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President George W. Bush may have offered an articulate rationale to Congress, to the United Nations and to the American public for a war on Iraq. However, and alarmingly so, he has failed to offer a cogent plan outlining a replacement regime for post-Saddam Iraq. In the absence of clear alternatives to Saddam Hussein, potential U.S. military action in Iraq appears lacking in political foresight.
While Bush may plausibly claim Saddam to be a threat to U.S. strategic interests, those interests cannot be safeguarded solely through the removal of the Iraqi dictator. Critical to U.S. interest is the individual, clique or the party that replaces Saddam.
Bush's foremost justification for an attack on Iraq is to preempt a potential biological or military strike on U.S. possessions and interests. However, U.S. geopolitical interests play just as important a role in determining its policy options. An outcome that tilts the geopolitical balance in the Persian/Arabian Gulf region against the United States would, therefore, be unfavorable.
A weaker Iraq may strengthen the United States' other adversary in the region: Iran. It is imperative that a change in the Iraqi regime, beneficial as it may arguably be to United States' security interests, may come at the cost of its geopolitical interests.
Thus far, the alternatives to Saddam's leadership seem severely limited. The demographic composition of Iraq is such that a popular uprising runs the risk of strengthening Iran. Consolidation under the main Iraqi opposition party, the Iraqi National Congress, under Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi, may push the country into Iran's sphere of influence.
The Kurdish opposition, led by Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, are unable to work in sync, much less command the support of the vast majority of the Sunni-Shiite population.
Thus, an overthrow of the discernibly oppressive Saddam regime, in the absence of a preferred alternative, may in fact destabilize the regional power balance or potentially lead to a breakup of Iraq.
A strike on Iraq, coupled with a regime change, can strengthen Iran's strategic control over the region, at the detriment of U.S. interests.
This was, indeed, the motivation behind the first President Bush's decision not to support the popular uprisings that followed Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War in 1991.
Instead, the senior Bush's administration had favored a military coup from within the regime.
However, restructuring of the B'aath Party's security apparatus and the elimination of ambitious generals, by a paranoid Saddam, has also precluded alternate leadership emerging from within the Iraqi military regime.
Who, then, will replace Saddam Hussein? Unfortunately, the question remains yet to be addressed, or even lent due credence, by the Bush administration.
Fahim Ahmed, a native of Bangladesh, is a senior at Middlebury. He is also the Ross Commons Senator to the SGA.
Student Asks Who Will Replace Saddam Hussein?
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