February 11, 2007

The Bureacratic Empire of the Iraq War

The state department strikes back about the Iraq war- about the detatched nature of the Feith office on Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction and the way that the analysts were not even consulted nor even knew what was going on at the top of the government. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan who carries the Youtube. The problem according to one analyst with the Intelligence Services for the policy makers was that the answers that the intelligence analysts produced weren't the right ones. So they changed the investigators and here we are years later...


james higham said...

Little bit more detail about your view on this, Tiberius because, of course, I can't get youtube here.

Political Umpire said...

IMO a lot of the stuff about WMD was a red herring even at the time. The Americans had been talking about 'regime change' for some months before the subject became the main focus in the pre-war debate. In fact, Blair's only real contribution to the 'special relationship' would seem to be the that WMD became more prominent after Blair seemed to commit Britain to the war (which he did presumably because he thinks that, at the last, Britain's security depends on the US; I've commented on that elsewhere). Blair thought that WMD was the only way of selling the war to the UN and to the British Parliament and public in turn.

In fact the last significant episode in the WMD history as I recall was in 1998 when Saddam expelled the inspectors and was bombed in the Desert Fox operation. We now know that either that operation was a brilliant success, or at least that it rocked Saddam enough to get rid of the last of the WMD, though he kept the cards close to his chest.

The point, however, is this. In early 1991 we know looking back that Saddam Hussein 100% had WMD and 100% was about to go to war with the West. As war approached, James Baker met Tariq Aziz. He delivered a clear message: use WMD and we will retaliate. Whether this meant a nuclear strike or something less wasn't said. Either way, Aziz delivered the message and Saddam Hussein took the hint. Iraq did not use WMD even as its forces were crushed in short order.

The lesson is that Saddam was indeed deterred by the threat of Western nuclear power, just as the Soviets had been during the Cold War. He knew that use of WMD against the West would write his own death warrant. He was deterred from using WMD even though he could not have been sure that America would not renege on its promise to the Arab coalition forces not to depose him, nor could he have been sure that enough of his forces would remain to protect him from internal opposition (America’s eventual miscalculation on that one was a very serious error, the significance of which has not received enough subsequent attention.)

In other words, if Saddam was ever going to use WMD, 1991 was the time to do it. He did not so, which reinforced (i) that he was not akin to the Al-Qaeda religious fanatics, or any other suicide attackers; and (ii) his primary concern was to stay in power himself, ahead of any imperialistic dreams of enlarging Iraq. So even on what was known for sure in 2003, there was no case for war on WMD.