Posted by andreas from p3EE3C319.dip.t-dialin.net (126.96.36.199) on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 at 6:39AM :
Wall Street Journal
How to Liberate Iraq
Toppling Saddam isn't enough.
Tuesday, October 8, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT
President Bush's televised address last night made clear that war with Iraq "may become unavoidable," as he put it over the weekend. But just as important as whether the U.S. goes to war is how to do it in a way that achieves not only a decisive military victory but also the maximum long-term strategic benefits.
The latter goal got lost during the Gulf War, which is one reason that 11 years later we are back at the same Saddam Hussein pass. If America is going to spill blood and treasure again, the goal has to be about more than replacing one Iraqi thug with another. The goal this time shouldn't be merely disarmament or even "regime change," but the liberation of the Iraqi people and a more stable Middle East.
Which is why the Bush Administration's talk in recent days of an internal coup overturning Saddam carries an ominous tone. The "silver bullet" approach was first mooted during the Gulf War by the CIA, when it predicted, with its usual accuracy, that Saddam would be deposed within two months by disgruntled senior officers. Instead Saddam staged his own anti-coup, killing off anyone he saw as a potential threat.
This assassinate-Saddam scenario is now enjoying something of a revival. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld broached it in testimony on the Hill last month. Iraqi military defectors are reportedly making calls of encouragement to former colleagues in Baghdad. And White House spokesman Ari Fleischer created a flap last week by saying that "The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than" the cost of war. And "the cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."
Well, maybe. Saddam's departure would be a boon however it's accomplished, but the danger with a coup is that some new Baathist thug would simply take his place. While this would have the short-term advantage of ridding the world of a particularly nasty threat, in the long run it could delay the emergence of a more pluralistic, Western-oriented Iraq and all that means for reshaping the Mideast into a more stable, modernizing region. Saddam-lite is not the answer to Iraq's problems--or to those of the Arab world.
Mr. Bush's critics have focused on the need for a broad coalition. But the most critical part of any coalition ought to be Saddam's democratic opposition, both inside Iraq and in exile. The U.S. has wasted valuable time since the end of the Gulf War by not organizing and supporting the six opposition groups dedicated to liberating their homeland.
The Bush Administration, or at least parts of it, has tried to make up for lost time in recent months, most conspicuously with an August conference that included senior U.S. officials. But a provisional Iraqi government should have been set up long ago. And no senior State Department official bothered to show up at a conference of Iraqi democrats last week in Washington. Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board, was if anything guilty of understatement when he criticized the Administration for not being further along in its post-Saddam planning. "There has been constant opposition at State and the CIA," he said.
The big point here isn't that the U.S. should be anointing any specific Saddam successor. The idea is that the war will be easier to win, and a post-Saddam Iraq easier to rebuild, if the war itself is seen less as a U.S. invasion than as American help for Iraqis who want to retake their own country.
On this point, it also matters very much what kind of war the U.S. fights. One thing to avoid this time is the bombing of bridges, power plants and the electricity grid of the sort the U.S. conducted during the Gulf War. That bombing didn't much hurt Saddam but it did make life much more difficult for Iraqi civilians. As we editorialized at the time, "A new world order would be easier to build, it somehow seems to us, if the war planners had taken out the troublemaker and left the country's power plants alone."
Mr. Rumsfeld has said recently that this time the U.S. won't bomb Iraqi civilian infrastructure but will instead focus on Saddam's sources of command and control. Other leaks have suggested the U.S. will focus on the sources of Saddam's power, such as the Republican Guard, his home town of Tikrit and his military bunkers--all promising signs that the Bush team has learned from the Gulf War's mistakes.
The broader point here is that the stakes in Iraq are larger than deposing Saddam. If the war is prosecuted well and plants the seeds for a pluralistic, pro-Western Iraq, that country could serve as an example to the rest of the Arab world. In a speech at the Manhattan Institute last week, White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice suggested that this is in fact the larger U.S. purpose: "We reject the condescending view that freedom will not grow in the soil of the Middle East--or that Muslims somehow do not share in the desire to be free."
Tens of thousands of Iraqis in and outside of their country share that vision. The task ahead for Mr. Bush is to design and execute a war that lays the groundwork not for another strongman, but for Iraqis to free themselves.
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