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[casi] British General: The Madness of War with Iraq

The madness of war with Iraq

by General Sir Michael Rose
Merely crying "Havoc!" and letting slip the dogs of war is no substitute
for clear thinking or the development of a welldefined military
strategy. Yet the evidence of the last few days seems to be that we are
heading for an assault on Iraq without - on either side of the Atlantic
- anything like enough open debate about the moral justification or
military practicality of doing so. If we in the West were confident that
our reasons for going to war were sound, we would be getting the UN's
agreement before doing so. But it seems we're not.

Instead of open debate, what we have had from President Bush is the
vague assertion that Saddam Hussein has "plotted to develop anthrax, and
nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade". Our own Prime
Minister is even more vague, implying that Saddam Hussein now possesses
an arsenal of dangerous but as yet unspecified weapons of mass
destruction. Neither of them has yet produced any evidence that Saddam
plans to use any of these weapons against the West.

If there was such a threat, necessary authority for any invasion would
be needed from the UN in accordance with article 39 of its Charter. This
article clearly states that the Security Council should determine the
existence of any threat, as well as decide what measures must be taken
thereafter to maintain international peace and security. The launching
of a war against Yugoslavia in 1999 by American-led Nato forces without
due authority of the UN greatly diminished both the moral standing and
legitimacy of that action, and this made it subsequently much harder for
the Alliance to criticise others who did the same in pursuit of less
worthy causes.

Certainly it would make no sense for member states to go to war on
behalf of the UN - because Saddam is not fully cooperating with UN
Security Council Resolutions - if that body itself doesn't approve.
Today it is reported that Tony Blair has been advised by Government
lawyers that an attack would be illegal without UN backing. He should
heed that advice and refuse to allow British troops to take part in any
attack without UN approval.

IF Bush thinks UN support is not a legal necessity, he will still have
to consider the military options. The launching of a largescale ground
offensive by USled forces against Saddam Hussein in Iraq is fraught with
operational risk. Its success would be dependent on good intelligence,
quick execution, and general support for the action from the Iraqis -
none of which can be guaranteed. Furthermore it is likely that the
operation would have to be mounted at long distance, as there would not
be the same level of support from neighbouring Arab states, including
Jordan, as was provided at the time of the Gulf War. Since Iran has also
been identified as being part of President Bush's axis of evil, what
would their leaders make of an attack? It is almost designed to create
instability and a lack of security. Is that what Bush wants?

Even if an attack against Iraq did meet with early success, the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein would not, of course, succeed in eliminating
the possibility of terrorist attack against the West. International
terrorism is not just a product of tyrants or rogue states, - nor can it
be defeated by conventional military means, no matter how superior US
weapons technology might be. As Northern Ireland showed us, terrorists
can only be defeated when they lose the support of the people. Resolving
political, economic and social grievances is therefore a far more
important aspect of counter terrorist wars than direct military action,
which often adds to the numbers of people prepared actively to support
the terrorists.

Sadly, because the US is seen as condoning Israeli policy towards the
Palestinians, hostility towards America and the West is mounting,
providing fertile ground for extremist Islamic terrorist organisations
among the one billion Muslims around the world. Addressing the basic
question of the Palestinian grievance would do far more to defeat
terrorism than the use of the kinetic energy weapons so favoured by
President Bush.

When he assumed command of the Army of the United States Colonies in
1775, George Washington was assured that a single victory against the
British was all that was necessary to achieve total victory, and that
the war would be short in duration. In fact the war dragged on for six
years. The US Army today does not have the luxury of being able to wage
a long drawnout war against Saddam Hussein, for protracted operations
would produce growing opposition to the war at home.

Recent wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan have been conducted at arm's
length without responding counter strikes by the enemy in our homelands.
This time, things would almost certainly be different. In the event of
such attacks on our own doorstep, politicians will be hard pressed to
explain why an action designed to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking
the West, had provoked that very thing.

The British Army fought three times in Iraq in the last century, not
always with successful results. It would be unfortunate if we have to do
the same again this century. There are huge political and military risks
associated with launching large-scale ground forces into Iraq. A more
successful strategy would be to strengthen economic sanctions, help
create a viable political and military opposition to the regime within
Iraq, obtain improved intelligence about his arsenal of weapons and
whereabouts, and where necessary carry out limited airstrikes against
associated targets.

That is the sensible option. It also happens to be the way, I suspect,
the UN would want it done.

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