How does containment work in the long-term?

I’m an American who hates the idea of the U.S. (along with “the coalition of the willing”) launching a war in Iraq, but fears that containment - which, from reading these boards, seems the preferred course of action articulated by the anti-war proponents - is not much of a long-term solution.

I start with four major assumptions - please correct me if I’m wrong:

  1. The world wants Saddam to disarm (as expressed by UNSC Resolution #1441).

  2. In order for robust inspections under UN auspices to bring about Saddam’s peaceful disarmament, a massive invasion force (made up mostly of U.S. troops) must be stationed on Iraq’s borders, permanently poised to invade. (Again, please correct me if I’m wrong.) It seems reasonable to assert that no matter what you think about Bush’s decision to deploy hundreds of thousands of US troops to the region, the presence of these troops is the main (if not sole) reason that Saddam is now “moving in the right direction” as Blix, El Baradei, et. al. now say.

  3. Considering Saddam’s reluctance to cooperate, my guess it will take probably 5-10 years for the inspectors to complete Saddam’s peaceful disarmament to the UN’s satisfaction (admittedly, it’s a rough guess). That is, unless American pressure on Iraq decreases - in that case, it will take longer.

  4. Disarming Saddam peacefully does not mean Saddam (or the Baathists) are toppled from power.

Therefore, let’s say the U.S. has a change of heart and decides to adhere to the anti-war wishes of the world community. Bush decides that containment is the best policy.

Does this mean that hundreds of thousands of mostly American troops (as well as UK, Australian, Canadian, etc.) will have to be permanently ensconsed in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Turkey? If history is a guide, I imagine the permanent presence of hundreds of thousands of mostly non-Muslim troops will really piss off the people of these hosting countries and become juicy recruiting material for al Qaeda.

I imagine that if the inspections take 5-10 years, by the year 2008, popular pressure to evict the American infidels will soar, and the hosting governments will encourage anti-American sentiment to take the heat off themselves. I have a pretty good idea of what that leads to (see “2001, 11 September”).

Therefore, we can either step down (and give the tacit go-ahead for Saddam, or Uday or Qusay to rearm) or become a permanent military presence in the region with all the risks that entails.

Also, what do you think will be the effect on troop morale?

Does this also mean sanctions have to continue, and that the US will play the fall guy for all the innocent Iraqi deaths that ensue (which also makes great recruiting material for bin Laden). I fancy myself a decent human being, and I have a really hard time endorsing sanctions as a legitimate way to punish Saddam - obviously, it hurts innocent Iraqis more than anyone.

I appreciate any and all responses. Thanks.

The way I see it is that you either agree with the UN resolutions that Saddam must dissarm for the sake of “world peace”, or you should state that an armed Saddam is not a threat and dictate policy that way.

Even the most stringent peaceful dissarmerment procedures would never ensure that Saddam was dissarmed completely. The UN could set up permanent residence inside of Iraq and be part of the Iraqi government, but unless Saddam does not desire to acquire WMD, no inspections reasonable would be willing to stop him. And no one can seriously assert that is Saddams intent.

err not willing, I meant able.

It’s probably not necessary to have hundreds of thousands of troops permanently in the ME to contain it. A smaller presence along with the threat of war and heightened air strikes ought to do the trick. That was how it worked in the 91-98 period IIRC when ,it needs to be remembered, vast quantities of weapons were destroyed.

Another proposal in the intrusive inspections suggested by the Carnegie Endowment which have a timetable of a year to substantially disarm Iraq. You could keep the troop presence at present levels for that period.

As for popular opinion in the ME, they may not like American troops in their countries but I bet they like the idea of an American invasion and occupation of Iraq even less. To end containment and go to war is a classic case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Just because the status quo is imperfect doesn’t mean the US should make things worse.

That should be “not necessary to have hundreds of thousands of troops permanently in the ME to contain Iraq

BTW another important point is that war is irreversible but containment is not. If one of the containment/disarmament proposals like the Carnegie proposals is found not to work war can always be tried later. If anything the US will have greater support for having tried an alternative for a year.

With respect I ask, how is it not necessary to have these numbers of troops? Without the imminent threat of invasion, what incentive does Saddam have to cooperate with inspectors?

It’s hard to argue that the smaller numbers of troops we’ve had in the region prior to this most recent buildup has compelled Saddam to comply with the treaty that ended the Gulf War, much less UNSCR 1441. Only the threat of invasion - which gains credibility only when massive numbers of US troops flock to the region - has gotten Saddam to cooperate.

It’s the threat of war along with greater diplomatic unity that has gotten Saddam to cooperate. It doesn’t have to be an immediate threat with massive troop concentrations at his borders. Saddam started making concessions last year before all the troops were assembled.

Saddam allowed inspectors to operate during 1991-1998 without hundreds of thousands of troops in the ME. He did not co-operarte much with them ,of course, but it was still enough to destroy vast quantities of his weapons.

Containment doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be a better option than war. And once again it’s important to note that containment is a reversible strategy. If Saddam starts obstructing inspectors again it’s still possible to go to war next year with substantially greater international support. War, however, is irreversible.

Cyber, may I ask why you think there would be greater international support for war next year, should Saddam thwart inspections? Wouldn’t you think that the same debate would exist (i.e. “even though Saddam has obstructed inspections and he still has WMD, he can be disarmed peacefully through inspections - so let’s give the inspections more time”). This also gives Saddam another year to continue clandestine WMD production.

Minus an outright attack by Iraq or obvious incontrovertible evidence that Saddam gave bin Laden weaponry (and I suspect if it’s the latter, many anti-war folks will claim it’s a CIA plot), what makes you think there will be any sort of paradigm shift in world opinion toward a U.S.-led war?

With that said, I must admit that the U.S. has done a terrible job in marketing the benefits of this war to the world, and the U.S. needs to do a much better job of being a global citizen so that more people around the world might trust us a little more.

I’ll take this one. Absent a direct attack on US soil by Saddam, most of those opposed to war would never favor military action in Iraq. As to such allies as France and Russia, they would still probably oppose war, as a war with Iraq would threaten to invalidate the oil contracts they have. And for France in particular, it would also bring to light all of the forbidden weapons materials that we suspect they sold to Iraq.

The official methodology of the UN is to use the “threat” of war to get Saddam to comply, but war itself is not actually an option. If Saddam does so much as give lip service to the notion of inspections, that’s enough in the UN’s eyes to satisfy the spirit of the disarming process sufficiently that war is deemed unnecessary. Given that Saddam has refused to adequately abide by UNSC resolutions for 12 years now, and there has been no forceful response (note: another UNSC resolution is not a “foreceful response”, even when it includes language that can be interpreted as “we really mean it this time”), it is reasonable to assume that there is no level of insolence from Saddam that would spark a war.

Essentially, the UN has decided that it would be nice for Iraq to disarm, but if it doesn’t, it’s not a big deal. The only nations of note that really seem to consider Saddam’s possession of WMDs a threat are the UK and the US - the rest don’t care all that much. Note that the UN didn’t give the issue half a thought until the US brought it up.
To answer the OP, containment in the long term works as follows:

Inspectors wander around blindly, occasionally stumbling across some WMDs. They then destroy them. Meanwhile, Saddam continues his development programs. Eventually, he manages to come up with a nasty enough weapon that he can credibly threaten the destruction of thousands or millions of non-Iraqis. He then kicks out inspectors, and tells them if they return, he’ll nuke, say, Israel. We then give up on containment, and Saddam turns into the next Kim Il Jong. But hey, we averted war.

If Saddam is such an insane psycho threat, how come it took us eleven years to get scared?

So, I rearrange Jeff’s scenario a bit. Inspectors and overflights remain for as long as necessary. Saddam may play with his deadly little chemical set as long as he can keep it secret. Lord knows, everybody else probably is, including us. We most likely know more different rotten ways to kill folks than Saddam even knows exist. One thing for damn sure he can’t do, and thats test a nuke or a serious balllistic missile. We keep focused and alert. Saddam squirms every once in a while, America growls until he behaves. Saddam gets old and dies. Thousands of other Iraqi’s suffer the same fate. As do any number of US soldiers. And hey! We averted war!

So you are in the group that thinks that an armed Saddam is not a threat. Why the bluster about inspections being important then. I would love to see you, and those like you, protesting the resolutions against Iraq instead of the disengenuous assertions that it’s ok if he is only a little pregnant. :rolleyes:

The world, as expressed through the UN, considers Saddam enough of an insane psycho threat to pass Resolution 1441, calling upon him to disarm. The UN has not called upon other countries, such as the US and Russia, to do the same. I suppose that’s because the world does not consider countries such as the U.S. and Russia to be insane psycho threats (although I do allow that plenty of people around the world think the U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace - wrongly, IMHO).

As I asserted before, I think the only reason Saddam will cooperate with inspections at all is when he feels a direct danger to his power and his life. For this to be a credible threat, there must be a massive, mostly American, force permanently on the brink of invasion. I don’t put much stock in Saddam’s military judgment, but I think he knows that in order to successfully invade Iraq with the intent of toppling the Baathist regime, it will take a very large contingent of troops - probably numbering in the hundreds of thousands (perhaps someone with the requisite military experience will enlighten me if I’m wrong).

Won’t these massive numbers of mostly non-Muslim troops permanently based in Iraq’s neighboring countries cause a lot of unrest over time, as it has done in Saudi Arabia? Especially if the same dysfunctional political culture continues to exist in these countries?

“Cyber, may I ask why you think there would be greater international support for war next year, should Saddam thwart inspections?”
Well obviously the case for peaceful disarmament rests on inspectors being allowed to do their job. If Saddam makes this impossible then it will be much easier to argue for war. I don’t think the whole world would back a US-led war but there would probably be substantially less opposition than today.

Once again let me remind you that inspectors in the 1991-98 period did achieve a great deal without there being hundreds of thousands of American troops in the ME. So the basic argument of your OP is contradicted by history.