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POSSIBILITY OF WAR A look at the pros and cons



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Q: What's the rush? Shouldn't we give inspectors more time?

NO: More time? Twelve years of diplomacy, economic sanctions and limited military strikes have failed, noted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last Saturday. And we still don't know if Saddam Hussein has destroyed his chemical or biological weapons.

U.N. inspections have failed to disclose all of Iraq's illegal weapons programs. Aggressive diplomacy, at least, has forced a fuller accounting of Saddam's human-rights record and weapons stockpile.But regime change would eliminate any role Saddam might play as chemical or biological quartermaster for Al-Qaida or any other terrorist group. No president can run the risk of another major U.S. city being attacked. To put this in context, recent history suggests that U.S. military action is often needed to end tyrannical government. As Secretary of State Colin Powell argued last week, the integrity of the United Nations is at stake. Timing is also critical. The United States can't permanently mobilize the troops needed to guarantee victory in combat. Summer temperatures in the region also warrant military engagement sooner, rather than later. And it's likely that as soon as the threat of war is gone, Saddam will freeze the inspectors out again.

YES: The U.S. has convincingly argued that Iraq poses a problem. It has not, however, made clear why war now is the solution.

Over the past 12 years, U.S. and U.N. actions have forced Iraq out of Kuwait and contained Saddam Hussein with economic sanctions, targeted bombing raids and high-profile weapons inspections. Since then, Saddam has not directly threatened the security of any nation. According to former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, Iraq poses "absolutely nothing" in the way of a military threat to the United States.

So why invade now? Bush says that 9/11 underscores the willingness of America's enemies to strike hard, without notice. But there's no proven connection between Saddam and 9/11, and evidence linking Iraq with Al-Qaida remains vague. Aggressive new U.N. inspections and intensified global awareness have led to a fuller accounting of Iraq's weapons programs and Hussein's dismal human rights record. Diplomacy alone may never remove Hussein from power. But it is removing any power he may have to threaten the United States.

Q: Doesn't North Korea pose a more immediate threat?

NO: Iraq and North Korea are both threats to world peace, but each should be handled differently.

The military options for dealing with North Korea are fewer and far more complicated than those for Iraq. North Korea's border is only 30 miles from Seoul. The risks of massive casualties are much higher. Yes, North Korea is run by a dictator with a war machine far out of proportion to his country's security needs. And Kim Jong Il may have nuclear weapons. But unlike in the Middle East, powerful countries surrounding North Korea -- Russia, China, Japan and South Korea -- have vital interests in defusing this threat. Only the United States can lead a credible coalition against Iraq. Israel's security interests, and therefore U.S. involvement, will come into play should Saddam Hussein be left unchecked. Regime change in Iraq would also send a signal to North Korea should it attempt to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

YES: Iraq poses a disturbing possible future threat. North Korea poses a current actual threat. Unlike Iraq, North Korea may already have nuclear weapons, and it possesses the materials and know-how needed to make more. Also, the communist North is developing missiles that could strike Alaska, Hawaii, and possibly even the U.S. West Coast. While Iraq has relied heavily on supplies from foreign companies to build its weapons programs, North Korea has been a major exporter of weapons technology.In November, a CIA report indicated that Pyongyang had passed missile technology to Pakistan -- hardly helpful to the standoff on the Indian subcontinent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that the North Koreans "continue to be the single largest proliferator of ballistic-missile technology on the face of the Earth." Any U.S. invasion of Iraq would only distract from the more urgent threat: North Korea.

Source: Christian Science Monitor




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