It has been five weeks since President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, coming on the eve of an impending House impeachment vote against him for committing perjury and abusing power. To those of us who have long argued for strong military action in Iraq, Clinton’s thinly veiled “wag the dog” exercise was, to say the least, sickening.
Much like the previous attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan that occurred as Monica Lewinsky was returning to the grand jury, this latest military action is simply a continuation of Clinton’s misuse of the U.S. military.
Make no mistake about it, under normal circumstances Bill Clinton barely tolerates the continued presence of America’s armed forces let alone uses them in any meaningful way. Clinton seems unable to shed his McGovernite distaste for the use of force and his deep-rooted counter-culture hatred for the military. For the last six years, he mounted a campaign that has taken the once mighty military that defeated the Soviet Union without firing a shot and turned it into a sheepish police force in places like Somalia and Haiti unable to deal with a third-rate dictator who cannot even mount a rudimentary defense.
It is no surprise therefore that when Mr. Clinton chose to use force it was for the wrong reasons and without any clear objective. The stated objective of the attack on Iraq was to diminish Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability. However, given that the UN inspectors who have been on the ground in Iraq for seven years have yet to locate these weapons, it is difficult to claim that this or any other goal was accomplished, except to put on an impressive fireworks show over Baghdad.
The fact that Iraq received such scant attention during Clinton’s State of the Union address only one month after the largest military operation since the 1991 Gulf War only confirms the absence of any credible and sustained policy. Clinton’s pledge to “work for the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people” should be the beginning and not the end.
A real policy on Iraq would recognize two critical factors: 1. the problem is Saddam and his regime, not the weapons of mass destruction; and 2. the United Nations and Saddam’s supporters there only serve to weaken the United States’ ability to deal effectively with Iraq and use force, the only language that Saddam understands.
The best and only way to deal with Iraq is to weaken Saddam’s regime while empowering pro-Western factions that can effectively lead the Iraqi people. No matter how many times Clinton threatens Iraq (or even launches another weak attack), as long as Saddam is in power, he will continue to build his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Part of the solution would be to create safe havens in the north and south of Iraq where anti-Saddam forces can gather and build an effective “government-in-exile,” which should be recognized by the United States and other Western powers.
No plan would succeed without weakening Saddam’s hold on power. It is vital that the United States now renew its air campaign to destroy the Republican Guard, Saddam’s only real means of maintaining his grip on the country. This campaign should not be for four days, but for as long as it takes. The fact that Clinton planned to stop any U.S. attack because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan proves beyond any doubt that he was not serious about undermining Saddam’s government or even destroying his ability to threaten his neighbors.
Iran and Iraq fought during seven Ramadans in their eight-year war. Egypt and Syria launched their 1973 war against Israel during the month of Ramadan. Clearly this holy month is no deterrent to Muslims killing Muslims or Muslims killing Jews. Why then should it stop the United States from defending its interests?
Bill Clinton has neither the courage nor the moral clarity to initiate a policy such as this, no matter how necessary it is. Last year, Congress began this process by allocating $97 million for the anti-Saddam forces in Iraq, but that is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of these freedom fighters.
These forces need more than a few million dollars; they need to know that the United States and its president, are committed to freeing the people of Iraq from Saddam’s brutality, and not just to saving Clinton’s deteriorating presidency.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.