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Perspectives On War - The Right 

by Sen. John mcCain (R-Ariz.)


In his Feb. 13 statement from the Senate floor (excerpted below), McCain said containment has failed and that UN policy toward Iraq has been a "moral failure"





The United States' containment of Soviet power was arguably the most successful exercise of grand strategy in history. It preserved peace between the superpowers in an age when war between them would have had unthinkable consequences, and held the Soviets in check until inherent political and economic faults and the just demands of its subject populations forced an empire to collapse. Today, new threats to civilization again defy our imagination in scale and potency. I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others, and where a liberated people assume the rights and responsibilities of freedom.


But there can be no moral defense of war that does not comprehensively explore and reject, because they fall short, every other means of achieving our objective. Articulate critics of war against Iraq argue that containment has worked, that it serves our interests in preventing the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction, and that a regime with a history of aggression, development and use of such weapons can somehow be isolated and sanctioned into a benign state where it does not threaten its neighbors or the wider international community.


Proponents of containment claim that Iraq is in a "box." But it is a box with no lid, no bottom, and whose sides are falling out. Within this box are definitive footprints of germ, chemical and nuclear programs, and from it has come blood money for Palestinian terrorists and support for the international terrorism of al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam. And as he has done before, at a time of his choosing, Saddam Hussein will spring, like a jack-in-the-box, to rain devastation on his people and his neighbors, a devastation against which the daily curse of living in the shadow of his terror will pale.


A strategy of containment that tolerates Saddam Hussein's threat by allowing him the means to achieve his ends is a triad of failure: a failure of policy that risks devastating consequences based on hope without cause; an intellectual failure to come to grips with a grave and growing danger; and a moral failure to understand evil and our obligation to confront it.


For a policy of containment to work, as it did in the Cold War, four components are necessary: reliable allies; a clear goal with a consistent doctrine; the economic and military capability to enforce the doctrine; and the political will to support the demands of the policy. We had each of these assets -- allies, doctrine, capabilities, and political will -- during the Cold War, when a policy conceived in the 1940s endured over four dangerous and tumultuous decades until our adversary collapsed...


The United States does not have reliable allies to implement a policy to contain Iraq. West Germany was a front-line state in the Cold War, as Saudi Arabia is today a front-line state and key "ally" in the confrontation with Iraq. During the Cold War, West Germany welcomed the deployment of hundreds of thousands of Americans and hundreds of military installations on its soil; placed few restrictions on American forces stationed there; worked hand-in-glove with us to conduct military training and exercises; and permitted us to station tactical and theater nuclear missiles on its soil sufficient to defend Western Europe.


Compare this cooperation with that of Saudi Arabia in the "containment" of Iraq. Saudi elites have provided material and political support to Islamic extremists; assailed democratic Israel's resistance to terror while they accommodate the threatening tyrant next door; greatly complicated our efforts to enforce sanctions; placed severe restrictions on our troops that not only impair our military preparedness but offend our values; condoned Iraq's defiance of every norm of international law; and seem more concerned with the possibility of instability in a post-Saddam Iraq and the influence that a democratizing Iraq might have on their restive population than they are with the grave threat posed by Saddam's growing arsenal of the world's most dangerous weapons, and his never far-out-of-mind territorial ambitions.


Containment requires cooperation from front-line states committed to the policy's success. There has been some recent improvement in cooperation. But consider the past practices of our front-line partners against Iraq beyond Saudi Arabia: Syria, which constructed and operates a 200,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline into Iraq in open contravention of U.N. sanctions, and profits enormously from resale of illicit Iraqi oil; Iran, with the longest border with Iraq, remains a hostile terrorist state with which we have no diplomatic relations; and Jordan and Turkey, where a lucrative commerce in smuggling with Iraq -- in open violation of U.N. sanctions -- may be tolerated for understandable economic and political reasons, but is hardly reassuring when looking at containment options.


Successful containment also requires cooperation from our great power allies. Our Cold War alliances with Japan and South Korea in the East, and a unified NATO in the West, underscored allied resolve and unity in the daily shadow of Soviet power. Compare our great power allies in the Cold War with those with whom we act today in dealing with Iraq.


France has unashamedly pursued a concerted policy to dismantle the U.N. sanctions regime, placing its commercial interests above international law, world peace and the political ideals of Western civilization...


Like France, Russia opposed Operation Desert Fox, abstained on Resolution 1284... Russia has sold Baghdad gyroscopes for its advanced missile programs...


Gerhard Schr & ouml;der's Germany looks little like the ally that anchored our presence in Europe throughout the Cold War. A German Rip Van Winkle from the 1960s would not understand the lack of political courage and cooperation with its allies on the question of Iraq exhibited in Berlin today...


Besides requiring resolute allies, a successful containment policy also requires a clear strategic goal, backed by the will and capability to achieve it.


Over the course of several decades, the containment of the Soviet Union looked remarkably similar to the policy enunciated by George Kennan in 1947. There was a constancy of purpose to America's approach to containment, matched by U.S. power and leadership of our allies. The U.S. stationed troops throughout the world, spent billions on conventional and nuclear forces, and supported armed resistance groups in the Third World and political opposition movements behind the Iron Curtain. And, lest we forget, containment of the USSR envisioned as its eventual accomplishment a change in the Soviet regime, based on the premise that confronting Soviet power would lead to internal pressures that could not be sustained...


Some say we can deter Saddam -- even though deterrence has failed utterly in the past. Human history is filled with examples where deterrence failed. Deterrence requires a credible threat to work. It also requires an adversary who makes realistic cost-benefit calculations. Even now, with the armed might of a superpower gathering at his doorstep, with an international community that at least -- for the moment -- is no longer discussing an end to the sanctions regime, Saddam continues to defy U.N. Security Council resolutions...


I fail to see how waiting for some unspecified period of time, allowing Saddam's nuclear ambitions to grow unchecked, could ever result in a stable deterrence regime. The proponents of containment claim it is unlikely that Saddam would share his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with terrorist movements because he would fear the consequences should he be detected. But would there be a smoking gun? Unlike missile launches, terrorist attacks don't always leave a return address...


Containment failed yesterday in Iraq. Containment fails today. And containment will fail tomorrow. We would be placing hope before experience to think otherwise, and we will have bequeathed to our children a much more dangerous world. For if you embrace containment, you must accept proliferation, and proliferation -- not just unchecked but accelerated -- will make the violent century just passed seem an era of remarkable tranquility in comparison.


It is in the nature of democracies to be patient. But as history as shown, they can delay to their peril. Placing faith in containment today recalls Churchill's admonition in the 1930s about placing faith in a collective defense that lacked the teeth or the will to confront a common enemy. As Churchill said of the League of Nation's failure to respond to Italian aggression in Abyssinia, there is not much collective security in a flock of sheep on the way to the butcher. We must keep our nerve, have the courage to understand what our experiences have taught us, have faith in the necessity and rightness of our cause, and do what must be done to make this a safer, freer, better world. We must settle, once and for all, the problem of Saddam.





Publication date: 02/27/03
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