Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shocking Iraq possibility: peace breaks out!

(Written in December 2002, during the run up to the March 2003 American led invasion of Iraq.)

The preconditions for peace are fairly simple. Indeed it is a shocking possibility that peace could be the road ahead.

Both Bush and Saddam have an escape door from war, if they choose to open it.

For much of the wrangling so far has concerned mass destruction weapons the US says were never destroyed by Iraq - but which Iraq claims to have destroyed by the mid 1990's.

Yet the really compelling long term issues concern not so much any existing weapons but the possibility Saddam has the means and intent and the technical and scientific talent pool to produce more.

Fascinating as the current inspections and voluminous Iraq reports are, if one goes back to consult the public intelligence conclusions (CIA, British, and International Institute of Strategic Studies) much of this may be irrelevant.

What is striking is that ALL these intelligence estimates focus NOT on existing stocks of weapons, but the potential CAPACITY of Iraq to quickly produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the future, if Saddam wishes to. They all assume Saddam wishes to.

All are very VAGUE on anything already in existence. A major issue here is the ability to mobilize dual use facilities for FUTURE weapons production.

If peace to be preserved, some way will need to be opened to shape Saddam's intent, to watchdog and ensure that Iraq's capacity to produce future weapons does not actually produce those weapons.

If a peaceful way is sought, it will be less important to account for every remaining piece of weaponry (thus proving Saddam a liar to be ousted) and more important to develop extensive inspection techniques to bar, to prevent future production.

If the US seeks war, it can easily find or manufacture a "causus belli" based around weapons alleged to be hidden from the past.

If the US seeks to avoid war, it will need to engage Iraq in the kind of long term extensive inspections which will be needed to bar weapons production in the future.

If both sides decide war is unacceptable, they will find ways to finesse the issue of weapons remaining from earlier disarmament while focusing on a regimen of tight controls for the future.

Both Bush and Saddam will need macho opportunities to claim victory, to pose as powerful warriors.

For Bush it will be the media driven image of playing Teddy Roosevelt, of intimidating, bending, humiliating the "Butcher of Baghdad." For Saddam it would be the ability to emerge as an Arab hero --- facing down, resisting, surviving the Yankee colonialist.

But peace will only break out if BOTH Iraq and the United States come to understand that the alternative could be "disastrous" for both sides: for Saddam his death will be certain; for the US a costly war which may undermine its economy and deprive George Bush of re-election.

Bush must come to think (and fear) that invading and occupying Iraq will escalate the threat of terrorism, isolate the US globally, and risk large US casualties, including possibly from chemical and biological weapons... If war appears easy, affordable, safe, Bush will choose the path of military violence.

Saddam must see...a continued and deadly deployment of US forces that can be sustained over time. That this American presence ....will destroy him if he embarks on any further course of producing FUTURE weapons of mass destruction....He must see a tough long term American policy that does not turn "to go home" when a different President comes to power.

Hanging over this is a major question mark.

Is it technically possible to monitor, to watchdog future Iraq weapons production? And if Iraq moves to produce mass destruction weapons in the future, how hard would it be to attack then?

If the Administration decides this is impossible, or impractical, it may decide to skip the shocking possibility of peace and to go to war "now."

And make as its excuse an argument over missing weapons from the past.

(And so it came to pass.)

No comments: