My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Friday, June 24, 2005

What if the US had not toppled Saddam?

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing out this article on what likely would have happened had the US not invaded.
Amore intriguing question is whether a decision not to go to war in 2003 would have produced lasting peace or would only have delayed war until a later date -- as in the 1930s. There is a strong argument to be made that Hussein would have pushed toward confrontation and war at some point, no matter what we did. His Hitler-like megalomania does not seem to be in question. He patiently, brutally pushed his way to power in Iraq, then set about brutally and impatiently making himself the dominant figure in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, using war and the threat of war as his principal tools. In the early 1980s he invaded Iran and fought it to a bloody standstill for the better part of a decade. No sooner had that war ended than he invaded Kuwait. He fancied himself the new Saladin, much as Napoleon and Hitler had fancied themselves the new Caesar.

Many argue that, even if all this is true, Hussein was nevertheless contained through sanctions and no-fly zones and therefore could be deterred. Many advanced this argument before the war, too, even when they believed with as much certainty as the Bush administration that Hussein did have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. And, indeed, although for most Americans the question of whether the war was "worth it" revolves around the failure to discover the stockpiles that most believed he had, nevertheless the key issue, I believe, remains the same as before that failure: whether Hussein could have been contained.

For another fact not in dispute is that Hussein remained keenly interested in and committed to acquiring weapons of mass destruction, that he maintained secretive weapons programs throughout the 1990s and indeed right up until the day of the invasion, and that he was only waiting for the international community to lose interest or stamina so that he could resume his programs unfettered. This is the well-documented, unrefuted -- and unnoticed -- conclusion of both David Kay and Charles Duelfer. Whether Hussein would have eventually succeeded in acquiring these weapons would have depended on other nations' will and ability to stop him.

That is a question to which we will never have a definitive answer, and yet it is critical to any judgment about the merits of the war. The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding. He was driving a wedge between the United States and Britain, on one side, which wanted to maintain sanctions and containment, and France, Russia, and China, on the other, which wanted to drop sanctions and normalize relations with him. The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, containment was not "sustainable over the long run." The pattern of the 1990s, "Iraqi defiance, followed by force mobilization on our part, followed by Iraqi capitulation," had left "the international community vulnerable to manipulation by Saddam." The longer the standoff continued, Berger warned in 1998, "the harder it will be to maintain" international support for containing Hussein. Nor did Clinton officials doubt what Hussein would do if and when containment collapsed. As Berger put it, "Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance." Nor should we assume that, even if the United States and others had remained vigilant, Hussein could have been deterred from doing something to provoke a conflict. Tragic miscalculation was Hussein's specialty, after all, as his invasions of Iran and Kuwait proved.

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