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US, Iraq Policy Debate - 2001-02-28

How to deal with Iraq is a major foreign policy issue facing the Bush Administration, which has so far launched an air attack on the country and is now considering less invasive sanctions. At a recent conference at Washington's CATO Institute, participants offered policies ranging from armed U.S. intervention to opening talks with Saddam Hussein.

The war with Saddam Hussein is unfinished, said author and Middle East analyst Laurie Mylroie. Let's finish it, even if it's necessary to send in U.S. troops. The Iraqi leader, she claimed, is behind terrorist acts against the United States, including the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York: "The way to address this problem is to get rid of Saddam," Ms. Mylroie said. "I believe that if the United States were to be serious about arming the Iraqi opposition and in addition, backing it up with the U.S. Air Force, Saddam would be gone in no time. Until and unless we get rid of Saddam, he will continue his war against us. He seeks revenge for what we have done to him."

Then why do we keep doing it? asked Edward Peck during a discussion of Iraq at Washington's CATO institute. Who is provoking whom since the United States and Britain are bombing Iraq on almost a daily basis? "We are after them. They are not after us," Mr. Peck said. "If we were to stop bombing them and make the embargo more selective and so forth, there is a good chance they would not see any reason to come after us because those airplanes flying over Iraq are the ones that are provoking the responses."

A former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Peck said vile as Saddam may be, his overthrow could lead to chaos in Iraq, splitting the country into many warring parts and possibly destabilizing the region. After ten years of bombing and sanctioning Saddam, said Mr. Peck, why not try talking to him? We talk to all sorts of other malodorous leaders in the interest of conflict resolution.

The Iraqi dictator has been magnified out of all proportion, said Ivan Eland, director of defense studies at CATO. He is nowhere near the threat he is claimed to be. The surrounding states far surpass his power: "The Gulf Cooperation Council states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have an economy and a defense budget many times over what Iraq has," Mr. Eland said. "The Saudis have one of the largest defense budgets in the world: (an annual) $21.8 billion and this dwarfs the $1.4 billion spent by Saddam by almost 16 times. U.S. protection merely prevents them from doing more in their own defense. A balance of power is possible without U.S. intervention in this area."

Mr. Eland added that Israel, considered the only nuclear power in the region, is armed with 200 nuclear bombs, which should forestall any Iraqi attack. In his opinion, all the pressure exerted on its behalf by Jewish groups in the United States is not needed. Israel can take care of itself.

It is not good policy to remain fixated on an individual, however reprehensible, said Mr. Eland. By thinking less about him, Saddam may become less of a problem.