Outfoxed in “Desert Fox”

From the August 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

“To degrade Saddam Hussein’s ability to make and to use weapons of mass destruction. To diminish Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war against his neighbors….” So read the mission goals of Operation Desert Fox. Launched by the U.S. against Iraq on December 16, 1998, the 70-hour air-strike campaign was declared a success; President Clinton congratulated American service members by proclaiming “mission accomplished” at the White House on December 19 that year.

Since then, sustained military operations against Iraq have continued with bomb or missile attacks, on average once every three days, to enforce the no-fly zones declared over surrounding airspace.

But what are the true results of the vaunted Desert Fox mission and the continuing air strikes on Iraq? Just how degraded is Saddam Hussein’s ability to use weapons of mass destruction on his neighbors? How diminished, really, is his ability to wage war?

The New York Times revealed on July 1 that just 18 months following Operation Desert Fox, Iraq has “restarted its missile program and flight tested a short-range ballistic missile.”

Ever the sly fox, Saddam Hussein has ensured that the missile he tested has a range of less than the 95 miles permitted by current UN restrictions placed on that nation. Yet experts are of the opinion that it is a short leap in technology to upgrade such short-range weapons into having a greater reach.

What is now apparent is that the Iraqis have been busy as beavers rebuilding the production plants and research labs destroyed in Desert Fox’s four nights of bombardment.

In a statement that struck at the heart of the fallacious goals of Operation Desert Fox, a senior defense department spokesman said of the damage wreaked by that operation, “We never claimed it was permanent. Whatever you can build, you can rebuild” (ibid.).

The point is, the ability to rebuild, and the time it will take, directly correlates to the degree of damage inflicted upon the enemy. Desert Fox was just another failure in a long line of military campaigns mounted under an American administration with little eye for history and military strategy.

As Richard Perle, a former U.S. assistant defense secretary, recently stated, “The word policy is an overstatement in describing the administration’s attitude toward Iraq. Paralysis is probably more appropriate.”

As long as they use their military arms to “degrade” rather than vanquish the power of their enemies, the U.S. will continue its history of never winning a war since 1945.