SADDAM AND THE TERRORISTS: Brookings Institution Fellow Daniel Byman details Saddam’s history of alliances with terrorist organizations. He is concerned that an invasion might cause Saddam to be more reckless and thus increase terrorism in the short term. However, his conclusion certainly provides a case for war:

A successful war, however, offers several advantages in the struggle against al-Qa’eda—particularly in the long-term. Removing Saddam’s regime dramatically changes the military balance in the Persian Gulf in favor of the United States and its allies. The large military presence deployed to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in the 1990s could, after Iraq is occupied and rebuilt, be drawn down considerably, perhaps to an “over the horizon” posture similar to that employed before the first Gulf War. Such a drawdown would reduce (though hardly eliminate) Islamist anger at the United States.

In addition, the U.S. campaign may disprove Bin Ladin’s argument that America is weak. Even after being routed from Afghanistan, Bin Ladin scornfully noted a supposed “fear and cowardice and absence of the fighting spirit among American soldiers.” A decisive victory in Iraq would help dispel this myth. Indeed, Bin Ladin himself said on videotape “…when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”

The United States may also gain greater clout in the region from a victory against Iraq. In 1991, Desert Storm demonstrated the United States’ overwhelming power to Syria, the Palestinians, and others opposed to the United States. These anti-U.S. leaders swallowed their pride and worked with Washington for several years, producing unanticipated and dramatic progress in the Middle East peace process. A similar victory today may produce a similar boost in prestige that will help the United States in the war on terror.

Much depends, however, on what is done after Saddam is ousted. An Iraq in chaos would be a playground for Islamist radicals, enabling them to operate more freely and to attract recruits. Washington should strive to ensure peace is maintained, Iraq’s governance improves, and its oil wealth goes toward helping the Iraqi people—and equally important, that the perception is created that Washington is promoting these goals rather than retarding them.

An excellent piece by an actual expert.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.