Friday, January 10, 2003
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Back to Iraq
John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt offer up the best argument out there on why the U.S. shouldn't attack Iraq in the latest Foreign Policy. [C'mon, let's get to the full disclosure--ed. Mearsheimer is a senior colleague of mine here at Chicago; Walt used to be]. Essentially, it's that Saddam Hussein can be deterred, and can therefore be contained. They marshall some strong evidence to support their case. But:
1) Using the fact that Saddam Hussein only initiated two wars in the past twenty years as evidence that he's not a serial aggressor is like arguing that pre-1945 Germany was not inherently hostile because they only triggered two world wars. War's an esceptionally rare event in world politics, and the fact that Hussein triggered two of the last three inter-state conflicts in the Middle East is not a point in his favor.
2) Assume that Hussein can be deterred -- is deterrence really as stable an outcome as Mearsheimer and Walt posit? The status quo in the Middle East has been a slow erosion of the U.S. position and a rise in Anti-Americanism. A lot of this is based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but a lot is also predicated on the U.S. being the prime movers behind the sanctioning of Iraq, combined with the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.
I said last fall that the best reason to invade Iraq is to remove the need for large-scale U.S. forces to be based in Saudi Arabia, which has destabilized that country for the worse. I've found that this argument plays very well with much of the anti-war crowd, but they don't believe that the Bush administration is really thinking that way. However, Fred Kaplan's latest "War Stories" piece in Slate suggests otherwise. The key graf:
[Is that the only reason you like Kaplan's piece?--ed. Well, I also like the fact that he's echoing what I said back in October. Advantage: Drezner!!]posted by Dan on 01.10.03 at 04:18 PM