Institute Commentary 007 – September 2002
Writing on September 11th, a New York columnist noted that some of his friends were still stunned by what happened on 9-11. It was, he said, “such an evil act that it shattered your faith in human beings.” They just could not imagine that someone would do such a thing.
In fact, 9-11 was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of imagination, starting with our academicians, and working its way out through our media, our politicians, our strategic elite, and down to main street. It turns out that Beatle lyrics aside, all people are not equally peaceful, all cultures are not equally compassionate, all religions are not equally beneficial. Imagine that.
Now some are about make the same mistake again, embarking on a fight for survival but imagining that the goal of the war is to build a democratic garden of Eden, and anything less falls short as an exit strategy. Let’s imagine reality for a moment.
There at only two reasons for this war:
#1, Saddam is developing weapons that can murder millions and destroy our nation;
#2, His cooperation with existing suicide bombers would provide a delivery system that could not be traced.
That combination cannot be deterred. We must destroy it before it destroys us.
We cannot rid the world of terrorists completely, but we can take Saddam off the table permanently. To do so, we must destroy five targets:
- Saddam himself. Others in the world own terrible weapons, but he delights in defying and threatening us with them. This cannot be ignored; he must be killed or held until a legitimate Iraqi court can be created. (I’ll bet the Kurds and Shiites would volunteer for jury duty.)
- Saddam’s political apparatus. These are the officers, bureaucrats, and political operatives who made his murderous machine run – those who fired the poison shells, committed the torture, and kept the books. Removing Saddam and leaving his henchmen would be exactly like removing Hitler and leaving the SS. We need a denazification program for the Baath party.
- Saddam’s weapons. This goes without saying, except that it will require using a vacuum cleaner on a country of 240,000 square miles. Any part of a weapon that escapes detection – a nuclear trigger, a container of gas, a test tube of plague – could come back to haunt us. Everything must go.
- Saddam’s weapon makers. Here’s the hard part. It is not weapons that threaten us in the long run – it is know how. We must not allow those working on genetically engineered diseases to escape the borders like Al Qaeda fled through Pakistan. Their notes and records must not spread around the world. This will upset many who see free travel of researchers as a basic human right, and the destruction of any knowledge as immoral. But everything must go – every research file, computer disk, test tube and 3×5 card. And those who were in the program must never leave Iraq again.
- But destroying these four targets – the absolute minimum if we are to call this war a success – requires destruction of a fifth target: the Iraqi army.
The chorus that always favors half measures is already tuning up to plead for an end to the bombing before it has begun. “They were forced to fight.” “They will surrender.” ” They want to be liberated.” Imaginations continue to run wild.
The cold hard truth is that there is only one force that keeps Saddam in power: his military. There is only one force that could cause us serious casualties: his military. There is only one force that could interfere with the national body cavity search that will be required to find the pieces of his weapons program: his military. And there is only one target we could utterly destroy that would cow others who might consider cooperating with terrorists: Saddam’s military.
We have the capability to do this. Massive armored sweeps are not required, nor is air attack on cities. After nailing the “special weapons” sites early (I am sorry they are intentionally hidden under civilian sites – nail them), we could use mobile ground forces to pin the army in place, and precise air attacks to destroy its units to a man. This need not resemble a thunderclap; our military could take its time, eating its way through Iraq like a cancer. No one could complain about excessive civilian causalities. No huge logistics train would be required. Rear security would not be a problem. Because we would leave no forces behind to cause trouble.
No, we would not have to kill every soldier, because their army would dissolve long before that. Yes, there would be disorder and chaos in some areas, and old scores would no doubt be settled. Yes, we would have to aid the civilian populace. And yes, we might have to reconstitute some Iraqi soldiers into a police force to keep order. (We used Japanese soldiers for the same purpose after the end of World War II.) But none of this is required until after we secure our world and the future by achieving our first four priorities. Not until after we achieve victory.
Imagining a softer solution is attractive: I wish it could be true. But our cities and our children are at risk from what Saddam may share. Human rights must follow national survival, not precede it, else there will be no nation to protect human rights.
These then are our goals: Kill Saddam or deliver him to his enemies. Do the same with his entire political apparatus. Destroy his weapons. Destroy the research and development system that produced them, and isolate the researchers. And achieve these goals by first destroying his military in its entirety, so that Iraq lies stripped and vulnerable before the world. Then we can set about whatever social engineering we wish. But until these five goals are achieved, any other plan is a flight of imagination.