Pentagon Peaceniks Right To Oppose War On Iraq

Apparently not everybody inside the
Bush Administration is banging drums and blowing
trumpets for a war against Iraq.  The Washington Post
reported last week that at least some major brass inside
the Pentagon—including some on the Joint Chiefs—think
the current U.S. policy of containing Iraq is working
just fine. Why go to full-scale war, they`re asking, if
there`s no need and some danger in doing so?

Some weeks ago, the New York

a supposedly secret document containing
part of the Administration`s war plan against Iraq, a
plan involving at least 225,000 American troops
descending upon a country that to date has done
absolutely nothing to harm any American or any American
interest.  The cost, in both human and material terms,
of such a crusade would be exorbitant, but the war
party—described by the Post this week as
"high-level civilians in the White House and
Pentagon"—is undeterred. [“Some
Top Military Brass Favor Status Quo in Iraq”
Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, July 28, 2002]

High-level Civilian No. 1,
apparently, is

Richard N. Perle, head of the Defense Advisory Board,

who assured the Post that "ultimately, U.S.
policy on Iraq will be set by civilians," that it will
involve a

"political judgment,"
and that the brass hats in the
Pentagon who are skeptical about a war "aren`t
competent" to make it. 

Maybe not; they just have to die
along with the other American soldiers who will have to
fight the war Mr. Perle imagines he is competent to

Then there`s High-level Civilian
No. 2,

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
who is
worried about Iraq`s capacity to deliver

"weapons of mass destruction"
even without
long-range missiles.  He too is gung-ho for a war he
won`t have to fight.

What both Mr. Perle and Mr.
Wolfowitz have in common besides being "high-level
civilians" involved in deciding whether the United
States will go to war or not, is that they`re both
well-known as partisans of Israel and favorites of the
Israeli lobby, which is licking its whiskers for a good,
bloody war against Iraq.

The Perle-Wolfowitz axis may well
yet drag us into just such a war, but the generals who
oppose it make a pretty good case against it.  They
argue that ever since the Gulf War of 1991, Saddam
Hussein has more or less behaved himself, partly because
of the trouncing he took in the war but mainly because
of the stringent containment policies the United States
has enforced on him.

He has not waged war against any
other state, and there`s no evidence he`s supported any
terrorist groups or activities.  His own arsenal of
missiles is virtually non-existent, and he has no means
to deliver the chemical and biological weapons he
probably does have.  Since containment has worked so
far, they argue, what`s the point of launching a
full-scale war?

They also argue that such a war
would involve dangers we might not want to court—and not
just in the actual fighting, which would probably wind
up in slogging it out through the streets of Baghdad
against Iraqi troops and partisans and facing guerrilla
warfare from Iraqis for years afterward (and not just in
Iraq but from Iraqi saboteurs already in the United
States).  There`s also the very real problem of what
would happen in Iraq after Saddam departed and a U.S.
army is in the country.

The Pentagon opposition to the war
points to the possible disintegration of Iraq, with the
Kurds breaking off in the north and Shiites in the
south.  The former might unite with other Kurds in
neighboring Turkey to destabilize that country, while
the Shiites in the south might join with Shiite Iran to
carve out a state of their own. 

Since neither Turkey nor any other
Arab state wants any of these consequences and since the
break-up of Iraq could lead to new power blocs and
alignments, it`s not clear what the United States would
be doing in this situation.

We could use armed force to control the Kurds and
Shiites and keep Iraq in one piece, or we could try to
balance one against the other and play
imperial diplomacy.  We could just walk away and let the
whole mess blow up. 

Or we could do what the generals
advise and stay out period.

A war with Iraq, so far from
leading to the triumph of democracy, could easily
destabilize and bring a larger and longer war to the
entire Middle East and suck the United States into
decades-long conflicts that are none of our concerns. 
The generals` case against war is a compelling one, even
if certain civilians don`t want to hear it and would
rather have American troops fight a war that the
civilians and their colleagues will be planning and
leading from the rear.


August 01, 2002