Q: Should U.S. Policy on Iraq Be Aimed at Toppling Saddam Hussein?

Article excerpt

Yes: Allowing Saddam to remain will lead to a costlier war in the future.

Thanks to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Clinton Administration, there is no war with Iraq, but neither is there real peace. While some consider the secretary general's deal with Saddam Hussein to be a triumph of diplomacy as well as a blessing, it actually is a formula for disaster. It amounts only to a stay of execution, not a commutation of sentence.

Indeed. it safely can be predicted that at some point in the foreseeable future, the United States will be obliged to engage in hostilities with Saddam's Iraq. And since Saddam is using the present breathing room to continue his production and secreting of an array of weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, one fact is certain: When it comes -- probably at the Iraqi despot's initiative -- war with Iraq will be a far bloodier affair with more unpredictable repercussions than would be the case if a properly conceived campaign were launched today.

Such a campaign would start from a very different premise than that advanced by the Clinton administration, however: The problem is Saddam and his ruling clique. His covert production and stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons and of the missiles that might deliver them is but a symptom, not the source, of the danger we face from Iraq.

Unfortunately, it is far from clear that the use of air power can provide an appreciable amount of symptomatic relief -- the objective President Clinton has set of seriously diminishing the Iraqi WMD program. What is certain, though, is that even if it could the effect would be extremely short-lived.

The unpleasant fact of life is that as long as Saddam remains in a position to mobilize his technicians and reassemble the necessary chemical precursors and biological seed corn -- at least some of which assuredly will survive any practicable bombing campaign -- his WMD programs quickly can be reconstituted. It is a delusion to believe otherwise. Such a delusion is an irresponsible basis for U.S. policy.

There only is one course of action that holds any promise for actually addressing the threat posed by Iraqi chemical, biological and, eventually, nuclear arms in a meaningful way: End Saddam's reign of terror, once and for all.

Although Clinton and his senior subordinates have been at pains to disavow any intention of effecting Saddam's overthrow, other U.S. leaders have grasped the necessity for dealing with the iraqi threat in such a systemic fashion. Foremost among the latter has been once and future presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

In a Jan. 11, 1998, memorandum to the congressional leadership, Forbes called for the United States to make the fall of Saddam from power an explicit U.S. national-security priority. And as far back as last fall, he offered concrete suggestions about ways in which the United States could facilitate such an outcome. In particular. he has called for the extension of a nofly zone throughout Iraq (including a ban on flights by armed helicopters, the weapons Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf allowed Saddam to use with devastating effect in 1991 to crush the popular uprisings that President Bush had called for but failed to assist). Forbes, a former chairman of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting, also has urged that the U.S. government enable the free flow of news and information into Iraq via radio broadcasts as a highly leveraged way to undermine the Iraqi regime.

Leading members of Congress have begun to reach similar conclusions. As the Washington Times reported on Feb. 4, "Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi called for decisive military action that would wipe out not only Saddam's weapons stockpile, but the Iraqi leader himself. `If we're going to do this, let's go all the way.' he said. `Until we get [Saddam] out of Iraq, we're never going to get this situation under control,' Lott continued, adding that if the proper steps are taken, `Let's hit `em hard, right up front. …