A Pointless War?

My wife and I had just moved into our house and had a woman from Sears come over to give us an estimate for new drapes. I was watching CNN when the first reports came in of SCUD missiles being fired at Israel. I ran upstairs to the bedroom and watched as the correspondent described what was happening from a Tel Aviv rooftop. My wife came up and asked me what was wrong and I began to cry, barely able to say that Israel was under attack.

Operation Desert Storm was supposed to insure this could never happen again. Colin Powell emerged from the war an icon, even though commentators at the time warned he had won all the battles without winning the war. The theory was that a toothless Saddam Hussein was no threat to anyone, so it wasn’t necessary to remove him from power. Like many theories spun to fit uncomfortable realities, this one was wrong. Saddam’s army was certainly battered, but not destroyed. We now know his missiles were largely untouched and his unconventional weapons program only wounded. We underestimated the willingness of other nations to help him rebuild and Hussein’s own survival skills and determination to have the last laugh.

So, what do we do now?

Most people now realize the only way to end the Iraqi threat is to kill Hussein, but no one knows how to do it. If we nuked Baghdad, we might get him, but he might also be hiding elsewhere and the President isn’t prepared to kill civilians to try to assassinate Hussein. If we can’t kill him, what point is a military strike? How will it be different from what we did the last time?

As it is, the weeks of posturing are giving Saddam plenty of time to once again hide the biological and chemical weapons that are the pretext for any attack. If he didn’t let the weapons inspectors find them, what makes anyone think he will put them in harm’s way? If we knew we could definitely destroy his weapons of mass destruction, as Israel did in bombing the Osirak nuclear plant, an attack could be justified, but, unless our intelligence services know more than they’ve let on, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Incidentally, if Israel felt sufficiently concerned, it would probably act independently.

Frankly, as much as I would like to see Iraq’s military threat eliminated, I don’t see how that can be accomplished without launching an all-out war to capture Baghdad. Since that’s not in the cards, American soldiers are going to probably die and Israel will be put at risk without any chance of making a difference in Hussein’s capability to threaten his neighbors.

Perhaps the best indication of the folly of an attack is the complete lack of cooperation from our Saudi “allies,” who obviously do not feel anxious enough about Hussein to even allow U.S. warplanes to launch attacks from their bases. Why, after all, does the United States (as opposed to Israel) care about Iraq at all, except for the potential threat it poses to our oil supplies in Saudi Arabia?

An attack on Iraq now is going to help Clinton wag the dog, make us all feel good about our military prowess, cause a lot of damage to Iraqi buildings, kill some Arabs and maybe reduce Iraq’s weapons stockpile. Three years from now, though, Saddam Hussein will still be in Baghdad thumbing his nose at the world, threatening his neighbors and adding to his nonconventional arsenal while Bill Clinton is out playing golf with George Bush.