Wednesday, March 12
War's Power of Attraction
by James Carroll, Boston Globe, March 11, 2003

UNTIL THE WAR begins, one must insist that it is not inevitable. The conventional wisdom is that the United States, having already deployed its massive fighting force, cannot back down from the assault against Iraq without humiliation -- and a grievous loss of ''credibility.'' But that ''wisdom'' fails to take into account the most basic fact of military strategy. ''Violence is most purposive and most successful,'' the theorist Thomas C. Schelling wrote, ''when it is threatened and not used. Successful threats are those that do not have to be carried out.''

The Bush administration seems confused about this, as if the movement from threat to action is inexorable. Why else would Washington manifest such consistent indifference to the obvious success its threats have been having with Saddam Hussein? The tyrant has steadily bent to Washington's will and shows every sign, despite his bluster, of continuing to do so.

To put the question another way, why has Washington not declared victory, explaining that this slow yielding by Iraq to a range of pressures -- inspector Hans Blix on one side, General Tommy R. Franks on the other -- is what victory looks like now?

Instead of a loss of credibility, this solution short of open warfare could be said to represent the triumph of lethal threat combined with political process, a supreme example of military force used with real power.

Essential to that power is restraint. But instead of laying claim to this accomplishment and building on it, ...
... Washington seems intent on squandering its achievement and going to war -- despite the steady accumulation of good reasons not to. Why? [...]
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