The War for Iraq: A Study In World Politics
By Harold W. Rood
The war against Iraq began when that country invaded and overran the country of Kuwait on August 12, 1990. Evidently the war did not end with the ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait as a result of air-ground operations called "Desert Storm" in February 1991. For U.S., French and British aircraft continued flights over Iraq to prevent Iraqi air force operations within air exclusion zones and to suppress air defenses that could interfere with allied air surveillance of the country. At the same time, United Nations inspection teams attempted to locate and destroy those Iraqi facilities that could produce and deploy so-called "weapons of mass-destruction." That effort ended with the ejection of the U.N. teams who were only permitted back in country in 2002 under the auspices of Hans Blix. The failure of Iraq to comply satisfactorily with U.N. demands for free inspection of Iraqi facilities left the war effectively undecided and created circumstances where full-scale military operations are now necessary by Britain and the United States and a coalition that does not include NATO members France and Germany.
The question for the United States, central to its operations against Iraq, is how the Iraq War, the one that began in August 1990 and the expansion of that war today, serves the strategic defense of the United States. The defense of the United States, a constitutional obligation of its government, extends to the territory of the United States, the general citizenry, their way of life, their means of livelihood, and the Constitution under which they govern themselves. Strategic defense is aimed at the safety of the United States at home and the exercise of freedom of action abroad aimed at promoting that safety. Peace and good order abroad ensures the strategic defense of the United States rendering military measures of defense unnecessary. But there is not peace and good order in the world, nor has there been since long before the founding of the American Republic. At what point the strategic defense of the United States should compel intervention abroad remains, as it has been since 1898, the baffling question for those Americans concerned with the safety of the Republic. Should the United States wait until circumstances abroad have so far deteriorated that the safety of the United States is in obvious jeopardy or take measures that will forestall that deterioration? Which course of action is the most economical in terms of the expenditures of American lives and American resources, for in the end it is the general citizenry who bear the cost in lives lost or disrupted and in the resources that those citizens generate through their labor, industry and ingenuity.
It is with such questions in mind that the war with Iraq must be considered.
The Origins of the Current Crisis
It seems to have been easy to forget that hostilities with Iraq have been going on since 1990 when that country invaded Kuwait.
On July 29, 1990, the "Tall King" radar, supplied to Iraq by the Soviet Union, began operations in southern Iraq. With a range of 350 miles, this radar which had not been operational for "many, many months," enabled Iraq to oversee air activity in Kuwait and as far south as Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and over the Persian Gulf to Bahrain and Qatar.1 A Soviet reconnaissance satellite, Cosmos 2089, launched on August 2, began a low orbit over the region taking photographs that were dropped over and recovered in the Soviet Union while the satellite continued its mission for two months more. On August 31 a second such satellite, Cosmos 2099, was launched with a similar mission.2
According to an article in Literaturnaya Gazeta (Moscow) September 12, 1990, the Soviet intelligence services, the GRU and KGB, knew of the Iraqi preparations for war against Kuwait but were uncertain of the date when the invasion would start.3 On September 15, the Soviet Defense Minister stated that 178 Iraqi military personnel were being trained at various sites in the Soviet Union and would not return home until their training was complete in November.4 In 1989, the year before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, there were 16,660 Soviet and East European "economic technicians," 10,000 more from Communist China, and 1,350 Soviet and East European "military technicians" in Iraq. The Central Intelligence Agency did not know, or at least did not record for public information, the number of Chinese military technicians present in Iraq.5
The Soviet Defense Minister, in his statement of September 18, 1990, stated that Soviet military advisers in Iraq "were not taking part in military actions and would not be recalled until their contracts expired." The warnings of war collected by the Soviet intelligence apparatus in Iraq were not passed to the United States "because the Soviet leadership was too pre-occupied with their relations with the United States." In Moscow's scheme of things, support for Iraqi policy had a higher priority than any amiable gesture toward the United States, despite the ending of what was called the Cold War: that great confrontation between the Eastern powers and the democratic nations of the West. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union aligned itself with the coalition organized by the United States to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Soviet military advisers continued to work with the Iraqi armed forces, even assisting in the firing of SCUD missiles against targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel.6
The alliance between Russia and Iraq should have come as a surprise to no one. Soviet interests in Iraq were clearly manifest with the withdrawal of Iraq from the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1959. Turkey and Iraq formed the Baghdad Pact that was at the heart of CENTO in 1955, with the subsequent adherence of Iran, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and eventually the United States. The revolution in Iraq in 1958 that overthrew King Faisal and his government, which saw the execution of the king and his principal ministers, was managed by a military coup d'Etat. There followed in 1964, the creation of Iraq as an Arab Islamic Republic.7 By 1969 the equipment of Iraqi armed forces reflected Soviet influence in the country. Three-quarters of that equipment had become Soviet, where before the revolution it had been chiefly British or American.8
In the period between the overthrow of the monarchy and the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the population of Iraq grew from just over six million to nearly 19 million while its annual gross national product increased from about $2 billion to over $35 billion. That is despite the eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988. The industrial development of Iraq was greatly assisted by loans and credits from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union amounting to nearly $3 billion with an additional $1.2 billion from Communist China.9 That was in addition to the military assistance granted to Iraq from the same sources. That is, over the years from the Iraqi revolution to the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had become a client state of the Soviet Union. Yet the Peoples Republic of China had delivered 1,500 T-59 and T-69II tanks to Iraq by 1988.
A fact easily neglected in looking back on the years leading to the 1990 war with Iraq is that the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 saw both sides armed by China and the Soviet Union or Soviet client-states. The chief suppliers to Iran were Libya, North Korea and Viet Nam. Since those countries were supplied with either Soviet or Chinese equipment, or both, it is difficult to conclude that military support for Iran was not endorsed first by the original donors. And in the course of war, there were 625 Soviet and East European military advisers in Iran. All of that while the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Romania were the chief suppliers of armor, artillery, aircraft and air defense weapons to the Iraqis. And in the process, both Iraq and Iran came to be equipped with the Soviet SCUD ballistic missile and the capability to manufacture and improve such missiles.10
The Iran-Iraq War seemed, at the time, to be just one more of the sets of rivalries that have often characterized the Middle East since before the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. But that war had its curious anomalies, not the least of which was the supply of arms to both sides by the Soviet Union or its client-states and by the Peoples Republic of China.
Consider the political circumstances surrounding events. Saddam Hussein became leader of Iraq on July 16, 1979. The Ayatollah Khomeini declared Iran to be an Islamic Republic on April 1. His return to Iran in February marked the end of the rule of the Shah who left for Egypt in January 1979. His fate was decided by an uprising beginning with rioting in Qom in January 1978; the spread of violence to other cities was accelerated by a terrible fire set in a movie theater in Abadam in August. This while events in Afghanistan were creating the circumstances for the Soviet invasion of that country.11
In April 1978, Nur Mohammed Taraki seized power in Afghanistan, killing President Daoud, his family and members of this government. That only four weeks after President Daoud had traveled to Pakistan to reverse the Afghan policy aiming at the fragmentation of that country. The Shah of Iran had encouraged that change in Afghan policy and supported President Daoud's efforts to move out from under Soviet influence.12 Taraki's coup d'Etat placed Afghanistan in the ranks of pro-Soviet nations. The struggle against that policy in Afghanistan continued through successive changes in leadership, all pro-Soviet; and in December 1979, the Soviet Union began its invasion of the country. Iran, for its part, was distracted from events in Afghanistan, first, because of the revolt against the Shah and then the efforts underway by the new regime to consolidate its power in the country by purging its opponents.
In September 1980, Iraq went to war with Iran. That war would continue until a cease-fire in July 1988 and the ending of the war on August 10, 1988. In April 1988 the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its combat units from Afghanistan. In May the withdrawal began and was completed by February 1989. Although the Soviet Union was to have collapsed, Russian advisers remained in Afghanistan at least until 1996, probably longer.
Should one dismiss as a random coincidence the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War within eight months of the beginning of Soviet military operations into Afghanistan, if eight years later, the Iraq-Iran War ended with a cease-fire within two months after the Soviet Union began withdrawal of its combat forces from Afghanistan? Long-standing Soviet/Russian interests had dictated the invasion of Afghanistan and after eight years, the withdrawal of Soviet forces, leaving Afghanistan devastated in city and countryside, and the Afghanis in a state of internal war that continues to this day. That despite the intervention of the United States and its coalition partners in pursuit of the terrorist organizations deemed responsible for the attacks on the United States in September 2001.
Long-standing Soviet/Russian interests had dictated the arming and equipping of Libya after 1968, Algeria before 1968, Egypt from 1956, Syria since 1957, Yemen, North and South, from before 1969. All of that merely confirms what has long been known about Russian and Soviet interests in the Middle East, interests sufficiently important to cause Moscow to expend considerable monies and other resources to bring countries of the Middle East under its wardship. Even Iran, as a consequence of the Iran-Iraq War, has become a client-state of Moscow, evidence of which is the construction of pipelines and railroads between the two countries, and help in developing Iran's nuclear industry.13 That the Iran-Iraq War was a reflection of the conflicting interests of those two countries is obvious; that the war was in Moscow's interest is inescapable. Both countries would have to look to Russia for support and Russia would come out ahead regardless of who was victorious. In 1990, the "Cold War" was declared at an end; Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
The Gulf War: Phase One
On August 7, 1990, the United Nations Security Council declared the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq to be "null and void." On August 22, the Soviet foreign minister indicated that his country rejected the use of force beyond enforcement of the embargo against Iraq. The Soviet premier said that 900 of the 7,791 Soviets in Iraq were women and children and would be, probably, evacuated.14
The United States organized a coalition of 34 entities, including the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Afghan Mujahadeen and itself prepared to deploy forces to the region which would amount to over a half-million service men and women to defend Saudi Arabia and eventually expel Iraq from Kuwait. The United Kingdom and France sent naval, air, and ground forces that would take part in the air and ground offensive against Iraq. The Gulf Cooperation Council stationed defense forces in Northern Saudi Arabia. Egypt contributed two armored divisions; Syria sent 19,000 troops; the Soviet Union kept one destroyer on patrol in the region.15
U.S., British, French, Saudi, and Italian aircraft opened the air offensive against Iraqi forces on January 17, 1991; the ground offensive began on February 24. On February 18, there were talks in Moscow between the Iraqi foreign minister and the President of the U.S.S.R. Reports from Syria indicated that the Syrians might withdraw from the coalition and take measures to save Iraq from destruction.16
In a curiously enigmatic action, the Iraqi government sent 120 of its combat aircraft to Iran within days of the opening of the coalition air offensive. Additional aircraft was sent around February 6 before the ground offensive opened.17 By February 20, 1991, according to a Soviet report, "Iraqi operational and tactical units deployed south of the Euphrates had lost 30,000 killed, wounded or missing in action...1500 Iraqi servicemen had surrendered" before the beginning of ground operations by coalition forces.18
In January, before the opening of the coalition air offensive, according to The Times (London), large numbers of Iraqi troops were sent home on leave: "Iraqi officers were paid bonuses for arranging leave for their troops."19 Other than SCUD missile attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia and Israel and defensive air patrols by individual Iraqi aircraft over Iraq, the Iraqi regime chose not to engage coalition forces. The consequences were that the bulk of the Iraqi army was conserved. When, after the Iraq government agreed to a cease-fire, 70,331 captured Iraqi soldiers were repatriated while 13,000 refused to go home, and sought refugee-status in Saudi Arabia.20 By April, five Republican Guard Divisions were being employed to suppress internal resistance to the Iraqi regime. Iraq had not been disarmed, the regime remained in control of the country and used its power to suppress Kurdish and other resistance to the regime.21
Kuwait had been liberated but the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Air Force would have to fly 200,000 air patrols over Iraq to suppress air defenses and enforce the "no-fly zones" between 1991 and 2002. That is, the war was over in 1991, but the war went on as far as air operations were concerned.
Saudi Arabia for whose defense the United States with Britain, France and Italy organized the coalition, suffered the consequences of Christian forces deployed on its soil. To Moslem extremists, the presence of Infidels with their women, driving trucks, flying aircraft and serving as soldiers and marines, was an abomination not to be tolerated on the same territory where the most sacred Islamic holy places were located. Now, the Saudi regime, guardian of those holy places, is caught between modernization and orthodoxy, Westernization and tradition; it remains a fragile, reluctant protectorate, facing an expansion of the war that began in 1990.
It is well to remember, as the United States and the United Kingdom confront the prospect of ground combat against Iraq, that the same elements in the Western World that opposed the war on Iraq in 1990, do so once again.
Opposition: Then and Now
Within eight days of the Iraqi attack on Kuwait, in 1990, such groups as the Workers World Party, the Nicaraguan Solidarity Network, Communist Party of the United States, Democratic Socialists of America, Grey Panthers, Veterans for Peace, National Lawyers Guild, among others, began organizing demonstrations, marches and protests in the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East.22 Organizations that had demonstrated against U.S. action in Viet Nam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Columbia, and wherever else Marxist guerrillas were making war, opposed U.S. military operations against Iraq in 1990-1991.
After Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, a marine in Hawaii filed for conscientious objector status, refusing to be deployed with his battalion to the Middle East, citing his opposition to U.S. intervention there. He was evidently supported by anti-Viet Nam war figures, such as the Berrigan brothers and Benjamin Spock. The marine was ultimately discharged from the Corps in December after which he was given a celebratory party in a local "coffee house," not a coffee shop or café.23 Recall that a network of "coffee houses" outside U.S. military installations promoted dissent among armed forces personnel during the war in Viet Nam.
The National Lawyers Guild, for example, organized the Southeast Asia Military Law Project to work with servicemen in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Viet Nam and Taiwan "and had working relationships with political and anti-war groups" in those locations. In Japan one such group was "Peace to Viet Nam" (Beiheren) that received "unofficial assistance" from the KGB to move American military deserters through the hands of the Soviet Committee of Solidarity with the nations of Africa and Asia, "in the name of the Viet Nam Support Committee" to asylum in Eastern Europe.24 The front groups, cut-out organizations and similar devices were intended to obscure Soviet influence over organizations that supported Soviet foreign policy behind a façade that appealed for solidarity against war and injustice and for human rights, non-intervention and other legitimate causes.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expressed it in a long story on the "Anti-War Campaign," in November 1990, the movement was peopled by veterans, environmentalists, religious organizations, Gray Panthers, homosexual and lesbian groups, Hispanics, and Palestinian rights groups.25 On September 18, 1990, the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East was organized at the Riverside Church in New York City attracting, among other groups, the Communist Party of the United States, The National Lawyers Guild, Palestinian Solidarity Committee, SANE and the Workers World Party.26
It is hardly surprising that groups influenced or controlled by Moscow should have opposed the use of military force to liberate Kuwait in 1990. Soviet strategic interests had been manifest in the Middle East. Iraq was a Soviet-client state, armed and equipped by Moscow for war. The destruction of that capability was opposed by the Soviet Union because it would change the balance of power in the region. A servant of the Soviet Information Agency, Novosti, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, pleaded for an end to the war, for the preservation of Iraq and of its regime. If Iraq were not spared, it would create changes in the "balance of forces" in the region, creating greater instability.27
All of those things may seem to be of only historical interest; after all, the coalition was ended without Iraq being occupied by coalition forces or its regime being removed. But the coincidence of the re-occurrence of widespread demonstrations now opposing Britain and the United States using military force to carry out United Nations resolutions to disarm Iraq of its capability to make and employ weapons of mass destruction cannot be dismissed. That is especially true when Russia and China themselves oppose such military action.
If some of the groups seem new to the scene, other names like the National Lawyers Guild and the Institute for Policy Studies are familiar from the anti-Vietnam War movement, and similar movements against U.S. policy abroad.28
Imbedded among the ordinary citizens passionate for peace, the environment, freedom, justice and other laudable causes, are the old " apparatchiks" and their "minders." And while one may believe that Communism was ended with a stroke of the pen in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and the Soviet Union, the organization remains. Evidence of that in Paris, for example, is the French Communist Party headquarters in the 19th arrondissement: On Le Place de Colonel Fabien, alongside the Arab Institute Party headquarters, is a splendid, six story, glass-fronted building.29 And the French Communist Party is represented in the Senate and National Assembly. The Party for Democratic Socialism (former SED Communist Party in East Germany) is represented in both houses of the German Parliament. And Communist delegates among others are sent to the European Union. And of course the Russian Federation has not purged members of the Communist Party from national or local politics.
The worldwide protests aimed at the United States have had a tidy coordination of peace demonstrations. Die Tageszeitung (Hamburg) listed 38 cities around the world where organizations were planning protests against the Iraq war. Each had its website given; some like the Cape Town site identified the group sponsoring the protest. In Cape Town it was the African National Congress, in Hong Kong it was "United for Peace," in New York , "United for Peace," in Tokyo, "Give Peace a Chance," in Adelaide, Auckland, and Bangkok it was Greenpeace.30 Greenpeace, "protecting the threat of an attack on Iraq," blockaded a British vessel loading military supplies for the Persian Gulf at Marchwood, the military section of Southampton port.31 Evidently saving whales is a real eye-catcher and money-grabber for mobilizing sentiment in support of a more ambitious political purpose.
The New York Times, generally ambivalent toward the strategic defense of the United States and therefore the war on Iraq, took the liberty of pointing out some of the roots of one of the umbrella groups protesting against war on Iraq. "International ANSWER," was, according to the Times, chiefly organized by those "active in the Workers World Party, a radical Socialist group with roots in the Stalin-era Soviet Union." That group, it will be recalled was active in organizing resistance to the war against Iraq in 1990-1991.32
The remarkable coming together of umbrella organizations for catching the crowd from the beginning of the war on Iraq in 1990, suggests that the war on Iraq is so important in international politics as to render it vital to the strategic defense of the United States because it evidently trods on the strategic interests of both Moscow and Peking. Both Moscow and Peking have not only demonstrated a pervasive interest in the Middle East; they have declared their oppositions to any measure that would increase the capability of the United States to defend itself. Declaring it "a milestone in the development of Russia-Chinese relations," the leaders of Russia and China "sealed a strategic partnership" on July 16, 2001, and in doing so condemned the American plan for a missile-defense of the United States.33
Mobilizing the innocent and sincere, the disillusioned, angry, and the dissident to front for the safety of Iraq and its regime, is just one more part of the struggle for the region in hazard.
Iraq and World Politics: An Historical Consideration
Considering that Russia is the strongest military power in Europe, armed with strategic nuclear weapons and China is the strongest military power in Asia and also armed with strategic nuclear weapons, such a "strategic partnership" is a formidable one. A professor at the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University said, "The treaty has one purpose...to show the United States that there are two countries that can be together against the United States."34
It is comfortable to assume that what occurs in the Middle East is merely a struggle for influence in that region, when time and again it has been part of a larger struggle for strategic advantage. In the great war between Bourbon and Hapsburg for supremacy in Europe, it was Catholic France that allied with the Moslem Turks against the Catholic Holy Roman Empire. In Napoleon's war against England, he asserted as he dispatched an army from Toulon to Egypt, "You are a wing of the Army (against) England," seizing Egypt is to destroy England.35 In 1889, the German Emperor, Wilhelm II and his Empress journeyed to Constantinople to visit Sultan Abdul Hamid. It had been 700 years since a German Emperor had visited Constantinople. In 1898, Wilhelm II went to Damascus and Jerusalem to deliver his message: "The 300 million Mohammedans who, dwelling dispersed throughout the East, reverence H.M. the Sultan Abdul Hamid, their Khalif, may rest assured that at all times the German Emperor will be their friend."36 Once again a European power bent on supremacy on that continent would enter the realm of the Middle East to find an ally there that would render it a strategic theater of war between 1914-1918.
German policy toward the Middle East was re-awakened in 1940 with the fall of France. For here, once again, was an opportunity to use the Middle East to advance German strategic interests. This time, it was through an appeal to nationalism to foster resistance to Britain in the Palestine Mandate and Iraq and resistance to France in Syria. Haj Al-Husseini, Mufta of Jerusalem, anti-British and sympathetic to Nazi policy toward Jews, "proposed that the Axis powers...recognize the independence of the Arab states and come to a secret agreement with the Iraqi government."37 In the spirit of the Mufti, then resident in Berlin, Rachid Ali and his generals of "the Golden Square" seized power in Baghdad. The German Air Force began the transfer of some units to Baghdad and Damascus. The German Fuehrer in his directive on the Middle East stated:
The Arab Liberation Movement is our natural ally...Strengthening the anti-British forces in the Middle East...disrupting communications and containing British forces and shipping at the expense of other theaters. I have decided to hasten developments in the Middle East by supporting Iraq.38
The overthrow of the Pro-German regime in Baghdad by British forces and the British and Free French resistance to the Vichy French and Germans in Syria left the great number of Germans in Iran as a threat to the supply of war materials to the Soviet Union along the route from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. Together British and Russian forces entered Teheran on 17 September 1941. That would open the way for the development of the Persian Corridor as the only dependable route for supply of British and American Lend-Lease to the Soviet Armed Forces after the United States entered the war. The Soviet government preferred the route for such supplies to be via the North Cape to Murmansk, a costly route for British and American shipping because of heavy U-boat attacks in the North Atlantic and German air, U-boat and surface vessel attacks on convoys off Norway. The less hazardous route via southern Africa to the Persian Gulf avoided the heavy shipping losses incurred on the Northern route. The Soviet government, however eager to be supplied by the American and British, were not happy about having the British and American involved in Iran and Iraq. But it was the act of succor to Russia that brought the United States into the Middle East to improve railways and highways from Iran to Russia to expand port facilities and construct vehicle assembly plants for the supply of war materials to the Russians. The Middle East became then a U.S. strategic area for the waging of war against the Axis.
The supplies sent to British forces fighting in the Western Desert and the Eastern Mediterranean would lay the foundations for driving the Axis out of North Africa and open the door to Sicily and Southern Italy. Those supplies moved past the Cape of Good Hope through the Red Sea, or if aircraft, along the ferry route from Takoradi to the air depots at Cairo. Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union was intended to strengthen that country's forces and keep the Soviet Union in the war against Germany. Both sets of actions were meant to conserve American manpower engaged against the Axis in Europe and Japan in the Far East. But thus did the United States become directly involved in "that shifting, intractable, and interwoven tangle of conflicting interests, rival peoples and antagonistic faiths..."39
That involvement would not cease with the ending of World War II. For almost immediately the Soviet Union was recognized as contesting for supremacy over Western Europe. And, neither France, nor occupied Germany, nor Great Britain had the strength or capability to meet that challenge alone. If stalemate between East and West was achieved by the West through NATO, it was clear that one part of the perimeter of defense of the United States lay across the Rhine and the southern flank of that perimeter rested on the defense of Turkey. And Turkey, aside from a common border with the Soviet Union and communist Bulgaria, shared borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. Events in those countries then, as they had in the First and Second World Wars, bore on the defense of Western Europe and therefore on the strategic defense of the United States. The struggle between East and West manifested in Korea in 1950, in Malaya from 1947 through 1952, the war in Indo-China from 1945-1973, and a communist regime in Cuba in 1959 was a movement of that struggle into the peripheral areas where new nations were forming or old ones were being restored. And quite naturally the Middle East was such an area. It fit perfectly in the Soviet scheme of things:
In their struggle with imperialism and internal reaction the patriotic forces of the young states rely on the fraternal support of the socialist system...the forms and effectiveness of this support, all embracing Soviet assistance to the developing countries in the economic, political, cultural and military fields.40
In China, Marshall Lin Piao, Minister of National Defense, announced the doctrine of the war of the Third World against the First aimed at encirclement of the United States and Western Europe assisted by the countries of the Second World, the Socialist countries;41 a doctrine of protracted war.
Fashion in political discourse today rules out the consideration of Communism or Marxism, democratic socialism as it is at times called, as an operative ideal for impelling strategy. But as a spokeswoman for ANSWER expressed it, questions raised "about the group's role were classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting." "Red-baiting" because of its support for North Korea and Iraq. And elsewhere, the Cuban dictator flies to Communist Viet Nam for a visit "to discuss strengthening relations between the communist nations" on his way to a summit with the 115-member non-aligned movement in Kuala Lumpur.42 Maybe nothing but nostalgia for the good old days, maybe just a continuation of what has been. How shall we know?
Are Moscow and Peking seriously engaged in a conflict with the West, and is the Middle East but one theater of that conflict? Or are they simply engaged, as great powers, pursuing legitimate goals in the region: not competition for empire but for influence and place among other powers with similar goals?
If it is the former, then Iraq is the present focus of the conflict. If it is merely the latter, then it is only the anti-Western posture of those Middle Eastern countries whose hostility is directed at the United States: Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and Iran, but Iraq is still at the center of that hostility.
The attack on U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, the attack on U.S. embassies in Africa, the two attacks on the World Trade Center, one in 1993, and the second in September 2001 that included a coordinated attack on the Pentagon were carried out by organizations having roots in the Middle East. Those can be seen as strategic attacks for they were aimed at changing U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Whose interests would be served were the United States to renounce Israel and give up on disarming Iraq?
There is little doubt that Saddam Hussein is a proper villain. As Ireland's Sunday Independent noted in commenting on the visit to Iraq of a member of the Irish parliament, "We had hoped our TOs (members of Parliament) might have drawn the line at working with genocidal dictators."43
Strategic Requirements, Post 9/11
Removing a dictator from power is, no doubt, a laudable enterprise for civilized people to undertake, but evidently a never-ending task. Waging war to do so is bloody and expensive. But if the dictator poses a threat to the safety of the United States and that of those countries upon which that safety in part depends, war is the only reasonable course of action when all else fails.
The continuation of air operations by Britain and the United States against Iraq for thirteen years now, has not persuaded the regime in Iraq to become less a threat in the Middle East than it was in 1990. The dithering of the international community, the divisions created in the Western Alliance, are all the result of failing to deal finally with the Iraq regime in 1991, and between 1990 and today the United States has suffered direct attacks on its citizens going about their lawful business within their own country.
It should have been without hesitation a principle of strategic policy that a devastating attack on the United States-such as that of September 11, 2001-would call forth measures by the U.S. government to gain some strategic advantage in a struggle for which that attack gave ample evidence. The United States should have, within a week of that attack, moved swiftly against Libya to remove its dictator from power. That would have changed the resolution of forces in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Spain, Italy, France and Germany would have had reason to applaud, if only in the recesses of their government houses. It would have lent assurance to Morocco and Tunisia that alliance to the West was worth something to their internal stability. Algeria, caught between the Islamic fundamentalists and its ties to France, would have been free to settle its own affairs without interference from the regime in Tripoli. And the United States, wounded in Manhattan, Washington, and Pennsylvania would have demonstrated a resolve fueled by anger at the unprovoked act of war against itself. That did not happen, but instead began the pursuit of a bearded figure and his fellows in far away Afghanistan. As the French might say, "They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him everywhere, the elusive Pimpernel."44
Pursuing terrorists to bring them to justice is a necessary part of life in the 21st century. It is not a substitute for measures aimed at gaining strategic advantage for the United States and the Western Alliance. For strategic advantage increases the freedom to act effectively, even against terrorists.
Despite United Nations inspections of Iraq for evidence of illegal arms, it cannot be expected that the Iraq regime will become less a menace than it has been. One recalls that Germany, after 1919, had imposed on it the Allied Armistice Commission, resident in country until 1928, to enforce the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. Yet in those years Germany, with the help of the Soviet Union, embarked on a program of secret re-armament, aimed at restoring German military power.45 That program, carried out in secret at first, and then openly under the Nazi regime, would lead to the German occupation of Western Europe from the North Cape to the Pyrenees and would require enormous exertion and sacrifice to undue the harm.
It is folly to suppose that the Iraqi regime is less inventive, imaginative, or intelligent than the rest of us, or indeed, less resolute in purpose. An eight-year war with Iran, the seizure of Kuwait, confrontation with a formidable military host that lost them that country but from which they managed to avoid destruction of their army, suggests an accumulation of experience that forbids an underestimation of Iraqi competence. And the overflights by British and U.S. aircraft with attacks on the Iraqi air defense system and other targets for 13 years, has only added to that experience while demonstrating a remarkable survivability. All of those events, with the United Nations inspections from time-to-time, have practiced the Iraqi regime in deception, dissimulation, concealment, disinformation, damage-limitations, and electronic counter-measures. And it should not be expected that the regime will not continue to receive help from abroad by those whose interests dictate the survival of Iraq as it is.
One seeks wisdom upon which to base prudence, from history and political philosophy. Elizabeth I amidst threats to the kingdom from abroad and the conspiracies at home centered upon Mary, Queen of Scotts, hesitated for 15 years to put a kinswoman and queen to death; she was warned by the Master of Grey: "Suffer or strike; in order not to be struck, strike."46
Wait then until the United States or one of its allies is struck a devastating blow. Seek then in vain for apology from those who have counseled waiting for the smoking gun, waiting for sanctions to work and those who have championed the defense of Iraq. But then it would be the government who owed the apology for failing to act knowing of the peril the nation faces. No apology will compensate those who are victims if the Untied States could have acted but did not. Act before we or our allies are struck.
The war with Iraq has gone on for 13 years without evident effect on the nature and purpose of the regime in Baghdad. Whether with Britain and others, or alone, the United States ought to bring that war to a successful conclusion. For Iraq, the removal of the dictatorship presents an opportunity for that country to use its great wealth to promote the welfare and prosperity of its own people of whatever stripe. Baghdad was once a great emporium of commerce in the region. It should be again. If commerce is a gritty business, it brings the prosperity that is the essence of trade and is better than the accumulation of imperial loot from subjugated peoples.
One forgets, sometimes, the outcome of World War II for the Axis powers. One of them, Italy, a dictatorship for 20 years, stripped of its wealth for imperial purposes, suffered the devastation of war on its own soil as allied forces worked their painful way north from Salerno and Liguria to Germany. The Italians built on the wreckage of their country a new, prosperous and inventive nation gaining as they did so an important place among the democracies of the West. That is what a people can do freed of the incubus of dictatorship. In its way Italy could be a model for Iraq were its dictatorship to be dissolved.
One may think of a war to overthrow the Iraqi dictatorship not just as a means of disarming a virulent regime but as a reconnaissance-in-force to determine who is friend and who is foe, to determine whether the great struggle of the last half of the 20th century is over, as declared, or merely in recess. We should know that for our own safety. If it is the latter, winning Iraq for the West is worth the candle. If it is the former, then reducing the number of Middle Eastern powers hostile to the United States and ready to act out that hostility is hardly less important.
Shahram Chubin, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London wrote in 1979 about the disarray in the Northern Tier: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. If Western influence there was not to be lost, there would need to be the exercise of Western influence, requiring "clarity of purpose and a willingness to exercise power."47
It should not be forgotten that the impetus of the current conflict-the continued possession and development of weapons of mass destruction-cannot today be stopped by any other means. The United States does not possess a ballistic missile defense that would render Iraq's weapons useless. Today the United States must suffer an attack and retaliate, presumably, with our own weapons of mass destruction. Such a missile defense should be built with all speed. Absent such a defense we are faced now with the only reasonable alternative.
Resolution where others waver is the mark of leadership among nations. The discriminate application of military power to serve the strategic interests of the United States is a warning to those who wish the nation ill and a reassurance to those whose alliance lends us strength. Is it better to wait until something really bad happens, then, perhaps, to act? Or should we act now whatever sentiment may be ranged against us?
1 "Invasion Tip," Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 6, 1990, p. 15.
2 "Soviet Recon Satellites Image Persian Gulf Area," Aviation Week and Space Technology, Nov. 19, 1990, p. 24.
3 "KGB and Kuwait," Soviet and East European Report, RFE/RL, Sept 20, 1980.
4 "Iraqi Trainees in USSR," ibid.
5 Handbook of Economic Statistics, 1990, CIA, PB90-928009 (Sept 1990), p. 197.
6 "Soviet Advisers Reported Aiding Iraqi Military," Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1990, p. A1, "Pentagon, Disputing Moscow, Says 500 to 1,000 Soviet Advisers Are In Iraq," The New York Times, September 26, 1990, p. A6; and, "Soviets Helping Iraqis," The Washington Times, January 25, 1991, p. A1.
7 "Iraq" The Statesman's Yearbook, 1970-1971 (London: MacMillan and Co. Ltd.,1970), p. 10484.
8 See Successive Issues of the Military Balance (annual), (London: IISS): "Iraq."
9 The Statesman's Yearbook, 1965-66, "Iraq," p. 1,138 and, Handbook of Economic Statistics, 1988 and 1990, p. 198 and 179 and 175.
10 The Military Balance, 1986-1987, (London: 1155, 1986),"Iraq" and Iran," pp. 96-98.
11 "Problems Facing Shah," Daily Nation (Nairobi), 22 August 1978, p.6. See for example, "Russians Complete Vital Road to Indian Ocean," Daily Telegraph (London), July 20, 1976, p.1.
12 See Rosanne Klass, ed. Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited (New York: Freedom House, 1987), p. 545.
13 "Iran and Soviets Are Said To Be Near A Friendship Pact," The Wall Street Journal, 13 August 1987; "Iran," The Statesman's Yearbook 2002, p. 899; "Azerbaijan," in Jane's World Railways, 1997-1998, p.80; and "Iran and Soviet Draft Big Projects, Including Pipelines and Railroads," The New York Times, August 8, 1987, p. A1 and, "Odd Couple: "A Marxist Soviet and an Islamic Iran," ibid, August 7, 1987.
14 "Soviet Union Rejects Use of Force in Persian Gulf," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 27, 1990, p. 10A
15 See Persian Gulf War: Summary of U.S. and Non-U.S. Forces, Congressional Research Report for Congress, February 11, 1991.
16 For sequence of events, see Soviet Analysis of Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Defense Intelligence Agency, serial 60105006, 28 October 1991. Iraqi and Syrian events on p. 71.
17 Soviet Analysis of Operation Desert Storm..., p.55; "Iraq Lists 148 Aircraft In Iran," Jane's Defense Weekly, 27 April 1991, p.684; and Air Force Magazine, May 1991, p. 2.
18 Soviet Analysis..., p.63.
19 "Iraqis On Leave As Battle Begins," Times (London), July 10, 1991, p.5.
20 "13,000 Captured Iraqis Refuse To Be Repatriated," Baltimore Sun, September 1991, p. 2.
21 "Iraq's Army Recovers," Foreign Report (London: The Economist), No. 2168, July 18, 1991, p.1.
22 "The Peace Lobby Revives," Information Digest, Volume XXIII, No. 21, October 19, 1990, p. 193; "Anti-War Activists Gain Force With Broad Array of Recruits," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 20, 1990, p. 1A; "War Criminal Bush Bombs Baghdad-Defend Iraq! Sink U.S. War in the Persian Gulf," Workers Vanguard, 1 February 1991, p. 1; " We Will Not Accept War," People's Weekly World, January 12, 1991, p.1; and, "Help Put Anti-War Voices on TV," Ibid., February 16, 1991, p. 17.
23 "Conscientious Objector Jailed at Pear Harbor," Springfield News-Leader, Sept 2, 1990, p. 2, and "Marine Discharged As Objector Will Work to Stop War," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 7, 1990. p. 25A.
24 Organized Subversion in the U.S. Armed Forces, Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of Internal Security Act of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate, 94th Congress, First Session, Part I, The U.S. Navy, Appendix I, p. 71; for Beiheren and Soviet KGB, see "KGB Report to the Central Committee on Cooperation with Japanese Peace Groups," Letter, KGB, Council of Ministers of the USSR, February 24, 1968, n. 438-A, in Revelations from the Soviet Archives: Documents, (Washington: Library of Congress, 1997), p. 699-700.
25 "Anti-War Activists Gain Force With Broad Array of Recruits," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 20, 1990, p.1A.
26 See Information Digest, Volume XXIII, No. 21 (October 18, 1990), P. 193.
27 "Letters to the Editor," The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 1991, p. H11
28 See for example, advertisement, "We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and the U.S. War on Iraq," The New York Times, February 10, 2003, p.A8, for familiar names of persons and organizations; see also, "Embrace Peace and Prosperity," Center for Community Change, The New York Times, January 7, 2003, p. A9.
29 "Paris Most Modern," The New York Times, February 16, 2003, p.9, Section 5; and see for example, "Henri Krasucki, un figure du syndicalisme," Le Figaro, 26 January 2003, p. 24.
30 "demos gegen Irak krieg," Die Tageszeitung (Hamburg), 13 February 2003, p. 11.
31 "Greenpeace Blockades Ship," The New York Times, February 3, 2003, p.13.
32 See "Some War Protesters Uneasy With Others," 24 January 2003, p. A12; then see "War Criminal Turk Bombs Baghdad-Defend Iraq," Workers Vanguard, 1 February 2001, p.1 and for Workers World Party role in 1990-1991, see "The Peace Lobby Revives," Information Digest, Volume XXIII, No. 21, Oct 19, 1990.
33 "China and Russia Sign Treaty of Alliance: Friendship Pact Meant to Counter U.S. Influence," San Francisco Chronicle, 18 July 2001, p. A1.
34 Ibid., p. A8
35 J.A.R. Marriott, The Eastern Question: An Historical Study in European Diplomacy, Fourth Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940) p. 168-169; and, David G. Ghandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1966), p. 210.
36 Marriott, p. 386
37 Major General I.S.O. Playfair, "The Mediterranean and Middle East," in History of the Second World War, Volume II, United Kingdom Military Series (London: HMSO, 1956) p. 193.
38 Feuhrer Headquarters, 22 May 1941, Directive 30. "The Middle East," Appendix 2 in I.S.O. Playfair, Op. Cit., p. 333f.
39 John Morley, cited in "The Problem of the Near East," in J.A.R. Marriott, The Eastern Question, p. 1.
40 Colonel V. Zuharer, "Struggle for Social Progress," Soviet Military Review (Moscow) published in Russian and Arabic, No. 4 (28), April 1967, pp. 55-56
41 "Red China: Plan to ‘Encircle' U.S.," San Francisco Chronicle, September 3, 1965, p. 1; "Lin Piao's Manifesto," Army, Volume 15, No. 17, December 1965, pp. 47-51; and, Peking Review, No. 36, September 3, 1965.
42 "Waiting for Fidel," The New York Times, February 22, 2003, p. A5.
43 "Michael D To Ask the Tough Iraq Questions: But Dictators Don't Do Questions," Ireland's Sunday Independent, January 26, 2003, Living, p. 8.
44 Emmuska, Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905).
45 See Brig Gen. J.H. Morgan, Assize of Arms: The Disarmament of Germany and Her Rearmament (1919-1939) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946); and J. W. Wheeler Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics, 1918-1945 (London: MacMillan, 1952).
46 J.F. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments, 1559-1681 (New York: Norton Library, 1958), p. 270.
47 Shahram Chubin, "The Northern Tier in Disarray," The World Today (London), Royal Institute of International Affairs, Volume 35, No.12 (December 1979), pp. 474-482.
Harold W. Rood is Professor Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College and adjunct fellow of the Claremont Institute.