consequences of nuking Iraq

Charles Jannuzi b_rieux at
Sun Jan 26 02:13:56 MST 2003

MJ wrote, in part:

>Blair's public line
>has been that it is necessary to disarm or
>depose Saddam in order to prevent
the spread of terrorism, but it is obviously more
>rational to suppose that
>attacking Iraq is highly likely to result in
>fearsome revenge attacks on
>capitalist states.

I reply:

This argument consistently comes out of the 'owl'
and the 'liberal' camps, and we have to be
careful that we aren't just feeding their
fear-mongering. It would not seem that there are
any groups out there right now who could mount
fearsome revenge attacks on a massive scale, and
even if they could, I doubt it would be with
'weapons of mass destruction'. The ricin that's
got the UK all upset isn't really very practical
for killing or sickening thousands; it would be
far better for assassinating individuals.

Again, MJ:

>I argued on the A-List back in September that a
>US war of aggression against
>Iraq was not very likely for these and other
>reasons, and I still think it
>is not likely.

So why doesn't the daily bombing of Iraq by the
US and the UK--in clear violation of any UN
resolutions--not motivate these forces of
revenge? Or did it (9-11?).


> It is more likely that the troops will be stood
>down and the
>carrier fleets will have to go home again.

I think this is counterproductive to say right
now, because the fleets and the troops are
gearing up, not standing down. Clearly,
widespread popular opposition to this war has put
a crimp in the Bush caudillo war machine.

> Like the Grand Old Duke of York
>in the nursery rhyme, Bush has marched them up
>the hill and will march them
>ignominiously down again. It will be a famous
>defeat for US imperialism and
>the possibility of this perhaps explains Bush's
>very public temper tantrums
>and petulance just now. But who really knows? We
>live in interesting times.

Hey, he's playing up to his constituencies when
he does that, you know. At least four things have
made him hesitate: (1) spontaneous and growing
popular oppositon to the war from all over the
political spectrum; (2) warnings from the 'owls'
of the national security state that his war
against Hussein threatens to derail THEIR 'war on
terror' (and errant Islam); (3)  Rumsfeld's
troops are really only ready to bomb from the air
and do what they did in Afghanistan (and are not
ready for a siege and capture of Baghdad); (4)
Bush-Cheney-Powell haven't really worked out what
the hell to do with Iraq once Hussein is gone
(it's inaccurate to say Hussein oppresses
minorities, he oppresses a majority as well, and
that is how to keep Iraq together in a way that
is amenable to Sunni Arab states).

The current pickle would seem to be how to start
a very heavy bombing campaign while Blix's boys
are still in there. That can't be done yet. But
once they are out, the US will start a hot and
heavy air campaign as it takes its time getting
the armor and troops ready (with the hopes that
Hussein will fall or flee before the troops have
to go).

Finally, I wouldn't make too much of the US's
nuke plans as something newly relevant to the
discussion. The use of tactical nuclear weapons
has long been a part of US military doctrine. If
the national security state is talking tough
about using small, pinpoint nukes, it's also to
send a message to Iran, N. Korea, Libya, and even
Osama Bin Laden (hiding out in Pakistan
probably). In the Cold War, even the use of
conventional weapons had become 'nuclear', in the
sense that it would require presidential orders.
Afterall, even if you got into a little dust up
with Soviet or Warsaw Pact troops (like in all
the really bad Hollywood films), it could result
in all-out war and then the MAD doctrine was
supposed to be invoked to avoid defeat. I'm sure
such caution still applies when dealing with any
situation where the country does indeed have
nuclear weapons and is known to have committed
hostile actions toward the US (Israel, China). N.
Korea's most effective 'weapon of mass
destruction' is its large standing army parked on
the hostile border with S. Korea. And the US's
bluff in dealing with it has always been, if you
attack, we may well nuke.

OTOH, Hussein barely has enough stuff to maintain
control of the center of his country and
represents a fairly easy target for the US. It's
the possible occupation of his country that is
keeping the folks at the national security state
up most nights. The US is uniquely central to the
so-called system of global capitalism: no other
country could possibly run such consistently huge
trade and government deficits. But an expensive
military build up (most of it ineffective for
what the US would want to do in the ME anyway)
along with an expensive occupation of Iraq could
show that the emperor has no clothes anymore.

C.  Jannuzi

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