The Real Reason for Gulf War II

January 29, 2003

For some people, Bush’s stated reasons for going to war with Iraq do not seem adequate. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a megalomaniac and a severe violator of human rights, yes. But there is no shortage of similar dictators around the globe. And he may indeed be a possessor of weapons of mass destruction, or well on the way to that capability. But again, there is no shortage of “rogue nations” with similar aims. Why single out Iraq for a massive military response?

Some have supposed it might be a personal family grudge by the Bush’s, a desire to settle unsettled scores from the first Gulf War. Others see it as an imperialist action by the United States, eager to expand its power and influence. But what is the real reason we are about to go to war?

If Saddam Hussein is indeed just a few years away from nuclear weapon capability, what nation is the most immediately threatened by this? Not the United States, but Israel. Saddam has frequently expressed his intentions to destroy Israel, and the Israelis know it is not just political rhetoric. That is why, on June 7, 1981, they did not hesitate to take out the Osiraq nuclear reactor in Iraq, to the extreme consternation of the entire world. The UN Security Council, including the US, immediately condemned Israel’s action in Resolution 487. Now, in retrospect, the US is grateful that Israel set Iraqi’s nuclear program back quite a few years.

Israel views any development of nuclear capability by Iraq as not just bothersome, but a potential existential threat. The Bush administration knows this. To understand why Bush seems to eager to go to war, consider what would happen if he did not. In a few years, Iraq, by surreptitious means, would be on the verge of achieving nuclear weapon capabilities. In response, Israel would certainly act emphatically and forcefully again to eliminate those capabilities, probably propelling the entire region into an Arab/Israeli war.

This potential scenario is, I believe, one that Bush wishes to avoid at all costs, and is therefore preempting any future action against Iraq by the Israelis. Obviously, if this is the real reason for the US going to war, the administration cannot explain this to the US public. Why? Because it would be perceived that the administration was willing to expend American soldiers’ lives to help Israel, which would be a political nightmare for Bush.

If this is indeed the real reason Bush is moving towards war with Iraq, it is not based on any sense of altruism by the United States for Israel. No, everything the US does is based on US interests alone. An Arab/Israel war caused by a future Israeli attack on Iraq would be viewed as a potential catastrophe by the US government. Though total, unwavering support of Israel is indeed in the best interest of the United States, a crushing victory of Israel over the Arab nations would make a shambles of State Department Mideast policies.

The US has for decades carefully established an equilibrium in the Middle East with the support of cooperative governments like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, primarily to ensure that the healthy flow of oil continues. This also explains why the US hypocritically panders to the likes of the Saudis, who provide generous funding to terrorist organizations, and whose regime is nearly as brutal and oppressive as the Iraqis. The Saudis play along with US objectives, and thus are tolerated. The Iraqis do not, and are vilified.

The first Gulf War was fought for the same reason: the upset and the potential for further upset of that Middle East equilibrium. It was not based on concern for the Kuwaitis, just as this sequel is not based on concern for the Israelis. But Bush cannot attempt to make this case to the American people. It would not sell domestically, and internationally it would be received with scorn and outrage. This is why Bush has been forced to create a rationale that for most people, does not add up.

President Bush is doing everything he can to prevent Gulf II from turning into the worst case scenario he is attempting to prevent in the first place, a broad Arab/Israeli war. This is why, for example, he is doing or saying almost nothing against one of the most notorious and egregious hosts and supporters of terror groups, Syria. Doesn’t it seem incongruous that Bush’s vaunted “war on terror” would almost entirely ignore Damascus?

Why? Because fighting terrorism is not the primary objective, protecting US economic interests is. This latest action in the “war on terror”, the looming offensive against Iraq, is just a stratagem, which is why it does not seem to add up to most people. Remember it was immediately after September 11, 2001, before any possible link between Saddam and Al Qaeda could have possibly been established, that the Bush policy makers started conceiving ways to merge 9/11 into a war against Iraq. Bin Laden provided them a convenient pretext and context for action.

Is Bush correct in taking preemptive action against Iraq before Israel does? Perhaps he is. But it is ironic that the very thing he is acting to prevent, a broad Arab/Israeli war, may well be thrust upon him by events and dynamics beyond his control. The precious equilibrium in the Middle East that the US desires to protect at all costs will likely be shattered. A double irony may result. Muslim/Arab terrorist capabilities may be shattered to a greater degree than even Bush wants, even including the terrorist-aiding “friendly” states like Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Perhaps, after all, it is not the reasons for war that are important, but the results. No war is desirable, but this impending war appears to be inevitable. Its providential outcome may surprise those who planned it. As Bush stated at the end of the State of the Union Address, “We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.” That loving God still loves Israel, and utilizes even the mightiest nations to unwittingly accomplish His purposes.

Bob Westbrook 1/29/03