Six days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, President Bush enunciated the objectives of United States policy in the Persian Gulf.
Those objectives are limited. They included Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government, security and stability in the Persian Gulf and the protection of the lives of American citizens.The United States built both a domestic and an international consensus for action in the gulf based on those limited goals.
The objectives of Aug. 8 did not include the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.
Since August, senior U.S. officials, including the president, have reiterated that Saddam's removal is not an American objective. None of the United Nations Security Council resolutions that form the basis for military action in the gulf include the removal of Saddam as an objective of policy.
There are several reasons for not making Saddam's removal a goal in the current fighting;
First, to include Saddam's removal among our war objectives would mean an increase in American casualties. There is no good evidence that the current intensive bombing campaign can achieve the goal of eliminating Saddam.
If we are serious about targeting him, we must be willing to carry the ground war into Iraq itself and march to Baghdad. Such an objective would extend the war and increase casualties.
Second, by targeting Saddam we could make him a hero. When we personalize the conflict, we undercut our own goals of characterizing the war as one between Iraqi aggression and the world community.
Targeting Saddam would help him portray himself throughout the Arab world as a martyr who has singlehandedly taken on the West. It would increase his prestige with Arab radicals and the disaffected throughout the developing world.
Whether or not Saddam survives the war, targeting him will ensure that he remains a factor in the region long after the conflict is over. We certainly do not want to make him either a martyr or hero in the Arab world.
Third, Saddam would not be an easy target to hit, given the secrecy with which he moves and the attention he devotes to his personal security.
Saddam is hard to locate. He has networks of reinforced bunkers for his personal use throughout Iraq. His top advisers often do not know where he is. He often sleeps in several places in one night. His food taster is the son of his cook. If we target him and are unable to get him, it would be a victory for him and a loss for us.
Fourth, if we escalate our objectives in this conflict, we threaten both the domestic and the international consensus. There are more than 28 nations involved in the international coalition confronting Iraq. No more than three or four of those nations would sign on to the objective of eliminating Saddam; most coalition partners reject this approach. We adopt the objective of Saddam's elimination at the coalition's peril.
Fifth, political assassination is prohibited under current presidential directives. I know of no effort to change those directives. We should not adopt political methods we abhor. We cannot build a new world order based on the rule of law if we use tactics that are contrary to the values of a civilized society.
We all want to hasten the end of this war, I agree that it would be desirable to have a new Iraqi leadership. Saddam's demise could help create a new and more stable environment in the Middle East in the postwar period. But his elimination is not something we should seek as a goal of U.S. policy. We should stick with the president's objectives of Aug. 8 and leave the question of Iraq's future leadership to the Iraqis.
(Rep. Hamilton, D-Ind., is chairman of the Europe and Middle East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.)