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Should U.S. Invade Iraq?

Should U.S. Invade Iraq?As the Bush Administration considers its options for dealing with Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Tufts experts weigh in. Washington, D.C.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.05.02] Over a decade after the U.S. ended the Persian Gulf War, U.S. military and political analysts are considering a new U.S. offensive in the region to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But the instability of the Middle East, as well as the military and legal obstacles to a new offensive, must be weighed carefully, say Tufts experts.

"I am in favor of a regime change in Iraq," Retired General Joseph Hoar told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. "What is at issue is the means and the timing."

According to Hoar - a 1956 Tufts graduate and four-star general who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command between 1991 and 1994 - the Bush Administration must resolve issues surrounding allied support and an effective exit strategy before moving forward with an invasion plan.

A war with Iraq, he said, will require an extensive commitment by the U.S.

"Hoar warned that the United States should not underestimate the number of troops, planes or ships that would be needed for such a fight," reported the Los Angeles Times. "The logistics of moving forces in the Middle East are daunting, he said, cautioning that an inadequate force could increase the cost of such a command."

Calling on his experience as a top commander during the Persian Gulf War, Hoar told Congress that current estimates of 70,000 troops are much too small.

"It seems to me that at the end of the day, you're going to have to put people on the ground," he said. "Having said that, [the available technology] - particularly with smart bombs, the command control communications and so forth - has improved enormously and would be much, much easier than it was in Desert Storm. But I'm afraid you still have to put a fairly large number of folks on the ground."

And they will be at greater risk than during the Persian Gulf War. Hussein's suspected arsenal of chemical weapons could prove to be very dangerous.

"Hoar revealed last week that a U.S. Marine Corps study prepared for the Gulf War produced estimates of up to 10,000 American casualties if Hussein used artillery rounds with chemical weapons," reported the London Times. "[At the time of that simulation], there was no sign of his rumored stockpiles of VX nerve gas, weaponized anthrax or botulinum toxin."

The Tufts graduate also cited the necessity of an exit strategy for U.S. troops, once they successfully remove Hussein from power.

"After the expulsion of a regime of Saddam Hussein, the requirement of war termination will include the establishment of a new government, the executive, legislative and judicial branches, a newly organized armed force and a police force - what has been basically described as nation-building," Hoar testified to Congress. "Who will do this? Will there be a Marshall Plan for Iraq, a nation of 25 million people? Where is the analysis of that cost?"

Even before the U.S. can take steps to resolve these issues, it must address some of the legal obstacles to a military invasion.

Using military force to invade Iraq and remove Hussein is considered by many experts of international law to be illegal.

The current argument justifying a pre-emptive "self-defense" strike - based on the idea that Hussein is likely to attack the U.S. or its interests in the near future - isn't particularly strong, says Tufts' Hurst Hannum.

"If you wanted to take domestic analogy, it would be to look at a certain social class of people, maybe young, male, teen-agers, and to see that they were in gangs, and you'd have a pretty good idea that they would be likely to commit crimes in the future," Hannum - a professor of international law at Tufts' Fletcher School -- told National Public Radio. "We don't allow them to be arrested and put in jail just because it's possible they will commit a crime. That's essentially what the United States is seeking to do with Iraq."

Of course, there is precedent for ignoring international law, Hannum told NPR.

"Those who look at Kosovo, whether they're supporters or detractors, generally concur that the attack on Kosovo by NATO was illegal," he said. "Now the question is whether illegality can stop the United States acting alone when it doesn't have either the political or the moral support of its closest allies."

That current lack of support - a concern also raised during Hoar's testimony - may prove to be the biggest obstacle to a U.S. invasion.

"If you believe as I do that the United States has a moral responsibility as the world's only super power to provide leadership - to at least assure stability, if not peace - why can [we consider an invasion of this type, if we are] convincing virtually none of the European countries, let alone the Arab countries, of the need for an attack on Iraq?" Hoar asked Congress.
Helicopter photo courtesy U.S. Army


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