on Current Affairs
Random thoughts on international news
There is only one thing worse than the UN being subverted by the powerful, member nations and that is not having a UN
The resignation of Colin Powell should represent a setback in the US government's War on Terror. As the acceptable face of the Bush administration and practised in international diplomacy, he should be considered a vital leader in gathering international support. As a veteran general, he should be heavily consulted about the cost of military action and its effects on international diplomacy, especially in the Middle East. His presence in Bush's inner circle would reassure the US armed forces that military concerns are properly considered at the highest level.
Yet it was widely speculated, since the Iraq war, that he would not be a cabinet member in a Bush second term, principally over outspoken, military caution. This suggests the real reason for his resignation. At 5 years younger than Donald Rumsfeld, age is not the problem. He has committed no scandal or widely regarded mistake and, since he's not becoming President or Vice President, any position anywhere else is a career demotion. Ordinarily, such a resignation would trigger wildfire gossip. Colin Powell did not leave by choice, he was told to leave and everyone knows it.
When Colin Powell leaves office, there will be no one in the US cabinet with real, military experience. Until recently, the US National Guard was a garrison force that would never see action and doesn't count. And there is supposed to be a War on Terror. Let me restate that: George Bush has kicked out the only warrior from his inner circle in a time of war. Colin Powell was the only moderate in the Bush cabinet. That a warrior, someone trained in direct action, is a military moderate is not a coincidence - it is the job of a warrior to understand the true cost of war and it is not something they want to see often. That the Bush cabinet is not hunting for a replacement warrior suggests that they are a bunch of gung-ho idiots or that the intent of the War on Terror is not to win it.
What is the point of starting a war with no intention of winning it? Not to defeat some external enemy but to distract the populace from some other problem.
It is a matter of fact that Iraq can manufacture chemical weapons; they were used in the Iran-Iraq war and against the Kurdish rebels. That none have been found is very surprising. I expected several hundred tonnes to have been found but suffering from lack of maintenance and most of it to have degraded to useless sludge. After 12 years of bombing by the US and crippling, economic sanctions, Iraq's war industry was anaemic. No economy could withstand that much bombing and sanctions and still maintain a working, second-rate army, let alone a working, strategic weapons programme.
What's left of their manufacturing capability would be converted back to domestic production despite what Saddam Hussein wanted. I can imagine a telephone conversation between a national economic planner and a chemical factory manager.
"You will retool the factory to manufacture soap at full capacity. I expect this to be completed by the end of the month."
"I have personal orders from Saddam himself to maintain our chemical weapons stockpile."
"I'm aware of that but I'm projecting chronic shortages.of all sorts of things, including soap. If you don't lessen this crisis, it may the straw that broke the camel's back and start riots in the street. I'll get the blame and I'll make sure you suffer before I go."
"I'm not going to lie to Saddam!"
"Yes, you will and so will I! No one's going to tell him bad news if they can get away it. Saddam's not going to personally inspect the chemical weapons stockpiles but he's sure going to notice riots. Start making soap! <click>"
As for delivery mechanisms, Iraq's rockets could, at extreme range, reach the British bases in Cyprus. I can't imagine Saddam being dumb enough to try this. Is such an attack were successful, it would have a miniscule impact on the UK's military capacity with major diplomatic repercussions. Any that missed, which is likely at extreme range, would hit Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Greece and Turkey might regard this as an attack on them, invoke the NATO defence treaty and demand that NATO counter-attack Iraq.
This also begs the question: what pre-emptive attack are the US pre-emptively stopping? Another invasion of Kuwait? I doubt the Iraq army has enough supplies for an assault and the US will definitely invade and occupy Iraq. Gas Tel Aviv? Iraq could probably kill about 5,000 people, then Israel would kill twice that number as they bomb Baghdad flat with conventional weapons alone.
One British, intelligence dossier reports that Iraq could have chemical weapons deployed in 45 minutes. It is suspected that this only applies to battlefield shells, not strategic missiles. Even if it did apply to strategic weapons, so what? I reckon the US president or UK prime minister could have nuclear ICBMs launched, with proper written authorisations, within 10 minutes. The deployment time is an irrelevent figure anyway. Unless a nation's military is massively compromised, no one will know that a leader has ordered deployment of strategic weapons until they're actually launched.
After 12 years, US-led military containment has rendered the Iraqi military impotent. The only Iraqi neighbour that wanted Gulf War II was Kuwait and the Kurdish rebels. In short, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a joke.