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For your information: -----Original Message----- From: Barry Rubin [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 10:19 AM Subject: The Region Column for Jan 7, 2003: 1991/2003 Wars on Iraq The Region By Barry Rubin The year is 2003, or is it? Precisely a dozen years ago, the United States was heading toward war with Iraq heading. Consider what many said back then and you decide how much has changed. In 1990, Iraq had invaded and annexed Kuwait, its weak and inoffensive neighbor. The United States, under a president named Bush, organized an international coalition to drive back an Iraqi leader named Saddam Hussein. Yet even under these relatively optimal conditions, his policy faced very strong opposition at home and internationally. Many even predicted that Bush would be unable to get congressional backing for his campaign. New York Times columnist Tom Wicker proclaimed, "Bush stands warned--Congress is unlikely to support a war." Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell, cautioned, "There has been no clear rationale, no convincing explanation for shifting American policy from one of sanctions to one of war." The risks, included high casualties, "billions of dollars spent, a greatly disrupted oil supply and oil price increases, a war possibly widened to Israel, Turkey or other allies, the possible long-term American occupation of Iraq, increased instability in the Persian Gulf region, long-lasting Arab enmity against the United States, a possible return to isolationism at home." "Within six months," said Senator Ernest Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina, "every fundamentalist mullah, every Arab nationalist, will say, `the United States came here and invaded this Third World country for oil....' And, face it, they will be speaking the truth!" In the words of Judith Kipper, a Brookings Institution fellow who was American television's favorite Middle East expert, "We will be seen as the big bullies, no matter how many Arabs we have around us." Professor Michael Hudson of Georgetown University declared, Saddam was "going over the heads of the Arab leaders and appealing directly to the people. And he seems to be having some success." Professor L. Carl Brown of Princeton, who had earlier opined that Europe was replacing the United States as the area's chief power, warned, "A crushing military defeat of Saddam Hussein will convert the bully of Baghdad into a martyr." The terrorist factor, like the innate Arab support for Saddam, was overestimated. Representative Lee Hamilton, a Democrat from Indiana, considered the most knowledgeable member of Congress on the Middle East, said, "If war comes, it will be difficult to imagine where Americans will be safe in the Middle East for some time to come." Senator John Kerry, A Democrat from Massachusetts, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, the columnists Evans and Novak, and many others agreed that much of the region would rise up in Saddam's support. They all neglected the level of radicalism, terrorism, and anti-American activity that would accompany Saddam's achieving hegemony in the entire Persian Gulf. The critics also doubted that the U.S.-led coalition would survive. Hamilton said a few days before the war began, "Support for the United States from coalition partners will be questionable in the case of hostilities." War, he added, would "split the coalition; estrange us from our closest allies; make us the object of Arab hostility; endanger friendly governments in the region; and not be easy to end, once started." Ball claimed, "The coalition would almost fall apart overnight" and the United States would be left "with not a single friend except Israel" in the region. Iraq's biggest boosters in earlier days were now among the most ardent defeatists about America's chances. The columnists Evans and Novak published assertions that almost all Arab leaders agreed that the death of a single Iraqi soldier would make them desert the coalition. They insisted that Iraq's conquest of Kuwait, "cannot now be undone from outside," proclaimed that Syria and Iran would do nothing against Saddam, and virtually rejoiced in claiming that Bush's policy was losing domestic and international support. Today, Novak falsely claims the new war on Iraq is an Israeli idea, ignoring both the true course of events and widespread doubt in Israel about the U.S. policy. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, originator of the idea that the United States could make Iraq an ally in the 1970s, warned in 1991 that an attack would lead to a split with European allies, Arab anti-American hostility, financial disaster, and the loss of any gains from the U.S. victory in the Cold War. He forecast "a global wave of sympathy for Iraq" and reflected the most extreme Arab propaganda in claiming that Israel might "take advantage of an expanded war to effect the expulsion of all Palestinians" from the West Bank." Today, about 1000 American academics-including many Middle East "experts" have made a similarly slanderous claim with absolutely no proof. Back in 1991, the coalition's Arab members never wavered, expecting the Americans to hand them a quick, total victory. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia sought vengeance and vindication, knowing that only Saddam's defeat could preserve their sovereignty. Iran and Syria also wanted Iraq weakened and Saddam eliminated as a rival all the more threatening if he made himself master of Kuwait and victor over America. After Bush obtained congressional support to go to war, Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, warned the president on the Senate floor, "The Senate and the nation are divided on this issue. You have no mandate for war." Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, added in his speech, "There is still time to save the president from himself--and save thousands of American soldiers in the Persian Gulf from dying in the desert in a war whose cruelty will be exceeded only by the lack of any rational necessity for waging it." If these powerful Americans inveighed against war, why should Saddam expect the United States to fight? Yet this was a serious miscalculation based on Saddam's ignorance of America as well as his way of thinking. Bush had both the motive and the ability to keep his word and Iraq ignored all the danger signs: the U.S. troop build-up, the public scheduling of a coalition attack for January, Soviet warnings that it would support the use of force, more troops sent by Egypt and Syria, the coalition's continued solidity, and a lack of sanctions-busting activity. Bush had the coalition's green light and the American people's strong support. In one sense, however, Saddam was totally correct. American eagerness to bring U.S. troops home and retreat from foreign responsibility had made it fumble in the political settlement after military victories in two world wars. The Vietnam war and Iran hostage crisis became political disasters because, win or lose, they could not be concluded fast enough. Saddam understood that the United States could not fight a war if it could not win fast, keep casualties low, and get out quickly. Contrary to Saddam's expectations, Bush was able to fulfill these conditions in defeating Iraq. But the same need to keep the war short, losses low, and bring the troops home soon also meant that the United States lacked the will power and staying power to bring down the Iraqi dictator. Now we are facing round two: to achieve with much greater difficulty what might have been more easily done back in 1991. But have no illusions: in all the same circles it was no more popular then. And whether or not Bush should attack Iraq now, it is quite clear that those who opposed strong action a decade ago have a lot of responsibility for the current situation. Barry Rubin is director of the GLORIA Center, Interdisciplinary University. His latest books are The Tragedy of the Middle East (Cambridge), Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East (Oxford), and Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics (Palgrave). _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk