Will the U.S. Strike Iraq?
4 February 1998
allace Thies, professor of politics at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., specializes in defense issues, war, and terrorism. He is available for interviews at 202-319-6230 (o) or 301-774-1264 (h). He makes the following points:
- An air strike is unlikely to destroy whatever stockpile of weapons of mass destruction Iraq has amassed because of uncertainty over their location. An air strike would be aimed instead at changing Iraqi minds, by increasing the pressure on Iraq to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions that demand free and unfettered access to suspected weapons facilities.
- The U.S./U.N. have been waging this struggle for about seven years. The fact that it continues unresolved suggests that Saddam and his retinue are unlikely to change their minds on this issue and become virtuous members of the world community. A change of government in Baghdad is the only sure way to end Iraq's quest for weapons of mass destruction.
- The U.S. labors under two constraints that limit its flexibility:
- If Saddam is ousted and/or killed, how well would Iraq hold together in the aftermath? The U.S. seeks to oust Saddam, not cause Iraq to break up. The latter could trigger a new war as Iraq's neighbors fight over the pieces.
- Even if the U.S. knew precisely where Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were stored, would we target the building or bunker that held them, at the risk of releasing their contents into the atmosphere? Saddam may not care much about the lives of Iraqis, but democracies must adhere to a higher standard.
- Many Iraqis, not just Saddam and his followers, consider Kuwait an artificial country created by the British when the latter gave up its League of Nations mandate over territories formerly belonging to the Ottoman Empire. Even after Saddam is gone, there will likely be an Iraq-Kuwait "problem" for many years to come.
Contact: Annamarie DeCarlo, director of media relations, 202-319-5600.
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Revised: 4 February 1998
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