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Mr. WELDON. If you don't mind, Dr. Cohen, we have to go over for these votes. So if that is a good point for you to stop, we will come back as soon as we are finished. And, my colleagues, if you would like to say hello to Chairman Margelov before you leave, I would appreciate you stopping down at the front and have a chance to say hello to him before he has to leave.
The committee stands in recess until these votes are over. [Recess.]
Mr. WELDON. The committee will resume now that we have finished our votes and our witnesses have replenished their bodies. We will begin—continue our testimony.
Dr. Cohen, the floor is yours, and you may continue with your statement, and then we will move on to Dr. O'Hanlon.
Dr. COHEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just to recap very briefly. I had made the case that really there are only two policy options before us. One is to attempt to deter Saddam Hussein; the second one is war. And I made the case as well that it seems to me that deterrence was, as I put it, a declaration of faith in the rationality of Saddam Hussein, and that I thought that was both implausible and dangerous.
That leaves us the choice of war, as problematic as that surely is. What are our prospects in such a case? I think it is unwise to try to forecast costs and casualties. I recall very well the debate before the Gulf War of 1991, and how completely wrong such estimates turned out to be, even those made by the government. And I am even more reluctant to try to forecast war plans, because it seems to me if one is wrong in doing that, one is foolish, and if one is right, one is something considerably worse than foolish.
Nonetheless, there are four important points to note: First, that the Iraqi military today is a shadow of its former self, a third the size it was in 1991, poorly equipped, demoralized, perhaps most importantly of all haunted by memories of its last encounter with the United States. It simply cannot be a machine like the one we faced in 1991, and that, of course, crumbled under our attack.
Second, in recent times the American military has consistently surprised both observers and indeed itself. Before the Gulf, Yugoslav, and Afghan Wars, we were told that our forces faced unprecedented challenges that they could meet only at great cost, if at all. In each case they achieved their objectives more effectively and more creatively and with greater economy in the expenditure of blood than anyone could have imagined. In the future resumption of outright hostilities with Iraq, the same is likely to be true, and in ways that no outside observer can, I hope, predict.
Thirdly, the lesson of recent wars is that coalitions are not ends, but means, and that a fixation on international consensus leads to a feeble strategy. In the current context the United States would certainly like the support of many countries, but it needs the active cooperation of a handful: Kuwait, some of the Gulf States, and one would hope Turkey, Jordan and possibly Saudi Arabia.
Our British and Australian allies provide valuable military assistance and confirmation of the view that Saddam Hussein is indeed an implacable menace. Beyond this, the chances are very good that once our intention to act becomes clear, other states will find
ways of signing on with us for a variety of motives, some more and some less worthy.
Fourth, the Baathist regime is held together solely by fear. When the time comes that Iraqi officers and soldiers, secret police and functionaries no longer anticipate retribution by the regime, there is a good chance that they will cease to operate on its behalf. As the American military confronts the challenges of chemical and biological weapons and urban warfare, which are surely the most difficult challenges in such a campaign, we must remember that fact. If individual Iraqi officers know that they will suffer harm only if they obey Saddam's orders, they are unlikely to do so. Surely American military planners know this fact and will make use of it.
Saddam Hussein has been given many last chances. Indeed, announcing the beginning of Operation Desert Fox in December of 1998, President Clinton said that he had given Saddam Hussein his last chance. Some may persuade themselves that Saddam Hussein should have more last chances. Some will even suggest that the United States should defer action until next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. And if we follow such a course, one day it will be too late, and as regional nuclear war erupts, or as plague rages in our cities, we will wonder why we did not act. The real question is not why now, but why not years ago?
Almost as important as regime change is what follows; almost as important, because the truth is that even if Saddam is succeeded by a brute, we can expect him to be a chastened brute, one who knows the consequences of confronting the United States.
But America can and should aspire to more. To be sure, we are not by temperament or preparation well suited to exercise the kind of colonial administration, or at least certainly not for long periods of time, in the Arab World, and it would be absurd to expect transition in Iraq from totalitarian rule to Jeffersonian democracy. But it should be possible to establish a regime that would be authoritarian perhaps, but moderate; a regime that would safeguard basic civil and religious rights, that would free the Iraqi people from fear, and would maintain the unity of the country without threatening its neighbors, and that might pave the way in the long-run for a modern limited state.
Such an achievement would have beneficial consequences well beyond Iraq, including in our war against Islamic extremism. By itself, the United States cannot remake the Middle East, but it can do much to help the peoples of that part of the world do so. It cannot force Arab societies to come to terms with modernity, but it can aid those embarked on that enterprise.
The United States can support with its prestige and power liberals of all stripes, secular and religious alike, and foster decent, if not entirely free, governments. In this indirect but crucial way, the overthrow of Saddam will contribute to the larger contest against Islamic extremist violence.
There are other connections between September 11th and our war with Iraq. There are some ties between Baghdad and al Qaeda that have become more apparent in recent days, and in all likelihood there is more that the intelligence community either does not yet understand or that it has buried in secrecy. There is a deeper link as well. After September 11th, Americans now have a visceral
rather than a theoretical understanding of what a massive assault on American civilians in the heart of our great cities feels like. We know what it smells like. The horrors of that day have made Americans more realistic than others around the world, who like so many well-meaning people in the century just passed, would prefer to close their eyes and pretend that a mortal threat does not exist.
Americans have paid a terrible price for seeing things more clearly than once they did. I therefore urge you to support a resolution giving the President the authority to conduct a campaign aimed at the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime; that you not tie it to U.N. resolutions, and that you not condition our action on the acquiescence of countries that may wish to prevent us from acting.
We have lost strategic surprise. At this point, Saddam has to know that we are coming. By granting the President discretion to help him achieve some measure of operational surprise, which will contribute to our forces' chances of early and complete success, you will also, more importantly, reduce the casualties that our young men and women in uniform are likely to suffer.
Let me conclude with one last thought. It is in the nature of partisan politics to sharpen differences between parties even on matters of foreign policy. Yet for a variety of reasons there has been a common policy on Iraq for a full decade, from the end of the first Gulf War to the present. Both Democratic and Republican administrations put a wary reliance on containment and deterrence. That policy has finally failed, but throughout, American leaders have shared an understanding of the ultimate issues. Again, let me quote President Clinton: The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government, a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people”.
However, one judges the success of his administration's policies, it seems to me that President Clinton had the assessment right, and that the time has come to act on his words.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you, Dr. Cohen.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Cohen can be found in the Appendix on page 409.]
Mr. WELDON. Dr. O'Hanlon, welcome. Your statement will be entered in the record. And you may take whatever time you would like for your public comments.
STATEMENT OF DR. MICHAEL O’HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW,
THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION Dr. O'HANLON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a great honor to be here before the committee and to be appearing with Eliot Cohen, who has made a lot of excellent points. I would like to agree with some of what he said, much of what he said, but also emphasize the possibility that I think a strategy of containment can work if we get rigorous inspections and disarmament going again inside of Iraq. And in that spirit I would like to support strongly the September 12th U.N. speech, which I think had the tone and the strat
egy just right, even though I am not convinced that the resolution suggested by the President thereafter had the same tone.
And I hope the Congress will hold the President to the September 12th speech strategy not necessarily with binding stipulations, but with a strong sense of encouragement that a multilateral ultimatum with tough deadlines and trying to use inspections and disarmament if possible first is the right way to go, for a number of reasons, and I will get into those.
But, a. I think it can work. I think a toughened up and tightened up containment strategy can work; and, b. if we go to war, we need to go to war with as many allies as possible. It does not make sense, for example, to essentially say we can do this without the Saudis, let's not worry too much about getting them aboard. When you look at the political and military realities of that region, doing this war without Saudi infrastructure and Saudi support is such a way of fighting with one arm behind your back that I think we need to craft a strategy that will maximize the odds of countries like that one being with us, if and when we need to go to war.
So, I strongly support the President's September 12th strategy, because I think that is the way you get the Saudis on board, and others like that, if you need to ultimately use force.
Let me say, I do believe-and I agree with Eliot Cohen-I do believe that we can overthrow Saddam Hussein if necessary at the same time that we continue the operations against al Qaeda. There may be some political strains with certain key allies and maybe some political dangers with countries like Pakistan trying to overcrowd the agenda, but in military terms I strongly agree with that assessment, and I do not believe that we need to wait.
In fact, let me agree further with Eliot on the point that it is very hard to develop a national consensus to go to war. We have all seen that in the recent debate, and this body has been very instrumental in conducting that debate. We know this is not the sort of thing you can turn on and turn off, based on when you decide it is politically opportune.
So, even though I am not convinced that Saddam's overthrow is absolutely as urgent as Eliot has argued, I do believe that now that we are having this debate, let's have it now. We have the military wherewithal to force this to an issue, force this to a head right now if necessary, so for better or worse, let's have it now.
Finally, I think that we also need to remember, however, that even if war might be easy, it also might not be. And the last thing you can assume as an American military planner or a President or a Member of Congress is that this war will be easy. And in this sense I strongly take issue with the tone of several members of the Defense Policy Board, who in almost a quasi-official capacity have been suggesting this war would be a cakewalk, a walk in the park. These are their words, not mine. I think this is an irresponsible way to prepare the country for conflict, and I actually don't believe people associated with the Secretary of Defense should be using this sort of language.
I think if we are going to go into this, we need to recognize this could be tough. Eliot has pointed out how the Iraqi military has deteriorated and also how its morale may be very weak, and how it is essentially a house of cards held together by fear. But there is
another side to the same set of equations, which is the following: If you are going to do this war, for a number of reasons this is going to be a big war. This has to be a couple hundred thousand Americans, in my judgment, for a number of reasons. First of all, to maximize the chances that the Iraqis will crumble, you want to have them realize our victory is inevitable. You don't want there to be any doubt about this. You don't want to try some new, innovative concept of warfare with 30,000 or 40,000 Americans that might work and might fail, because Saddam is going to tell his troops under those circumstances, remember Mogadishu. If we just hang in there, extract some casualties and buy time, we can make the Americans change their mind. He is wrong if he makes that argument, but his commanders may not know that he is wrong.
You want to intimidate them. You want to overwhelm them. If you do this operation, you want to do it the way we invaded Panama in 1989 with overwhelming shock from multiple axes simultaneously. You don't want to be doing overly creative small operations here and there. So you have to do it as a big operation. That is point number one.
Point number two. If the Iraqis use the weaponry they have, even for a few days, and they use it reasonably competently—I am not talking about stellar military performance; if they simply use this weaponry reasonably competently—they can extract many hundreds of American combat deaths, and perhaps even a couple thousand. I agree with Eliot that predictions are dangerous, but we also need to have some sense of what we are talking here, and a very good study that heas we all know that he was one of the directors of the Gulf War Air Power Study-pointed out, for example, that in the first three days of Desert Stormthe first five days, I am sorry, we actually had one-third of all of our aircraft losses in that time period because we were flying low, going after targets that were difficult to find, and we were vulnerable there to shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft artillery.
The Iraqis still have a lot of that. If you are fighting in the city, you have got to fly low unless you have a Special Forces person who happens to be in position to lase a target and you get lucky. In general, you are going to have to fly low to be accurate and to find targets. What that means is the couple of thousand shoulderlaunched surface-to-air missiles, several thousand antiaircraft weapons that the Iraqis have can be effective. They can be much more effective than the Somalis' rocket-propelled grenades, which brought down a couple of Black Hawk helicopters on that fateful night in October of 1993. So, I would simply argue, if we are not ready for some more of that kind of fighting, we are not yet serious. That would be an additional point.
Finally, we are going to kill a lot of Iraqi civilians, and Saddam Hussein is going to be the first person to make sure that happens. We are not so good at warfare that we can fight in an urban setting and avoid civilian casualties. If you look at the Panama experience, for example, or the Mogadishu experience, when we fight in cities to go after people and take down military, we generally kill more civilians of the other side than military, and that is using the most careful techniques that we have.