Thursday, May 08, 2014

Progenitor of the OIF FAQ

Eric Says:
May 8th, 2014 at 5:56 am

G******* B******,

You’re over-complicating it. As I said, the truth of the 1991-2003 Iraq enforcement is open source and straightforward. The answers are in the record or a simple extrapolation from the record.

Try this:

Q: What were Bush’s alternatives with Iraq?

A: By the close of the Clinton admin, only 3 options remained for the US-led Iraq enforcement: A, kick the can with ‘containment’ (status quo), B, free Saddam, or C, resolution with credible threat of regime change.

Q: Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?

A: One, the pre-9/11 threat calculation of the Saddam problem was based on a conventional military, regional standard. Post 9/11, Saddam’s terrorist ties and unconventional capability changed the threat calculation for Iraq, eg, Clinton’s statement that after 9/11 Bush had an “absolute responsibility” to push to “finish the inspections” in Iraq, and Bush’s statement that a smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud in Manhattan.

Two, the ‘containment’ was broken. After Op Desert Fox, Saddam had voided the ceasefire and resolutions in Iraq policy, reconstituted Iraq’s NBC capabilities, fostered international opposition to the Iraq enforcement, and largely de facto neutralized the sanctions.

In other words, although it was 9/11 that pushed President Bush to resolve the Saddam problem, with or without 9/11, the Saddam problem had reached a head with the ‘containment’ broken.

Q: Why not free Saddam?

A: See Saddam’s history from 1980 onward.

Dealing cautiously with competitors that are rational actors is normal for the US. However, Saddam proved to be an irrational actor with dangerously bad judgement. As Bush said, we simply could not trust Saddam with any less than full compliance on all obligations, weapons and non-weapons related.

Freeing Saddam was out of the question. The Duelfer Report confirms that Saddam was not rehabilitated.

IR realists like to claim the US would have been better served with Saddam countering Iran. Their faulty premise is Saddam could be trusted to serve US interests. However, Saddam was convinced Iraq needed WMD in order to counter Iran. Iran’s WMD development is bad enough by itself. Irrational Saddam spurring an urgent Iran-Iraq WMD arms race was not the solution for countering Iran.

Q: Why did resolution of the Saddam problem require a credible threat of regime change?

A: One, because every lesser non-military and military option on Iraq had been used up during the Clinton admin. The bombing campaign of Dec 1998 was the penultimate military enforcement. By progressive sequence, the next step up was ground invasion, the ultimate military enforcement.

Two, when Clinton had exhausted the lesser coercive measures, he concluded regime change was most likely the only way to bring Iraq into compliance. Clinton made the object of regime change for Iraq a US law. Clinton also reinforced the US legal authority to use military force to bring Iraq into compliance.

Three, according to Hans Blix (UNMOVIC) and confirmed by the Duelfer Report, the credible threat of regime change was the only tool that could compel Saddam to cooperate with the UNMOVIC compliance test.

Again, after ODF, Saddam had set Iraq policy that the ceasefire and resolutions were void.

In the end, the credible threat of regime change wasn’t enough, either.

Q: Due to the Iraq enforcement that Bush inherited from Clinton, the US didn’t need a new UN authorization to invade Iraq. UNSC resolution 1441 merely summarized and restated the existing UNSC resolutions on Iraq. So, why the “dog and pony show in the UN”?

A: Because President Bush’s primary intent was not to invade Iraq. Rather, Bush’s primary intent was to resolve the Saddam problem expeditiously and conclusively.

It only looks as though Bush was intent on invading Iraq because a credible threat of regime change was the necessary piece to compel Saddam’s cooperation.

However, the record shows that Bush first gave Saddam the opportunity to prevent OIF and stay in power via compliance with all of Iraq’s obligations, weapons and non-weapons related.

The centerpiece of the opportunity that Bush gave to Saddam to switch off the credible threat of regime change was the chance via UNMOVIC to comply with Iraq’s weapons obligations.
Inserting UNMOVIC into Iraq required the US going to the UN, and UNMOVIC functioning in Iraq required a credible threat of regime change.

Q: Did Bush lie his way into a war with Iraq?

A: No.

One, the unreliability of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD was known from the outset and accounted for with Iraq’s presumption of guilt and burden of proof. By design, the intelligence could not trigger enforcement. Only Iraq’s non-compliance could trigger enforcement, and only Iraq’s compliance could switch off the enforcement.

Two, that Iraq did not sufficiently account for its documented NBC stocks isn’t disputed. The controversy is over the intelligence on subsequent Iraqi NBC stocks and programs.

The intelligence was what it was. In the context of the Saddam problem, Clinton and Bush officials were obligated to judge the intelligence in an unfavorable light for Iraq, and 9/11 compelled US officials to increase their wariness due to Saddam’s belligerence and guilt on terrorism.

The intelligence that Bush presented was the intelligence that was available. Bush’s mistake was presenting the intelligence inapposite of its actual, limited role in the Iraq enforcement.
Clinton had cited to Iraq’s non-compliance to declare “Iraq has failed its last chance” and justify military action. The non-compliance basis matched the enforcement procedure. Bush also cited to Iraq’s non-compliance, like Clinton, but Bush also cited to the intelligence, despite that the intelligence could not trigger enforcement.

Propagandists pounced on Bush’s error of presentation, but his mistake doesn’t change that Bush correctly applied the enforcement procedure.

Moreover, the Duelfer Report shows Iraq was in broad violation, just not in the same way suggested by the pre-war intelligence.

Q: Iraq failed its compliance test. Saddam called our bluff. Was that sufficient justification to trigger the credible threat of regime change?

A: Yes.

One, Bush had to make his call considering Iraq’s unaccounted for weapons and the intelligence at hand.

Two, Bush’s decision was for keeps. After Op Desert Fox, the credible threat of regime change was the last remaining leverage to compel Saddam’s cooperation. A credible threat of regime change is no longer credible if it’s a dud when triggered.

Calling off the regime change would have meant either a return to ‘containment’ or freeing Saddam. If returning to ‘containment’ was even practical at that point, the ‘containment’ option was broken. That only left freeing Saddam.

In hindsight, the Duelfer Report shows that a free Saddam meant a Saddam rearmed with WMD. Saddam’s motive was defeating the Iraq enforcement and rearming Iraq, not compliance and rehabilitation. He was reconstituting Iraq’s NBC capabilities, with an active program in the IIS, and was intent on fully restoring Iraq’s WMD, which he believed was necessary for Iraq’s national security, countering Iran, countering the US, and advancing his regional interests.

Three, the US-led Iraq enforcement was the defining UN enforcement of the post-Cold War. UN enforcement was already unreliable, and Bush wanted the UN to work better for the challenges after 9/11. If the US backed down when Saddam called our bluff, then UN enforcement of international norms with rogue actors and WMD proscription would have been undermined, perhaps beyond recovery.

You can criticize Bush’s liberal faith in the UN as idealistic, maybe even naïve. You can say Bush should have bypassed the UN for military action like Clinton did. But Bush deserves credit for giving Saddam a last full chance to avoid war, which indicates Bush’s chief motive was not invading Iraq, and did try to reform the UN as a credible enforcer for the 9/11 era.



I think that covers the usual range of questions that people have about the Iraq mission. Like I said, the truth of the Iraq mission is straightforward and open source. It should be easy to explain when correcting the popular narrative.

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