As Congress begins to focus on the nature of a US war with Iraq,
lawmakers might keep one thing in mind: In some ways, that war has
On the US side, the war involves developing an American political
consensus that such a fight is in the national interest, as well as
settling disputes in government about what kind of attack plan will
be needed. One side effect of this effort: surprisingly open
discussion about how and when the US military might prosecute such a
On the Iraqi side, war means efforts to defuse momentum for a
major US attack - by wooing broad Arab popular support, among other
It is often said that war is the extension of politics by other
means. In the case of the US and Iraq, the opposite may also be
"The key battle is already under way, and is largely political,"
writes Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, in a net assessment document
presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.
Iraq cannot hope to withstand a concerted conventional attack
from US forces, points out Mr. Cordesman. Thus the stakes in the
current geopolitical wrangle, for Mr. Hussein, are stark: victory or
"Iraq has been involved in a political struggle against the US
and its neighbors ever since the ceasefire in the Gulf war that is
an extension of war by other means," says Cordesman.
In Washington, the two days of hearings on the subject of Iraq
held this week by the Senate Foreign Relations panel were explicitly
meant to start a national discussion around key aspects of what
would be a Gulf war redux.
"We need to know everything possible about the risks of action
and of inaction. Ignoring these factors could lead us into something
for which the American public is wholly unprepared," wrote committee
chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware, and ranking minority
member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, in an op-ed article this
Why little opposition in Congress
In general there seems little opposition in Congress to the
notion of another war with Hussein, although that could change as
preparations for physical battle become more apparent. Most
lawmakers are convinced that the Bush administration is very serious
about removing Hussein, since some administration officials have
talked about doing so almost from their first days in office.
Most may also believe that the administration will succeed, or at
least produce something that could be defined as a victory. …