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Pollack on Iraq
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Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm has an editorial in today's NY Times about Iraq, its quest for nuclear weaponry, and the plausibility of that quest being fulfilled.

With the Bush administration set to put a resolution on Iraq before the United Nations Security Council next week, those opposed to war will rally around the notion that Saddam Hussein can be deterred from aggression. They will continue to say that the mere presence of United Nations inspectors will prevent him from building nuclear weapons, and that even if he were to acquire them he could still be contained.

Unfortunately, these claims fly in the face of 12 years and in truth more like 30 years of history.

He goes on to point out how inaccurate most previous estimates of Iraq's capabilities were in the past, and how outside observers, and even inspectors and experts working in Iraq, have continually underestimated Iraq's nuclear threat.

I don't think enough people in the anti-war camp have seriously addressed Pollack's points. Instead, they prefer to downplay his assertions or discredit his sources. Why anyone would want to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt seems strange to me, but that's what many in the anti-war camp continually do.

Later, Pollack points out that deterrence is most likely a flawed strategy, because Iraq is likely to use nukes as an umbrella for aggression, but he even admits:

Nor is there reason to be confident about how Saddam Hussein will behave once he has acquired a nuclear weapon.

And that's the main point. You can debate all day about what Hussein might do or not do once he is armed with nukes, but do you really want to take the chance of finding out first-hand?

Then Pollack compares Iraq to North Korea, and here I strongly disagree with his assessment:

Our experts may be split on how to handle North Korea, but they agree that the Pyongyang regime wants nuclear weapons for defensive purposes to stave off the perceived threat of an American attack. The worst that anyone can suggest is that North Korea might blackmail us for economic aid or sell such weapons to someone else (with Iraq being near the top of that list). Only Saddam Hussein sees these weapons as offensive as enabling aggression.

Yeah, they sure talk like all they want nukes for is defense. I have to admit, this does make me question Pollack's analytical skills somewhat. The worst anyone can suggest is that they might blackmail us or sell nukes to people who might use them against us? Oh gee, that's the worst that can happen? Well I feel much better. I think Pollack is trying to keep the focus on Iraq, but no one should make the mistake of downplaying the nuclear threat of North Korea right now.

We're right to focus on Iraq first, simply because we've already exhausted an extremely long diplomatic track with them, and it has failed.

North Korea should be engaged on a peaceful track first as well (but a vastly shorter one). If changes are not forthcoming (within six months to a year), we have a duty for the safety of our allies and interests in Asia. Likewise, the international community has a duty, for humanitarian reasons, for the people of North Korea, to threaten military action against Kim Jong-Il's regimes and then follow up on that threat if need be.

So what Pollack argues with Saddam, also holds true for Kim Jong-Il:

Given Saddam Hussein's current behavior, his track record, his aspirations and his terrifying beliefs about the utility of nuclear weapons, it would be reckless for us to assume that he can be deterred. Yes, we must weigh the costs of a war with Iraq today, but on the other side of the balance we must place the cost of a war with a nuclear-armed Iraq tomorrow.

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