Almost everyone agrees that the use of military force to gain territory or other benefit is illegitimate and should be discouraged. Most of us agree that Saddam Hussein and Iraq should not be allowed to profit from the invasion of Kuwait. To allow violence to result in gain would be to encourage the future use of violence. The only issue is how best to get Iraq out of Kuwait.
If the US attacks Iraq and defeats it quickly, Sad-dam Hussein becomes a martyr. Even if he dies, or is captured, Hussein will be a hero to those who support him. Future leaders and demagogues will be able to stir up mass movements by mentioning his name. The only lesson that will be learned is that one should not use force unless one has superior force.
If the US attacks Iraq and defeats it slowly, at the cost of thousands of soldiers’ lives and injuries, Hussein becomes even more of a hero because he was able to inflict suffering on the giant ‘oppressor’ nations. The forces of misguided nationalism everywhere will have learned that it pays to be heavily armed. Both winners and losers will resolve that, the next time there is a dispute, they must be stronger.
If the US attacks Iraq and a stalemate results because its military is unable to function well on the enemy’s home terrain, Hussein becomes a living hero and far more dangerous than he is today. He may be able to add captured arms to his arsenal, and some countries now allied against him may be forced by public opinion, to become neutral or to side with Hussein.
If the US does not attack, but the sanctions continue, Hussein’s country and his army will grind slowly to a halt. Shortages of spare parts and highly refined fuels will deplete his arsenal. He will have to reduce his training missions to conserve fuel and weapons. Soldiers now at a battle pitch of enthusiasm will slowly become bored and dejected. Food will be in short supply, appliances will fail and won’t be replaced, depression and boredom will set in. Hussein will not look powerful, he will not look like a hero, he will look like an impotent fool. Eventually Saddam Hussein’s control machinery will break down and the Kuwaitis will become free to pick their own system of government.
If military force is used, the belief that one must resort to force to settle disputes will be strengthened. If sanctions are allowed to defeat a well armed country, the world will learn that it does not pay to depend on military strength.
Saddam Hussein knows that his only hope of survival is a war. If the sanctions are allowed to bring his country to a slowly grinding halt, he will fail.
Remember that old bumper sticker, ‘Suppose they gave a war and nobody came’. Those who spent millions preparing that war will look like fools. Let’s put Saddam Hussein in that position.