Caveat Emptor: A Consumer’s Guide To The Post-Iraq ‘World Order’

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In recent days, senior Bush Administration spokesmen — notably National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft — and some non-governmental foreign policy experts have served notice on the American people: A new "world order" is emerging to fill a vacuum created by the reputed demise of the Cold War. They suggest that, if the United States will join the Soviet Union in playing a constructive part in the ensuing arrangement, international affairs will henceforth be conducted in a more stable and secure fashion.

As Gen. Scowcroft put it in an interview with CNN aired on 25 August 1990:


…One of the things which we’re really seeing now is perhaps the emergence of a new world order. Now that’s a strong term, but what we’re seeing is the United Nations beginning to operate as it was foreseen to operate when it was established in 1945-46. Prevented by the superpower conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, now we’re seeing a Security Council beginning to operate as it was designed to operate, to mobilize the civilized world community against aggression and against aggressors.


As evidence of the arrival of the new "world order," its proponents point to the recent series of U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Saddam Hussein’s aggression and establishing an embargo on imports to and exports from Iraq. They attach particular importance to the Soviet Union’s willingness to vote on 25 August 1990 for an American-sponsored Security Council resolution authorizing the use of "such measures commensurate to the specific circumstances as may be necessary" to implement the embargo.

‘World Order’: Bush’s Deus ex Machina on Iraq?

Gen. Scowcroft signalled the extent of the Bush Administration’s attachment to the construct of the new "world order" in the course of an appearance on "This Week with David Brinkley" on 26 August. He observed that:


…If we can go back to the status quo ante in terms of Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and the leadership back in Kuwait, and hostages released, there will still be a fundamentally different situation in that area, in that collective action will have been shown to work against a case of aggression. And therefore, the situation will not be the same afterwards.


In other words, the United States is now apparently prepared to see Saddam Hussein remain in power and in control of large quantities of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons, and therefore retain the ability to engage in new aggression in the future virtually at will — provided he gives up his most-recent, ill-gotten gains. Implicitly, if not explicitly, the Bush Administration is saying that the new world order can be relied upon to deter future Iraqi attacks.

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning rests on several grave misconceptions:

Soviet Cooperation is Not "Superb"

On 22 August 1990, in the midst of negotiations over the Security Council’s resolution concerning the use of force in support of the U.N. embargo, President Bush said:


…At this point, I can say we are getting superb cooperation from the Soviets. There may be some differences. In fact, I think its fair to say we’ve been discussing some of them regarding the timing of certain further UN action. But I have no argument with the way in which they have cooperated.


The following day, presidential press spokesman Marlin Fitzwater enthused, "We believe that the Soviet Union is operating in a manner that is supportive of our interests." (Emphasis added.)

Such statements give insufficient weight to various Soviet activities that are clearly incompatible with U.S. interests and inconsistent with the various U.N. resolutions on Iraq for which Moscow has recently voted. At least two serious questions arise: Is there an effort being made to keep the full facts about Soviet behavior from the senior leadership of the Bush Administration? Or is that leadership simply unable to assess the Soviet role in the Iraq crisis objectively, perhaps due to a felt need to vindicate the enormous investment it has made in Mikhail Gorbachev?

Whatever the explanation, the Bush Administration has failed to address adequately the following, troubling aspects of Soviet behavior in the present crisis:


  1. Soviet Foreknowledge of the Iraqi Attack on Kuwait: There is considerable reason to believe that Moscow had forewarning of the incipient Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This could have been supplied through the several thousand Soviet military advisors attached to Iraq’s armed forces or as a result of the close interaction between the KGB and its client service, the Iraqi security apparatus.



    Alternatively, this information could have been obtained by Soviet Colonel-General Albert Makashov, commander of the huge Siberian military district and a unabashed advocate of the assertive use of Soviet military power, who held secret meetings with the Iraqi Foreign Minister in Baghdad shortly before the invasion of Kuwait.



    There is no indication that the Soviet Union informed the U.S. government that its client, Iraq, was going to attack Kuwait, a nation with long ties to the United States.



  3. Soviet Advisors in Iraq — Business as Usual: The Soviet government has acknowledged that many Soviet advisors in Iraq evidently are continuing to perform vital functions for the Iraqi military — notwithstanding the U.N. embargo on supplying goods and services to Baghdad. These include:


    • servicing and maintaining Soviet-supplied fighter aircraft (e.g., MiG-29s) and other sophisticated weapons systems;

    • assisting in the construction and operation of a comprehensive air defense network (in particular, surface-to-air missile deployments protecting Iraqi chemical and other strategic facilities);

    • providing software and guidance systems for surface-to-surface missiles (including the enhanced range "Scud-B" system judged capable of attacking targets as far away as Israel with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons); and

    • strategic planning for military operations (possibly including the invasion of Kuwait).

    In other words, Soviet advisors are today helping to service and maintain weapons that could be used shortly against U.S. troops, with the certain effect of increasing American casualties in the event of combat.



  5. No Soviet Hostages: Interestingly, no Soviet personnel or dependents are presently being held as unwilling "guests" of Saddam Hussein. This situation contrasts sharply with that of Western nationals who are now being held hostage as human shields for Iraqi strategic facilities.



  7. Soviet Intelligence-Sharing with Iraq: Press reports indicate that the close working relationship between the Soviet and Iraqi intelligence services is enabling the latter to obtain information about the status and deployment of U.S. forces. Such data could be of enormous importance to Iraq, for example, in planning preemptive chemical or biological strikes against American or allied positions. It could also help the Iraqis compensate for one of the most decisive areas of U.S. superiority, namely American advantages in strategic and tactical intelligence.



  9. Soviet Arms Still Reaching Iraq: There have also been reports that Moscow has continued to supply Iraq with arms and spare parts for the vast array of advanced Soviet military equipment provided Baghdad in recent years — notwithstanding the U.N. embargo and the Kremlin’s announced, self-imposed moratorium on weapons shipments to the Saddam Hussein regime. According to the Washington Times of 23 August 1990, U.S. "officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon admitted privately this week that Soviet arms shipments bound for Iraq were spotted in the Jordanian port of Aqaba…."



    Moscow’s continuing arms shipments are in addition to the prodigious stockpile of advanced Soviet weapons already in Iraqi hands. These include some 5,500 tanks (notably, 500 of the front-line Soviet T-72s), aircraft (including the highly capable Su-24 Fencer fighter-bomber whose long range and precision-delivery capabilities caused such a stir when the Kremlin supplied them to Libya last year) and ballistic missiles (including the Scud-B, modified to carry chemical, biological or nuclear weapons up to 300 nautical miles).



    The Soviet Union’s willingness to endow its clients with massive quantities of such powerful systems has added immensely to the size, complexity and cost of the U.S. response to the Iraq crisis. This development also gainsays the naive notion that, as a result of some positive Soviet foreign policy steps in Europe, the United States need no longer worry about fielding equipment and military capabilities superior to those available to the USSR and its clients.


The Old ‘Rogue Officers’ Gambit

Some Bush Administration and foreign intelligence sources have been quoted in the press as trying to explain away such Soviet behavior. These sources have suggested that these sinister deeds — which are fundamentally at variance with the spirit (if not the letter) of the U.N. resolutions, the sanctions they imposed and Gorbachev’s public statements — are the work of "rogue" military officers who are unresponsive to civilian control. This argument is reminiscent of the explanation often given for Soviet violations of arms control agreements.

These explanations are extremely troubling. If true, contentions that the Soviet military can and does act without regard for — even in direct contravention of — the wishes or commitments of the Kremlin’s civilian authorities call into question the prudence of U.S. policies which stake American security to a considerable extent on the good faith and reliability of that Soviet leadership.(1)

On the other hand, if these explanations are untrue, then Gorbachev and the other civilian leaders of the USSR are party to a cynical double-game, one in which they seek simultaneously to nurture improved relations with the United States and its allies — particularly improved access to Western capital, know-how and technology — while retaining great latitude to advance their own agenda at the West’s expense.

Neither explanation is compatible with regarding the Soviet Union as a reliable partner in a new security system.

Mixed Bag at the U.N.

Similarly, Soviet performance at the United Nations has been far less consistently supportive than the Bush Administration has made it out to be. To the contrary, the Soviets have been the main impediment to the resolute and timely enforcement of sanctions.

Indeed, recent Soviet behavior at the United Nations — ironically cited as proof positive of Moscow’s new, constructive approach, the very keystone for the emerging "world order" — appears to support the double-game thesis. The Soviets stalled Security Council approval of the "use of force" resolution for days. They insisted that proof that the sanctions were being violated be provided and discussed prior to such use; they also demanded that any such military response be made under the rubric of the United Nations.

While the Soviet Union may have receded for the moment from these demands by settling for a more ambiguous formulation of the resolution and an affirmation that political and diplomatic measures would receive maximum use, the principal Soviet objective seems to have been served: to delay U.S. action and to increase the pressure against unilateral American military steps.

The Bottom Line: The New ‘World Order’ Would Checkmate U.S. Policy

The conclusion seems inescapable that the Soviet Union is still pursuing its own national interests in the Iraq crisis at the expense of the United States. Moscow’s diplomacy appears designed not so much to gain speedy resolution of the crisis as to strengthen its own potential hand as crisis mediator — in effect standing between the United States and Iraq, while resisting effective U.S. action. The so-called emerging "world order" appears to be a useful vehicle for the USSR in thwarting Washington’s initiatives.

In short, the Bush Administration’s determination to pursue partnership with Moscow (inside and outside of the United Nations) — seemingly at virtually any price — may serve dangerously to encumber American initiative. As a practical matter, it may even preclude the United States from acting in defense of vital U.S. interests.

At the very least, the brakes on effective U.S. action would surely be more severe under a fully developed, new "world order" than they are today. Just imagine the situation in the Persian Gulf today if the decision to dispatch U.S. and other nations’ forces to the region had been subject to the U.N. Security Council’s approval. Such a "world order" would almost certainly have dictated that diplomatic consultations precede so escalatory a step. This probably would have given Saddam Hussein sufficient time to present the world with yet another fait accompli — this time by seizing Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and making any military response infinitely more difficult and expensive than is the case at present.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Center for Security Policy believes that, while Moscow’s condemnation of Iraqi aggression and its votes in the Security Council have been positive steps, the totality of Soviet behavior in the Iraq crisis significantly undercuts the constructive role with which Moscow is being widely credited. That behavior also belies the claim that a new "world order" is emerging to which U.S. security interests can safely be entrusted. Indeed, the USSR’s double-policy — or perhaps double-game — is likely to embolden Iraq while constraining the United States, a formula for enormously increasing the stature of Saddam Hussein and the Soviet Union in Arab eyes and dangerously diminishing U.S. prestige throughout the region.

The Center also views with great concern suggestions that the United States is now prepared to seek a diplomatic solution to this crisis on terms that could enable Saddam Hussein to remain in power and preserve those military capabilities with which he can continue to threaten Western interests. Letting slip the present opportunity to eliminate the threat to friendly governments throughout the Middle East posed by the "Butcher of Baghdad" would be a tragedy of historic proportions.

The Center urges the Bush Administration not to accept seductive arguments for hewing to the "safe" course of policy paralysis and military inertia being urged upon it. This course, for which the term new "world order" is merely a euphemism, will not spare lives or reduce the cost of thwarting aggression; it will simply postpone and increase the sacrifice entailed in doing so subsequently. If Saddam Hussein is not dealt with decisively now, not only will Saudi Arabia remain permanently at risk, but Western forces — and possibly even Western capitals and other cities — will be susceptible to his chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Consequently, President Bush should now give Saddam Hussein an ultimatum requiring within 48 hours: (1) the immediate withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from and relinquishing of Baghdad’s control over Kuwait; (2) agreement to destroy within thirty days and under international inspection all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons-related facilities and stockpiles and ballistic missile sites; and (3) the immediate release of all Western nationals now being held hostage. If Saddam Hussein refuses to comply, the United States (and such allied forces as are willing to participate) should move swiftly and with deadly effect against the Saddam Hussein regime.

Through a combination of conventional strikes against known, fixed targets (e.g., Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons-related facilities, ballistic missile sites, command and control assets and power-projection related infrastructure) and unconventional warfare against the regime itself, the United States can expect to attenuate greatly the menace currently posed by Iraq — to say nothing of what it might otherwise become in the future. The allied powers should also facilitate the creation of an Iraqi government in exile to assume leadership of the nation following Hussein’s removal from power.

Once this discriminant application of force has been utilized, there will be ample time — and a far more tractable climate — for diplomatic negotiations. For want of a better term, such an environment might be called Pax Americana, a world order that has in the past proven much more secure and conducive to Western interests than that now being contemplated by Gen. Scowcroft and others.

1. The Washington Times of 27 August 1990 provides a striking indication of just how fundamental such perceptions are to the Bush Administration. In an article entitled "Gulf Crisis Tests Baker, ‘Shev’ Ties," the Times reported that, "According to U.S. officials who know them well, Mr. Baker and Mr. Shevardnadze trust one another without question…." (Emphasis added.)

Center for Security Policy

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