January 7, 1999




Now that the dust has settled from the 70-hour aerial attack on Iraq, it has become clear that the only solution for the threat Iraq poses is to remove Saddam.

That truth has prompted questions about the viability of the Iraqi democratic opposition, which the United States has embarked on supporting with the Iraq Liberation Act. Assisting that opposition is essential to bringing a decent government to Iraq. Recent critiques of this approach (Byman, Pollack, and Rose, “The Rollback Fantasy,” Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 1999) have raised questions about such a policy. But if backed by American military power, both from the air and on the ground, support for the Iraqi opposition can work. Support for the opposition should be only a part of a broader political-military strategy, one which must include a willingness to send U.S. ground forces into Iraq to complete the unfinished business of the Gulf War.

Some observers, like the Council of Foreign Relations' Robert Manning in Wednesday’s Washington Times ("What Follows the Missiles?") call into question the seriousness of "hard- liners" for backing the Iraqi opposition, but not embracing the use of land force to remove Saddam. This critique is odd, since, over the past year, such "hard-liners" as Senator Richard Lugar have pointed out that American ground forces may well be necessary to remove Saddam from power and end the threat posed by his weapons of mass destruction.

This has also been the consistent position of the Project. A year ago, Project directors William Kristol and Robert Kagan explicitly called for a ground campaign to oust Saddam in editorials for the New York Times (30 January 1998) and the Washington Post (26 February 1998). Writing in the Weekly Standard last February (2 February 1998), Kagan argued that "above all, only ground forces can remove Saddam and his regime from power and open the way for a new post-Saddam Iraq whose intentions can safely be assumed to be benign."

It is not the "hard-liners" who refuse to come to grips with the full dimension of the Iraq crisis and what will be required to secure American interests. On the contrary, it is those who cling to the illusion of "containment" or "containment-plus" who refuse to confront the likely consequences of their strategy -- a Saddam, stonger, with weapons of mass destruction.