U.S. attack on Iraq? Foolish

There are better ways to doom Saddam Hussein

Invading Iraq, as President George W. Bush has proposed, would be a colossal blunder.

There is no question the world would benefit from the removal of Saddam Hussein as head of the Iraqi government. It does not follow that now is the time to do so nor that a U.S. invasion with up to 275,000 troops is the best way to do so.

To begin with, it would be a pre-emptive strike based on the belief that Saddam has produced weapons of mass destruction and is capable of using them. But he is not alone. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and so has China, and neither is an outstanding example of democracy. If the United States has the right to make pre-emptive strikes of this kind, what is to prevent other countries from claiming the same prerogative?

Instead, we should use whatever influence we have in the world to discourage war.


There are many other reasons as well:

1. One is that Saddam knows that, if he used such weapons, his headquarters, his military installations and his numerous palaces would be pulverized by U.S. bombs and missiles. That consideration so far has restrained him from external use of terror weapons, and that restraint is likely to continue.

2. U.S. leaders have no concept of what kind of leader and what kind of government could succeed the dictator. Afghanistan is a much less advanced and much less powerful country and we have made little progress in pacifying its people and installing a stable government. Much of the country is still run by warlords and dissident factions.

3. A full-scale military invasion would inevitably be preceded by saturation bombing in order to protect our ground forces. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis would be killed -- innocent victims both of Saddam and of our desire to launch an invasion without support of our allies and without full discussion with Congress or with the American people.

4. A full-scale war also would leave Iraq's infrastructure in ruins, its oil fields destroyed and its government in chaos. The United States then would have the long and costly task of reconstruction in a country divided among Sunni and Shiite Muslims and two or three Kurdish factions. Because of the size of the country -- its 2000 population was 23,142,576 -- and its history as a dictatorship, that grueling process could take a generation.

5. Leaders of virtually all Arab nations have opposed such an invasion. Saudi Arabia, where we have substantial military installations, will not permit them to be used for an attack on Iraq. While many Arab and Middle Eastern leaders would welcome a new regime in Iraq, most of their peoples would see such an attack as another arrogant assertion of American power. Such an invasion could trigger revolts in a number of Middle Eastern countries, disrupting the delivery of oil supplies on which our economy is irrationally dependent.

6. Another reaction would be an intensification of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil of the Sept. 11 variety because Muslims lack the military force to respond in any other way.

7. An invasion also would be one more factor standing in the way of a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Ending that fighting would be the most powerful means of restraining Al-Qaida and other attacks against the United States. However, if we attack Iraq against the advice of moderate Middle Eastern leaders, they would have no incentive to help with reaching such a peace agreement.


8. Invading Iraq also would run counter to the advice we give to countries such as Pakistan and India. We have counseled them to use peaceful means to settle their struggle over Kashmir, but we would take just the opposite course in dealing with Iraq.

9. If Saddam now has workable weapons of mass destruction, he may choose to use them against Israel and U.S. forces if he sees that as the only way to respond to a planned U.S. invasion. This would bring about the very action we are seeking to prevent.

10. Finally, we should explore other ways in cooperation with Middle Eastern allies and with dissident groups in Iraq to bring about a change of regime in Iraq. The goal should be to do so in a way that results in fewer casualties for U.S. forces and for citizens of Iraq who are and have been victims of Saddam's brutal methods.

A Republican leader, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, put the matter plainly. Referring to the U.S. invasion plan, he told the New York Times: "This is not an action that can be sprung on the American people. Public debate over policy is important to the construction of strong public support for actions that will require great sacrifices of the American people."

The issue:

Invasion of Iraq would be costly in lives and U.S. investment to rebuild the country.

Our comment:

We should cooperate with Middle Eastern allies and internal dissidents to get rid of mad dictator.

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