Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1991 Victory Over Iraq Was Swift, but Hardly Flawless


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Tue, Jan 1, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Subject: re: 1991 Victory Over Iraq Was Swift, but Hardly Flawless
To: letters@nytimes.com

To the Editor:
     Certainty is an unobtainable luxury in the fog of war. Thus it is absolutely natural that--when Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard ran for their lives rather than stand and get crushed as we preferred--there would be differing opinions of how far to pursue them. Once we had driven the Iraqis out of Kuwait, should we risk any further American lives? General Powell argued that our mission was accomplished and we should declare victory. Others argued that the status quo ante was unacceptable and that we should take the opportunity to reshape the Middle East in our own image. 
    The decision rested ultimately with the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, president George H.W. Bush. In addition to all the considerations the others weighed, he brought perspective as a former Director of our CIA. If we had weakened Saddam Hussein enough that he would be toppled by groups inside Iraq, he thought it better that we should leave no fingerprints on it. That way, the new government wouldn't carry the stigma of being installed by a foreign power.
    In the event, Saddam had not been weakened enough. He retained the resources to crush the Shiite uprising in the South (although we quietly blocked him from crushing the Kurds in the North), and the region returned very much to the status quo ante. President Bush got little credit for a little war and lost his bid for re-election. And that's the way it will always be. Civilian oversight of the military (embodied in the president as Commander in Chief) means that the military strategy will never be disentangled from the political.
Barry Haskell Levine

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