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Attacking Iraq - Desert Fox II

Much of the discussion of possible military action against Iraq has focused on achieving the Bush Administration's policy of "regime change" -- the elimination of Saddam Hussein's government through preventive war. But the Bush Administration has also articulate a policy of preemptive strikes against weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration might decide to conduct strikes against Iraqi special weapons facilities in the near term, using some combination of air power and special forces, while delaying regime change until later.

Some military analysts advocate three days of quick air strikes using forces now stationed in the Gulf, bolstering them with other forces in stages on a regular rotation. Three days of air strikes would be designed to isolate Saddam, knock out his command and control facilities, and destroy any weapons of mass destruction he may have.

The new Pentagon policy of pre-emption - declared officially in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's first Report to the President and Congress - states that "it is not possible to defend against every threat, in every place, at every conceivable time. [Therefore] the only defense . is to take the war to the enemy. The best defense is a good offense."

On 19 August 2002 the White House communications director Dan Bartlett said that if President Bush " ... decides that we need to take action to minimize the threat that (Saddam) now poses, ... he will do so in a way that will clearly be articulated to the American people, clearly articulated our friends and allies."

What is intereting about this statement is the phrase "action to minimize the threat" which implies that the threat of Saddam would not be completely eliminated, as would be the case if his regime were to be eliminated. This suggests that a possible course of action would be a replay of the December 1998 Operation Desert Fox. At that time, the Clinton Administration claimed that these air strikes had delayed Iraq's special weapons programs by several years, and another enlarged round of air strikes might have a similar effect.

At least one prominent Republican hawk appears to have endorsed this course of action. Senator Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, said "I don't think we're going to invade Iraq. That's a personal opinion. There's no clear and present danger to the United States we know of right now. If there were, we would take action to prevent an attack against our country." Senator Cochran said the best approach is to confirm through intelligence sources the location of weapons sites that pose a threat to the United States, and then surgically destroy them. "The most appropriate and safest thing from our country's standpoint is to attack that one weapon system. We can do that," Cochran said. "I see noting wrong with that. In fact, I think it would be morally unacceptable for us not to take this action." ["Pentagon Brief Details Iraq's Arms Capability," By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times August 26, 2002, Pg. 1]

However, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on 30 July 2002 that "The idea that it's easy to simply go do what you suggested ought to be done from the air, the implication being from the air, is a misunderstanding of the situation. The Iraqis have a great deal of what they do deeply buried."

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