When I wrote my 2014 piece, I knew that one aspect I wanted to include was the danger inherent in hesitation when it comes to dealing with Saddam. A little dramatic license and I conceived of a way to illustrate the point rather — shall we say — heavy-handedly by supposing that Saddam feigned interest in negotiations, when the time of the attack grew near, in order to buy time to carry out his own attack on Israel and the United States.
But it was only today that it crystalized in my mind exactly how I feel about the timing of the conflict.
I think we should attack Iraq now. Not in a few months, not soon, now.
Every day that we wait is one more day for Saddam to hire more suicide squads to be activated when we attack. It’s one more day for him to be wheeling and dealing with other terrorists for support through attacks of their own when the day comes. It’s one more day for Saddam, fate forbid, to make that deal to get that nuke from the old Soviet stockpile.
And what do we gain in waiting?
Er, well… we’re building up political support among our allies!
Screw our allies. This is definitely a time for them to put up or shut up. The Europeans can either get with the program or get the hell out of the way; it doesn’t seem to matter worth a damn as much as I can tell. The only nations that really matter in this game are those that can provide us staging areas, like Turkey. And I have great confidence if we explain rather clearly to the Turkish government — and others — that they really do not want to be on the wrong side of this conflict, and that the time for posturing and playing to the ‘Arab Street’ is over — it’s time to act like grown-ups now — they’ll see the light right quick. And the Brits — the Brits will come with us; they always do, and bless them for it.
Once you view the conflict as a two-front war — with one front internal to Iraq in as a conventional war, and the second front in the United States, Israel, and worldwide as a potential terrorist battleground — it seems pretty damned obvious that Saddam wins more with every passing day.
So why aren’t we beginning at least small scale attacks? We’ve got strike aircraft over his country every day — here’s an idea: why not just give those flyboys ‘weapons free’ and let them start engaging targets of opportunity?
I think we need to be creative here. We are not going to do another well-organized, multi-month buildup of the exact number of troops, planes, ships, portable latrines, and other materiel that we’d like to have before we go to war like we did the first time around. The simple idea of it is ludicrious on its face — do we seriously believe that Saddam is just going to sit there while we gather forces like that?
At the end of the Gulf War, Saddam gambled. Everyone was afraid of what he might do, when it was clear he was losing. Would he really cut loose with chemical weapons? But he didn’t. He gambled, quite correctly, that by holding back, Bush the Elder and the coalition would deem him not worth the effort of removing from power.
Very different game this time. He knows he’s finished. He knows that this time, there is no way out, period.
Do you remember what we started hearing about Clinton around ’99 or so?
He was focusing more and more on his “legacy”. He wanted to establish himself a place in history.
I think its hard to avoid the conclusion that Saddam is thinking the exact same thing right about now. And I really, really, do not want to find out what his idea of a proper place in history for himself is.
So why not start hitting him now? At least with air power. So all our forces aren’t in place yet — so what? Surely there’s some damage we can begin to do to him and to his miltary, isn’t there?
One reason I’m so gung-ho on this is that I strongly suspect that once the explosions really start, and it is clear that we are serious, I think we’re going to see some very interesting things start to happen within Iraq in general, and the Iraqi military in particular. I have to believe that those generals, colonels and majors are not complete and utter idiots. They know they’re on the losing side. And once we demonstrate that no, we weren’t kidding, I think we may be surprised by how fast we suddenly find allies popping up within Iraq itself. We may end up not needing to actually invade at all in the end.
I am not a military strategist, nor do I play one on TV. I don’t claim to know the effective ways we could start now — but I’ll bet someone reading this does. I’ve tossed out one idea that seems the absolute most basic — declare weapons-free for targets-of-opportunity for the existing air patrols. Let’s hear from folks on what we could do building up from there, and how fast we could do it. Preference, of course, goes to those actions we could take right now.
Update: OK, I will plead guilty to a wee bit of Guiness-induced hyperbole in my initial drafting of this last night. (Remember kids: Friends don’t let friends drink and punditize).
In a single turn Pejman earns my everlasting emnity and simultaneously puts my hyperbole in proper context when he declares in the comments: “I realize that you would like it if we did something, anything right now. Keep in mind, however, that this is a Clintonian response, with all due respect.” (“All due respect”? “Clintonian“? Bastard.)
Pej is right, of course. But I’m not arguing that we should do something for the sake of feeling better or just doing something for its own sake, though I probably made it sound that way. I’m arguing that, from my admittedly militarily ignorant standpoint, it seems to me that there may be some actions that we could be taking right now that would be both militarily substantive and of low risk to our servicemen and women: and I am questioning, therefore, why we aren’t doing so.
It seems to me — and again, asking for corrective instruction here from the peanut gallery — that our air power in particular could begin, even now, to inflict damage on Saddam’s infrastructure without significant risk to American soldiers’ lives. I am not arguing for just lobbing a few cruise missiles at random targets — that would be, shall we say, Clintonian. But let me ask this: Could we take out a significant percentage of their air defense network simply using the forces we already have in place? And if so, wouldn’t that be a valid step to take as a prelude to the larger campaign?
The benefit of acting now, to me, is twofold: first, it opens up the possibility that forces within Iraq will act to support us in ways that we can’t possibly predict accurately until the bombs start dropping. And second, every bit of energy we force Saddam and his forces to devote to defense right now is that much less energy they can devote to planning their future offense.
Because right now, it seems to me that they really don’t have anything better to do that plan how they are going to retaliate for the attack.
Update Again: Some great discussion going on in the comments section, thanks to all who are participating. I’m especially pleased to see folks opposing my views joining in. One brief reply to what I see as a central thrust in some of the ‘anti-‘ arguments: the idea that it if we believe that Saddam is not a direct threat to the U.S., it is therefore immoral to invade his country, even if we all agree that he does horrible things to his own people. ( I don’t accept that he’s not a threat, but I’m willing to posit it for the sake of discussing this point).
This to me is a classic ‘national sovreignty’ defense, and one which I find pretty morally bankrupt. I challenge anyone taking the ‘anti-‘ side of this argument to explain clearly why the sovreignty of a nation, such as Iraq, should be placed above the sovreignty of its people. This argument makes no sense to me, but I’m willing to listen.