug- will have advance warning if Iraq intends to
gling such a weapon onto U.S. soil. engage in expansionist aggression.
In the face of a threat to his own survival, So collecting more information on Iraq to
Hussein will have little incentive to do any- ascertain its intentions, as well as its capabil-
thing but lash out. Imagine that a burglar ities, may be needed. The good news is that
breaks into a house and, while he is rooting Hussein tends to be quite transparent and
through a closet, the owner of the house pulls ham-handed in matters of strategy. In
a gun on him. He is startled and caught off response to a question at a press conference
guard. The owner might say, “Don’t move or during the Gulf War, Gen. Norman
I’ll shoot.” That is a deterrence message, and it Schwarzkopf accurately stated that Hussein
is likely the criminal will heed it because he can was neither a soldier nor a strategist. Hussein
avoid an extremely undesirable outcome by tries to use strategic maneuvers, but what he
doing something that is much less objection- intends to accomplish is painfully obvious.
able. He is likely to disobey only if he questions When he fired missiles on Israel, he was try-
the credibility of the owner’s commitment, ing to fracture the coalition. When he invited
believes the owner will shoot him regardless of members of Congress to visit Iraq, he was
his obedience, or is suicidal. Alternatively, the attempting to stall momentum toward his
owner might say, “Put your hands on your own ouster. When he invited the United
head or I’ll shoot.” That is a message of coer- States to send officials to Iraq to investigate
cion, and it will also probably be followed, the pilots that had been missing since the
unless the same set of conditions as before Gulf War, he was attempting to ingratiate
applies. Instead, what if the owner said, “Stand himself and stall for time. In short, Hussein
still so I can shoot you”? The burglar is likely has not been prone to using sophisticated
to fight, or try to get away, because he has strategic ploys, and that should make track-
nothing to lose by doing so. At least if he takes ing his intentions easier.
action, he might have slim odds of survival; if
he stands still he has no odds of survival what-
soever. That is the position in which Hussein Conclusion
is being put by the Bush administration.
There is no “less painful” option that he can Evidence that Hussein presents an immi-
follow to avoid the thing he dreads most—the nent and uncontrollable threat is simply not
loss of control of his political regime and there. Neither does evidence exist that having
maybe his life. Under those circumstances, Hussein in power is any more threatening
Hussein is very dangerous. than the rule of other despotic tyrants
The second crucial policy recommenda- around the world. Hussein’s threat to the
tion is to maintain the highest possible level United States has been overstated, and so
of intelligence gathering and analysis capa- have the increases in U.S. security that would
bility vis-à-vis Iraq. The more eyes are on Iraq, be achieved by an invasion to oust him.
the less likely Hussein will be to think he can Furthermore, the Bush administration
get away with taking risky actions. Again, has given little thought to the time, effort,
Hussein is prone to making poor decisions, and expense that would be needed to ensure
and he may be emboldened to do so if he stability in a post-Hussein Iraq.24 If officials
believes he can take action without the world in the administration think that once
paying attention. In particular, it would be of Hussein is out of power opposition groups

will be able to develop a stable government, Because the United States would probably be
they are deluding themselves. Despite faced with a long occupation of Iraq to stabi-
attempts to portray the opposition groups as lize the country after the invasion, the cost is
unified, they are very disparate and will likely likely to be higher this time around. Some
have their own agendas once Hussein has analysts estimate the cost at well over $200
been deposed. Numerous attempts were billion. And unlike the case in the Gulf War,
made to entice one prominent Kurdish little financial support from other nations
leader to come to Washington, but he was can be expected to defray the costs.
apparently unwilling to make an appearance Despite the furor over Hussein in the world
at the recent Iraqi opposition meeting with media, there is no reason to believe that remov-
Bush officials. The opposition groups are ing him from power is critical to American
unified only in the sense that they all oppose national security. Americans should ask why
Hussein’s regime. They will likely begin bick- the United States—half a world away—is more
ering once he is deposed. concerned about the Iraqi threat than are Iraq’s
The costs of a U.S. invasion may be high. neighbors. Furthermore, Hussein is exceeding-
Hussein held back his best fighting units dur- ly unlikely to take any provocative actions that
ing the Gulf War in order to protect himself. would encourage the United States to remove
In a war to remove him, the Revolutionary him. Iraq’s pursuit of NBC weapons may be a
Evidence that
Guard troops would be put to full use. One cause for concern, but it is not a sufficient rea- Hussein presents
should keep in mind that Hussein would not son for going to war. Many other rogue nations an imminent and
be the only one in trouble if the United States are pursuing such weapons—for example,
invaded; there are others who have incentives many observers believe that the erratic North uncontrollable
to fight to the death. The Bush administra- Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, already has enough threat is simply
tion’s statements about conducting war fissionable material to build at least two
crimes trials in a postinvasion Iraq increase the nuclear weapons.25 According to the CIA,
not there.
incentives for the generals and elite military Hussein is unlikely to use WMD against the
units to fight until the end. In addition, in the United States unless he feels that the forcible
Gulf War, Hussein refrained from using tac- halt of his political control over Iraq is going to
tics that would draw a massive retaliatory be brought by a U.S. invasion. Then he could
response. This time, faced with his own commission Islamist terrorist groups to use
destruction, he will likely use little restraint. such weapons in the United States—the very
The U.S. military has the ability to take threat the United States sought to avoid by
Baghdad and overthrow Hussein, but it will attacking Iraq in the first place. His aggressive
do so at great cost unless Iraq’s elite nature may be cause for concern, but it is not a
Republican Guard refuses to fight or a coup threat to the United States a half a world away.
occurs before the United States invades. In short, the Bush administration should keep
Unfortunately, the U.S. military needs to an eye on Iraq’s actions and should maintain a
plan for the worst case, and overly optimistic deterrence posture vis-à-vis Hussein’s regime,
assumptions could prove to be risky. Urban but the benefits of war with Iraq are unlikely to
fighting in Baghdad alone could cause heavy outweigh the costs. The United States deterred
casualties. The question is not whether the and contained a rival superpower, which had
United States can defeat Iraq but whether it thousands or nuclear warheads, for 40 years;
should and at what cost in lives and treasure. America can certainly continue to successfully
At a time of economic sluggishness and deter and contain a relatively small, relatively
red ink for the U.S. government, an invasion poor nation until its leader dies or is deposed.
and long-term occupation of Iraq could cost An unprovoked attack on another sovereign
billions of dollars, bust the budget, and state does not square with—and actually
throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin. The undermines—the principles of a constitutional
Gulf War cost $80 billion (in 2002 dollars). republic.

12. Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, “How
Kuwait Was Won,” in Use of Force: Military Power
Notes and International Relations, ed. Robert J. Art and
1. Michael R. Gordon, “Iraqi Opposition Gets Kenneth N. Waltz, 5th ed. (Lanham, Md.:
U.S. Pledge to Oust Hussein for a Democracy,” Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), p. 267.
New York Times, August 11, 2002, p. A1.
13. Ibid., p. 261.
2. Timothy McCarthy and Jonathan Tucker,
“Saddam’s Toxic Arsenal: Chemical and 14. McCarthy and Tucker, p. 57.
Biological Weapons in the Gulf Wars,” in Planning
the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, 15. Avner Cohen, “Nuclear Arms in Crisis under
Biological and Chemical Weapons, ed. Peter Lavoy, Secrecy: Israel and the Lessons of the 1967 and
Scott Sagan, and James Wirtz (Ithaca, N.Y.: 1973 Wars,” in Planning the Unthinkable, p. 109.
Cornell University Press, 2000), p. 52.
16. Ibid., p. 105.
3. Ibid., pp. 53–54.
17. James Bill and Robert Springborg, Politics in the
4. Khidhir Hamza and David Albright, “Iraq’s Middle East, 4th ed. (New York: Harper Collins
Reconstitution of Its Nuclear Weapons Program,” College Publishers, 1994), p. 385.
Arms Control Today 28, no. 7 (October 1998), daoc98.asp. 18. Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA
1981–1987 (New York: Pocket Books, 1987), p. 556.
5. Ibid., p. 6.
19. Janice Gross Stein. “Deterrence and Compellence
6. U.S. Department of Defense, “Findings of the in the Gulf, 1990–91: A Failed or Impossible Task?”
Nuclear Posture Review,” January 9, 2002, p. 5. International Security 17, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 150.

7. Despite not openly declaring that they are 20. Ibid., p. 152.
nuclear powers, India and Pakistan have conduct-
ed tests and are therefore known to be. Israel has 21. That is, Iraq accused the Kuwaitis of drilling at
been very secretive about its nuclear program and an angle to access oil pockets that were under ter-
has not conducted testing; however, few people ritory within Iraq’s borders.
doubt Israel’s status as a nuclear power. There are
also many more nations believed to have chemical 22. McCarthy and Tucker, p. 64.
weapons programs (for example, Syria and Libya).
23. “Come and Talk to Us, Says Iraq,” The
8. Gregory Giles, “The Islamic Republic of Iran Economist, August 10, 2002, p. 41.
and Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons,”
in Planning the Unthinkable, p. 81. 24. For a detailed discussion of the challenges
likely to be faced by a U.S. postwar occupation of
9. Scott Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem— Iraq, see James Fallows, “Fifty-First State,” Atlantic
Once and for All (New York: Simon & Schuster, Monthly, November 2002,
1999), pp. 88–89. issues/2002/11/fallows.htm.

10. Giles, p. 81. 25. Vladimir Orlov, “Nuclear Programs in North

Korea and Iran, Assessing Russia’s Position,” Center
11. Kenneth M. Pollack, “Next Stop Baghdad?” for Strategic and International Studies PONARS
Foreign Affairs 81, no. 2 (March–April 2002): 32–47. Policy Memo no. 178, November 2000, p. 2.

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