March 1991 (vol. 7, #3)
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1991 J Orient
At the beginning of the Gulf War, Iraq was said to have the ``fifth largest army in the world.'' After absorbing 100,000 bombing sorties, with the loss of possibly 100,000 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians, Iraq might still have, as of this writing, a sufficient force to put down a rebellion against Saddam Hussein.
Every government structure built in Baghdad over the past 10 years has an underground bunker. It is not known how many lives especially of the elite were saved by bunkers (capacity estimated to be 48,000) or other shelters. The public has been told only that some hundreds of civilians were killed in a bomb shelter that took a direct hit. Also, many Iraqi aircraft were demolished one earth-penetrating warhead can destroy a shelter, if its location is precisely known.
In Israel, the civil defense force (haga) was augmented with 10,000 reservists. It is no longer the subject of ridicule.
In contrast to American policymakers, who apparently believe that a 0% effective defense is preferable to one that is less than perfect, the residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem did not scorn to accept the protection of the Patriot missile. They would have been at the mercy of the Scuds (and probably provoked into retaliation) if antidefense forces in the US Congress had had their way. In 1984, the House Armed Services Committee voted to slash the funds needed to add antiballistic missile capability to this air defense system. (The Senate approved the program.)
The importance of theater defense against the numerous nations now developing ballistic missiles has been highlighted. As the range of these missiles improves, northern Europe will be vulnerable. And the US is no longer an island, even if we discount its personnel stationed abroad (e.g. the Mediterranean fleet). Missiles can be launched at sea, and some terrorist nations do have or will have a navy or at least a tanker.
The number of Patriot systems currently deployed to defend the US for example, the nuclear power plant near Miami that might be targeted from Cuba is effectively zero.
Martin-Marietta expects its overseas sales of the Patriot missile to double, with much of the volume going to the Middle East. And more than a year ago, the Bush Administration decided to release technology critical to the Patriot system for sale to the Soviet Union, which could then sell it to Iraq, Libya, and others (Wall St J 2/26/91).
Despite the lack of Iraqi resistance, the ``world's only superpower'' required about half of its military force (much of which had to be stripped from the defenses of Europe and the rest of the world), to devastate this third-world country.
The monetary cost is controversial. The Boston Globe estimated $100 billion, about $750 million per day for smart bombs and lost aircraft plus tens of billions to rebuild Iraq. The Congressional Budget Office estimated from $28 billion to $86 billion, much of it to be paid by US allies. The White House stated the cost of simply maintaining 500,000 troops in the Gulf for five months to be $21.5 billion.
The cost may turn out to be lower than calculated because losses were incredibly light and the US may not replace much of the equipment that was lost or used. B-52s can't be replaced; Boeing doesn't make them anymore. Other equipment would be cut as part of the 25% downsizing of the military planned over the next five years. If the Navy has 450 ships rather than 600, more Tomahawks will not be needed.
``It doesn't matter how much it costs,'' stated Kenneth Mayer of the University of Wisconsin. ``If George Bush is right and we're fighting this war now to avoid fighting it in 10 years when Hussein has nuclear weapons, what is that worth?'' (Insight 2/25/91).
What does matter to Congress
is the projected cost of defending the United States in the event
that Iraq or Libya or China develops missiles and bombs and decides
to attack us. This is scrutinized far more critically than the
cost of pre-emptively wiping out one of many potential threats
even though there are real, existing threats that cannot be destroyed.
And even though Hussein's nuclear program might have remained
uninterrupted had he not invaded Kuwait.
Time to Balance the Equation?
Saddam Hussein, it is said, has a ``World War I mindset.''
In 1914, the World War I ``doctrine of the offensive'' was tenaciously adhered to despite the advent of barbed wire and machine guns and was criticized by few, notably by Churchill. He deplored the ``destructive stupidity'' of the French strategy of launching ``precipitate offensives,'' even though ``there is no reason to doubt that the German invasion could have been brought to a standstill ... within from 30 to 50 kilometres of the French frontiers'' (Churchill, The World Crisis, quoted in the American Spectator, April 1991).
In 1991, the smart bomb and the stealth bomber have made the US doctrine of the offensive appear invincible. As they may be, in the absence of an adequate defense.
Iraqi air defenses were nearly useless. Yet they were better than those that defend the United States.
Iraqi civil defense had limitations. But Hussein survived.
If a future Iraq had the Patriot and other advanced air defense systems the modern functional equivalent of barbed wire and machine guns combined with the capacity to attack America, how would our citizens fare, compared with present-day Iraqis?
The cost of such an outcome, as well as the cost of the Gulf War offensive, needs to be entered into the offensive vs. defensive equation.