August 27, 2002


The Right Way to Change a Regime (JAMES A. BAKER III, August 25, 2002, NY Times)
The only realistic way to effect regime change in Iraq is through the application of military force, including sufficient ground troops to occupy the country (including Baghdad), depose the current leadership and install a successor government. Anyone who thinks we can effect regime change in Iraq with anything less than this is simply not realistic. It cannot be done on the cheap. It will require substantial forces and substantial time to put those forces in place to move. We had over 500,000 Americans, and more soldiers from our many allies, for the Persian Gulf war. There will be casualties, probably quite a few more than in that war, since the Iraqis will be fighting to defend their homeland. Sadly, there also will be civilian deaths. We will face the problem of how long to occupy and administer a big, fractious country and what type of government or administration should
follow. Finding Saddam Hussein and his top associates will be difficult. It took us two weeks to locate Manuel Noriega in Panama, a small country where we had military bases.

Unless we do it in the right way, there will be costs to other American foreign policy interests, including our relationships with practically all other Arab countries (and even many of our customary allies in Europe and elsewhere) and perhaps even to our top foreign policy priority, the war on terrorism.

What does anyone realistically expect bureaucrats like Baker, Colin Powell, and Brent Scowcroft to say about overthrowing Iraq? "Okay, you're right, we completely screwed the pooch in '91. We should have maintained a no-fly policy over the entire country and aided the Kurds and Shiites and Saddam would be gone now." Those aren't the kind of admissions that people often make about the defining moments of their careers. It's forty years later and old Kennedy hands still pretend that the Cuban Missile Crisis, as a result of which we became an effective guarantor of Castro's regime, was an American victory. Thirty years from now, even after Saddam has been gone for twenty nine years, Jim Baker will still be regaling folks with the story of how wise it was to leave Saddam in place after the First Gulf War. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 27, 2002 8:34 AM
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