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Invasion the Only Realistic Option to Head Off the Threat from Iraq, Argues Kenneth Pollack in The Threatening Storm

September 26, 2002
Council on Foreign Relations

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Contact: Lisa Shields, Director of Communications, 212-434-9888

New York, September 25, 2002 - To prevent the near certainty that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons, the United States has little choice but to invade Iraq, topple the regime, eradicate its weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild the country as a prosperous and stable society. So argues former NSC Persian Gulf Director and CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack in a new Council on Foreign Relations book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq. This book is the most detailed and authoritative account yet on how and why this war must be fought.

Saddam’s propensity to miscalculate, his penchant for aggression, and his willingness to absorb horrific punishment will mean that the United States is likely to face a much worse conflict down the road, especially after Saddam has acquired nuclear weapons.

Building on his acclaimed March 2002 Foreign Affairs article, “Next Stop Baghdad?,” Pollack lays out five options available to the United States—bolstering containment, depending on a formal deterrence policy, mounting a covert action campaign, relying on airpower and the Iraqi opposition, and launching a full—scale invasion—and argues that none of the first four are realistic anymore. Therefore only a full-scale invasion involving several hundred thousand American soldiers can deal with the growing threat.

Although Pollack believes that an invasion will be expensive and potentially difficult, he argues that it is our best—or “least bad”—option. While the United States must consider the great cost and potentially high number of casualties of such a war, Pollack points out that throughout history, some of the costliest and most difficult wars have been the most important ones to fight. And waiting too long—as Britain and France did in early 1938—could prove to be a terrible miscalculation.

However, Pollack argues that the United States must approach an invasion soberly and meticulously. “We have to do it right,” Pollack says. As The Threatening Storm explains, the invasion force must be big enough to overwhelm the Iraqi armed forces and stifle Saddam’s likely counterattacks; the United States must have the support of key Middle Eastern states; Washington should do everything it can to secure the support of its European and Asian allies; and we must be willing to commit the resources and the attention needed to rebuild a stable, prosperous Iraq afterwards. He cautions that if we are not willing to make such commitments, an invasion could create as many problems as it solves.

Advance praise for The Threatening Storm:

"Kenneth Pollack has brilliantly written a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the problem Iraq poses for the United States. This is a must read for those desiring an in-depth understanding of the issues in this complex problem and for those who are responsible for developing policy."

—General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.)

"Iraq is at the top of America's foreign policy agenda and this book should be at the top of your reading list. Kenneth Pollack approaches the problem of Saddam Hussein without ideological blinkers or prejudices. He provides a clear-eyed account of the breakdown of American policy toward Saddam Hussein and makes a powerful case for a shift in that policy. Whether or not you agree with Pollack's solution—and I do—you will admire The Threatening Storm. It is intelligent, balanced, and measured; a model of fair-minded analysis on a topic that rarely gets any. Before you make up your mind on Iraq, read this book."

—Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International

"One of the most important books on American foreign policy in years. There is no greater strategic challenge than Iraq, and nobody better qualified to tackle it than Kenneth Pollack. To have such comprehensive, high-quality professional analysis available publicly and in real time is simply extraordinary. From now on, all serious debate over how to handle Saddam starts here."

—Gideon Rose, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs


Kenneth Pollack wrote The Threatening Storm as a Senior Fellow and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Threatening Stormis a Council on Foreign Relations Book published by Random House.

It is available at your local book store.