It’s been a while, but I saw this thread, and thought I would give Sam a bit of the debate from the other side of the crowd.
As I mentioned in a much earlier thread (I will have to find some way to dig it up): I think that leaving Saddam in power doesn’t, in any way, threaten US interests. As a matter of fact, a recent article in Foreign Policy (article [url=http://www.foreignpolicy.com/, look for “An Unnecessary War”) agrees with this summation; Saddam, as a political survivor, is unlikely to take any of the chances described in Sam’s “Worst case” hypothesis above. In fact, I think that Sam’s best and worse cases are just as much “fantasies” as any other possible hypotheses put forward so far.
Let’s look at the facts:
Before the recent push to oust Saddam, US forces in the Gulf were actually on the decrease: up to 9/11, we were slowly drawing down forces in Saudi, and troop strength in places like Qatar was minimal (in fact, I can personally attest that there were no more than 100 military personnel, of all types, in Qatar on 9/11). Even Kuwait was primarily a “pre-position” site, meaning that, although we had a lot of equipment stored there, there was no large amount of troops. In 1998, when the last Iraqi “crisis” occurred, we “boosted” troop strength to 20,000; after that, we dwindled down to between 5 and 6 thousand in the entire theater. When compared with the number of US troops in Korea, Japan, Europe, etc., the deployment in the Gulf was relatively insignificant, especially in terms of amount of money spent.
Our military relationship with Saudi Arabia started long before the Gulf war, and had nothing to do with Iraq. Why this belief that, once Iraq is either “democratized” or “beheaded” that we will all of a sudden pull out? No basis in fact here; we have strategic reasons for remaining within the borders of Saudi, and as long as the Saud monarchy stays in power, we will most likely always have some military presence there. Our military forces are tied to the Saud family more than the country itself; it is fallacious to assume that we only came there to defend Saudi against Iraq. The royal family, even in the face of mounting criticism, would not tell us to leave; many of them feel that would be the beginning of the end of the monarchy.
The development of nuclear weapons in Iraq would take many years (even the most hawkish in the administration admit that Saddam is years away from having even the most basic nuclear device); even if they did, there is no evidence, either now or from past behavior, that he would use them, especially against his neighbors. Nuking Kuwait or Ankara is ridiculous; once again, nothing in reality would support such a claim. Same with Israel: although the Israelis would be the only possible real target, besides Iran, for such a weapon, the reality is that it would never happen. Why? The same reason that detente worked in the Cold War: because he would be annihilated within minutes. No matter how many nuclear weapons he builds, they could only serve as deterrents, much the same as the NK or Pakistan/India cases show. Indeed, there are few places in the world that have as much hate between them as India and Pakistan; once they admitted to nuclear arsenals, they actually threatened using them on each other. Yet even in relatively unstable areas, the use of such weapons as deterrents are much greater than their physical deployment in combat.
Though Saddam has shown support for Palestinian groups, some of which are known terrorist organizations, there is no widespread “support of terrorism”; compared to the Libyans in the '80’s, who supported everyone from the IRA to the Italians, Germans, and even some South American organizations, Saddam’s support of terrorism is clearly defined, and in relation to the Palestinian cause. This has existed in Iraq for over 30 years; they have been one of the most steadfast supporters of the Palestinians in the Middle East; right or wrong, it has little to do with Saddam himself. Once again, supporting terrorists would be out of character for Hussein, and would only serve to destabilize his own position; he knows he has many enemies, chief among them fundamentalists of both the Sunni and Shi’a camps. Handing them WMD would be suicidal: he wouldn’t be able to guarantee that they wouldn’t be turned against him, and if a group actually perpetrated an act against the US or its allies, he knows we would somehow blame it on him whether the proof existed or not.
Use of a nuclear “umbrella” to build militarily is a false assumption; when playing the game with other nuclear powers, the likelihood of their use diminishes greatly (see Condoleeza Rice on this, as she stated a similar thesis in 2000 - again, ref the Foreign Policy article above). In specific, the US and Israel both possess the ability to conventionally destroy Iraq at a whim; Saddam has no illusions as to our capabilities, and knows that he would be dealt with swiftly in the event he ever gained a military edge (ref the Iraqi destruction of the Osirak Reactor). “Destruction of oil fields”, etc. as a possibility is just completely unfounded and implausible; he would be slitting his own throat, and has not yet proved such a desire.
In all, although the general opinion of Saddam is that he is some unchained madman, he has not conducted himself as such; as the authors of the above-mentioned article point out, he has proven himself to be quite a survivor, politically, and, though guilty of miscalculations and misjudgments, does not fit the profile so often portrayed in the media. BTW- this is in no way a defense of his personal traits, simply a realistic description (without resort to hyperbole and distortion) of the regime as led by Hussein.
As far as the OP goes, cases are as follows, realistically:
No invasion, Saddam stays in power. Now there are two possibilities:
a) (Assumption that the current administration simply decides war is too costly, but still keeps it’s current policies in tact re the Middle East) We simply back off, and allow the UN to handle the situation in Iraq (this is extremely unlikely, considering the administration’s opinion of the UN and itself, but I’m playing the game here). Sanctions continue, but France leads an effort to allow more outside investment in Iraq, with other European nations and Russia as partners. As the US has backed down, Saddam is seen as a hero to many Muslims and Arabs; as such, the US begins to get shut out of the Middle East. As we would be seen as bumblers and meddlers by most of the governments there, we would simply be courted for our money; the EU sees the opportunity, and makes overtures to the moderate governments of the region. A polarization occurs, as the US and Israel find themselves increasingly marginalized. A change of government in the US to an administration more capable of dealing with the world community, and less aware of our “Superpower” status, realizes the problems and tries to rectify the situation by approaching Israel, the EU, and the Arab moderates with a more even hand.
b) (Assumption that the administration tries a different tack: once they realize the war is too costly, they work with the UN, the EU, and Russia to formulate a plan of monitoring for Iraq, with the incentive of reduction of sanctions over the long term) Iraq, having seen to have been reined in by the US, at least now has some incentives (besides destruction) to comply with world and UN demands. As such, they allow inspections and monitoring, within a framework allowing the reduction of sanctions; in addition, foreign investment is increased, as the country and situation becomes more stable. Saddam grows older, and his sons, neither of which are considered particularly stable, are suspect by the larger Ba’ath political entity. As foreign involvement increases, Saddam and his family find themselves increasingly isolated: a purge is too difficult and costly (they now see investment and money flowing, don’t want to disrupt that), and the Ba’athists feel more capable of staging opposition (within the empowered elite, of course) against the sons. As Saddam weakens with age, he becomes like Qaddafi in Libya; widely seen as disconnected from the real world, but, because of his brutal reputation, still needing to be handled with kid gloves. Unlike in Libya, however, there are a core of politicians within Iraq that can subtly manage Saddam into a corner, thereby restricting his (and his sons) abilities. With outside support, such an elite could possibly move into power; it would probably start out as a junta of sorts, then consolidate into one individual (someone military, such as Musharef in Pakistan). Though democracy would be a long way away, it would have to go through a few steps; if adequately paid off, Saddam’s sons would be little trouble, as neither has demonstrated the willingness to go through the political machinations that their father has.
The big problem is, if Saddam stays in power, how does the US act? It isn’t simply a matter of our walking out at this stage; there has to be an organized retreat from the current position. If we had never threatened war to start with, the situation would be much different now; as we already have, it has to be treated much more delicately. We don’t want to lose face in an Arab world that already sees us as relatively ineffective (the “war” in Afghanistan has not really gone anywhere, and we are not a player in the Palestinian conflict, with the exception of our unflagging support for Sharon); our pulling back from the brink, as it were, would have to be handled with a great deal of finesse (which is in critically short supply in the current administration). Basically, both best and worst cases depend on us, and our abilities or desires to work with the UN, the EU, Russia, and the Arab states; as our current administration has not shown a focused determination to cooperate (instead, I would have to say that “bullying” is the best term for our actions), I think anything I stated above as hypothesis has little basis in reality.
For the record: we will go to war, the only thing that needs to be set is the date. It will be a mistake, whether it turns out to be quick and clean, or long and dirty; things in the ME will change, and not for the better. The Arab moderates will have little reason to be happy: we will be running a military or puppet administration in Iraq, and the factions will all be jockeying (if not actually fighting) for control; the Turks will most likely have to move their own troops into the north, to take care of the Kurds (unless we use our troops to quell the inevitable unrest); the Syrians and the Jordanian regimes will have to be on the lookout for unrest, as large portions of their populations complain that they didn’t do enough to stop the flow of either Kurd or Iraqi immigrants; the Saudis will have to beef up their internal security, as a large portion of the Salafist populous becomes unhappy with Saudi support of the US puppet regime in Iraq; there will be serious divisions within OPEC on just how Iraqi oil is handled, and whether the US has the right to control flow and adjust quotas; on and on and on, ad nauseam…
Regardless of what one may think, the administration has looked at very little regarding the long term effects of this adventure; to say that we will instill a democracy, and it will start a “domino effect”, ignores history, culture, and traditions of the Middle East (and the world, I might add). It is dangerously and foolishly naive; of all the “fantasies”, it ranks right up there at the top, because many in the administration (and on these boards) seem to actually believe that such a notion could work. And it’s odd that it comes from a group of conservatives that normally wouldn’t want to see the government in charge of anything; yet you trust them to conduct such an experiment of “top down” governance? So basically we are going to install a democratic government, everyone will see how great it is, and bam, off we go? Does anyone remember what happened to Eastern Europe when the wall fell? How many people had clamored for free enterprise, open government, etc., to be like the West, and what happened when they actually got it? Like I said: there is an awful lot of wishful thinking going on here, and most of it is on the part of the administration. And we will all pay for it later, I’m sure.