08 November 2005


Interesting Take On Desert Fox

I've been meaning to write something about this, but haven't had the time. Therefore, I'll just copy what I found in the Corner, as it is a must read.

I was a squadron commander at the time of Desert Fox in 1998 (we called it "Deny Christmas '98") and while there was a sense that Clinton's order to attack Iraq at that point had a tinge of "wag the dog" to it, we also knew that this was a long time in coming. (In addition to the Feb 98 comments you cite, Clinton also warned that Saddam could pass his WMD to "shadowy" terrorists who traveled unseen among us--sound familiar?). As things deteriorated throughout the spring, summer and fall of 98, Clinton was under pressure, from both Dems and Republicans, to carry out a substantial attack against Iraq. He had been criticized for waging "pin-prick" strikes that accomplished little of substance. You might recall Bill Cohen hitting the Sunday chat shows that fall with his 5lb bag of sugar and claims that a similar amount of Saddamite anthrax would devastate DC and its environs.

In fact, on Veteran's Day, November 1998, we were spun up for an attack on Iraq that was called off only after Saddam backed down. B-52s were actually en route from Diego Garcia when Clinton called off the raid. Thus, when Richard Butler pulled UNSCOM out of Iraq in December, Clinton was under intense pressure to "do something"--not because of Monica, but because of the apparent collapse of inspections and the threat of Saddam's WMD. So, we deployed for Desert Fox--4 days of ineffectual bombing.

I've attached a link to a piece I recently published on Desert Fox (print versions in US and UK are forthcoming in Jan 06).

It considers the operation from the perspective of the proper use of airpower, which may be of little interest to you. Still, here is what I think is important to the current discussion that many, including and especially Democrats, forget: Desert Fox was carried out by the US and UK
only; the French dropped out of Southern Watch operations as a result of the brief campaign and called for the lifting of sanctions. Moscow recalled its ambassadors from London and Washington in protest and the Chinese dubbed the raids an act of international terrorism. Most Arab states refused us the use of their soil for combat sorties (Turkey, as well, opted out). Again,
does this sound familiar? Clinton made thinly veiled references to regime change as well, generating speculation in the media that taking Saddam out was our real goal (though an unrealistic one, as I argue that a 4-day air campaign, limited to 100 targets, would hardly unseat a ruthless tyrant like Saddam). Yet, let's not forget the Oct 98 Iraq Liberation Act, either, that established regime change as US policy long before GWB became president.
It's clear to me that the Clinton Administration certainly "hoped" Desert Fox would bring about a collapse of Saddam's regime--but hope is not a plan. But long before OIF, the "international community" regarded Saddam and his weapons as an Anglo-American problem and cared little about Baghdad's lack of compliance with UN resolutions and inspections. President Bush's
opponents want us to think that the choice was between a neat, tidy and "safe" status quo with a WMD-less Iraq, or regime change and a bloody insurgency. The situation that emerged from Desert Fox, in my view, puts the lie to that. In fact, Desert Fox was the last major military
confrontation between the US and Iraq prior to OIF, and its consequences set the stage for our diplomatic struggles in the run-up to OIF.

Our knowledge of Saddam's WMD stockpiles and programs remained frozen in time from 1998 until 2003, since Desert Fox failed to induce Iraq to cooperate with UNSCOM. Indeed, Saddam declared victory--and rightly so, in my view. The sanctions, such as they were, remained, but the inspectors were gone and the tyrant remained securely in power. And for those Dems who claim that Clinton "got it all" (Saddam's WMD, not Monica) during Desert Fox, they should know that we purposely avoided targeting what we thought were "known" stockpiles. We feared the release of chemical agents and bio toxins that would cause massive collateral damage. Of the 100 targets, 11 were directly WMD-related, and they were nearly all tied to his missile delivery systems.

In summary, there was a real sense of urgency that Saddam was slipping the noose and something had to be done. Those who wish to understand our view of the threat posed by Iraq pre-OIF, need to become familiar with this often overlooked operation.

As always, thanks for your time.

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