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Preparing For War

Preparing For WarAmerica’s path to war with Iraq may have long-term military and political consequences, say Tufts experts. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.18.03] As the political battles that dominated the United Nation's debate over disarming Iraq drew to a close on Monday, the Bush Administration began final preparations for the military battles that are almost certain to follow. War with Iraq, say Tufts experts, will begin - and likely end - quickly, but the political and military consequences may last much longer.

› President George W. Bush's Address [ watch ]

"All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end," President George W. Bush said in an international address on Monday night. "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

Most experts believe the war will officially begin by week's end.

"I think we're already at war if we look at what's happening in the no-fly zone," Tufts' Andrew Hess - professor of diplomacy at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - told Boston's Channel 5 News. "The United States has increased its Army operations there, and all that remains to be done now is for the troops to advance through the gates that were cut down, that marked the border between Kuwait and Iraq, and be on its way."

Military analysts are predicting the U.S. forces will race to Baghdad, which will likely be the site of the most intense - and potentially deadly - fighting.

"It's quite clear there is going to be a lot of bloodshed in Baghdad," Hess told The Boston Herald. Hussein's strategy for ending the war with the United States, he said, may hinge on generating international outcry against the war in response to a large death toll in the city.

"I think he wants to force the Americans into an urban conflict with lots of casualties, then hope for some cessation of the fighting through some sort of diplomatic scenario," Hess told the Herald.

While the coalition war plan is expected to result in a quick conflict, the buildup of U.S. forces in the Middle East could have long-range effects, says another Tufts expert.

"[Tufts' Jeff Taliaferro] says the U.S. can win the war in a week, but it's the long-range cost and vulnerability that worries him," reported Boston's Channel 7 News.

With 250,000 troops in the Middle East, the U.S. is poorly prepared to address a conflict in another part of the world, he says.

"What happens if war should break out in the Korean Peninsula?" Taliaferro - a professor of security studies in Tufts' political science department - asked. "Could we move troops quickly from the Persian Gulf to Northeast Asia, I doubt it."

Already under scrutiny by Russia, Germany and France - all of which oppose a military invasion - the United States also risks losing diplomatic capital if the war drags on.

"Our reputation and prestige as a country that backs and exemplifies the rule of law is going to take a big blow," Tufts' Jeswald Salacuse told the Christian Science Monitor. "But if we are able to go in and win quickly, the opportunity to repair that damage rises."

The U.S. must consider the long-term diplomatic impact - especially on its relationship with the United Nations, Salacuse said.

"[Over the years, the U.S.] has developed a lot of diplomatic capital as it has tried to adhere to international law and reconcile its status as the world's major power with those limits," Salacuse -- a professor at Tufts' Fletcher School -- told the Monitor. "But if we reject the very international institution we helped to found to address the world's security issues, we risk losing that good will."

But the U.S. could repair some of its strained relations with the United Nations if it can begin rebuilding Iraq quickly.

"A quick war that soon has the U.S. returning to the Security Council to address Iraq's humanitarian needs, lift international sanctions and revamp Iraq's oil-for-food program, would have less impact than a protracted conflict that keeps pre-war bitterness alive," reported the Monitor.

Photo courtesy of the White House

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