Accessibility links

Pro and Con: Should the U.S. Attack Iraq?


Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation and Ivan Eland, Director of Policy for the Cato Institute, debate whether military action should be taken against Iraq. Schaefer is a foreign policy analyst and is a Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs. Eland is the author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World”, and was principal defense analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.

MR. BORGIDA
And now for our Pro and Con segment: Should military action be taken as soon as possible to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? That is the question we will be debating today. And joining us live to discuss their views, Brett Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation. He says yes to that question. And Ivan Eland, of the Cato Institute. He says no.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. We hope this session will be nonviolent but educational. Why don't you give us a minute each of your views on the subject? Mr. Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation, give us a minute's worth.

MR. SCHAEFER
Well, as President Bush has stated and the Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, has stated, Saddam Hussein has quite clearly not complied with the various efforts to try and get him to disarm. He has obstructed the inspectors meant to go in there and verify that he is disarming.

And they have made the case very clearly that he is and continues to be a threat to the region and to the world at large, should other people gain access to those weapons of mass destruction, which he has in his possession. And so the case I think is clear that he is a threat. He is a threat to the region. He is a threat to the world.

He has had a chance to defuse efforts to use military force against him in the past. In the past decade he has had ample opportunity to comply with inspections, to allow inspectors to come in there and show that he is indeed not a threat any longer. And he has not done so. He has violated every effort, every hand that has been extended to him to try and avoid any kind of confrontation.

MR. BORGIDA
Why don't we give Mr. Eland a chance to jump in for his one minute's worth, and then we'll have the two of you exchange views in a moment. Mr. Eland, your thoughts?

MR. ELAND
I think the threat has been overstated. I think, even in the worst possible case, if Saddam got nuclear weapons, we have a track record of deterring him from using weapons of mass destruction. During the Gulf War we said we would use nuclear weapons. We have thousands of warheads. He could only get a couple. We said, if you use biological and chemical, we'll use nuclear. He has been deterred by Israel, who has 200 nuclear weapons, in the Gulf War and afterwards, for the past decade.

Also, I think this undermines our attempt to defeat the enemy that is really attacking us. And that's al-Qaida. This is the equivalent of 1941, if President Roosevelt would have said, okay, the Japanese attacked us, but instead of counterattacking against the Japanese, taking the war to the home islands, gee, I think we'll go attack the French first and worry about the Japanese later.

I think we need to focus on the threat that's out there. We've taken down less than a third of the al-Qaida leadership, and they are still out there and they're still attacking us. It seems to be quite strange that we're now attacking somebody else. And I think attacking Iraq, another Islamic country, will generate even more terrorism.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Schaefer, holes in that argument? Go for it.

MR. SCHAEFER
I think it's a rather bizarre analogy. First of all, the United States would not have attacked France. They weren't our enemy in World War II, and so they wouldn't be a viable target regardless. And to extend that analogy, which you used, you're essentially arguing that the United States was attacked by Japan and therefore we should not have engaged in a war with Germany. And to me those two are utterly conflicting.

The United States rightly saw that Japan was a threat and that Germany was also an equal threat. And to address one and ignore the other is not achieving your overall objective, which is in securing national security and protecting American interests.

MR. ELAND
Of course, Germany declared war on us. And frankly, I think it is applicable to use France, simply because they had Colonial possessions in the Pacific and they were no threat to us. And frankly, I think the threat from Saddam Hussein has been overstated. We beat down his conventional forces during the Gulf War. And frankly, as I say, we've deterred him and contained him very effectively for a decade afterwards, and I just don't see the rush to do this, even if you think we should do it. I mean, even Tony Blair says he is probably five years away from developing the material to build a bomb.

MR. SCHAEFER
So we should sit around and fold our hands and not wait for him to do something? This is the worst possible scenario. This is the scenario we don't want, is for him to achieve the capability to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. And you're saying, well, he doesn't have them right now, so we should just go ahead and wait until he does. And then, when he's an even greater threat, a stronger adversary, then we should deploy and risk even greater chaos and greater threats to the region and greater casualties for American soldiers? Why not deter the threat now?

MR. ELAND
Well, we didn't take him out when he was a radical and he was getting nuclear weapons in the sixties. We didn't preempt the Soviet Union from getting nuclear weapons. We contained a superpower for 40 years, and I think we can contain a small, poor country like Iraq. Frankly, the Soviet Union was a much bigger threat than Iraq.

And frankly, I think even if Saddam gets nuclear weapons, there are 12 nuclear programs going on in the world from threat countries, and this is according to the Department of Defense. We have 13 countries with biological weapons already. We have 16 with chemical weapons. We have 28 with ballistic missiles. Are we going to invade all of these countries? Are we going to do Iran next? Are we going to do North Korea?

North Korea has a very erratic leader and they already have nuclear weapons. What are we doing about them? Nothing.

MR. SCHAEFER
Essentially, what we have here is two cases. One, you're arguing that we should focus on al-Qaida and we should ignore Iraq. The United States is a very strong power. We can chew bubble gum and rub our heads at the same time.

The forces that we're going to use to address al-Qaida are intelligence sources, special forces units, surgical strikes. What is going to be used in Iraq are much different forces, conventional forces, that are not going to be used for the other objective. So to say that going after one is shifting our focus to another avenue and possibly undermining our efforts in the first is wrong.

MR. ELAND
I beg to differ on that. I don't think that's true.

MR. SCHAEFER
Second of all, Iraq is not Russia.

MR. ELAND
I know it isn't.

MR. SCHAEFER
It's not. And to sit there and say, well, it worked with Russia and therefore it will work with Iraq is wrong. Containment has not worked here. The object of containment in Iraq's case is to defuse it as a dangeous adversary, to disarm them.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Eland, why don't you get the last 30 seconds here and wrap up the segment for us.

MR. ELAND
I don't think you can compare the Soviet Union, a gigantic superpower, with a small country that has just a fraction of our GDP. And frankly, as I say, in the worst case, if they get nuclear weapons, we can deter them. Saddam is not suicidal. He's got a home address. We know where he lives. And we have a dominant nuclear arsenal. So I just don't see the big threat here.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, the kind of discussion, as I promised our listeners and viewers, that would be nonviolent but educational. You've shed some light on the topic. And this is the kind of conversation that is going on in many places around the world. Ivan Eland, of the Cato Institute, we thank you so much. And Brett Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation, we appreciate your time today. Thanks so much.

XS
SM
MD
LG