A Most Dangerous Year
By MICHAEL COLLINS DUNN
For the Middle East, 1998 was a complex, difficult year, one in which
U.S. policy was frustrated at several turns and seemingly ill-defined
or unfocused in others, in which Saddam Hussein's defiance of U.N. inspections
continued to a point at which U.S. armed retaliation seemed all but inevitable.
Saddam backed down, once again, in mid-November--but one month later
Operation Desert Fox started and the already confused situation became
much more so.
Certainly there are lessons to be learned from the security challenges
faced by the United States in the region in 1998: the difficulty of even
the "world's sole remaining superpower" controlling events
if it cannot hold its former coalition partners together; the problems
raised by threats not carried out, and/or by posturing that has to be
abandoned; and the problem of dealing with regional issues on an ad hoc
reactive basis rather than seeing the connections that link them together.
When the year began there was wide-spread expectation of a major U.S.
military strike against Iraq. But until the middle of December and the
Desert Fox strikes the only military action that the United States had
actually carried out in the region during the year was the Tomahawk missile
attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan on 20 August. The large U.S. buildup
in the Gulf at the beginning of the year--two carriers and, during some
transition periods, three--had been much reduced. Only one carrier--the
Abraham Lincoln, succeeded by the Dwight D. Eisenhower and, in November,
by the Enterprise--remained in the region. U.S. attention, focused so
intently on Saddam Hussein at the beginning of the year, had shifted
to Kosovo and other issues, while the once-vaunted U.N. inspection program
was in disarray, blocked by the Iraqis and the subject of a public feud
between former inspector Scott Ritter and his onetime boss, United Nations
Special Commission chief Richard Butler.
Then suddenly in November, in a case of deja vu, the United States was
in confrontation with Saddam once again, and had dispatched additional
forces to the region. On the weekend of 14-15 November a U.S. strike
against Iraq, reportedly already in the air, was recalled after an Iraqi
backdown. Many of the additional forces en route for the Gulf also were
recalled. When the Enterprise battle group arrived in late November there
was no intention of maintaining the Dwight D. Eisenhower in the region
Ironically, at least one defense-related development of 1998 was almost
entirely overlooked: the decision to add, as of 1 October 1999, the five
Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan,
and Kyrgyzstan to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility (AOR).
CENTCOM's move into Central Asia follows a number of joint maneuvers
between U.S. and Central Asian forces, and recognizes the growing interrelationships
between the new states of Central Asia and the "old" Middle
East. (Of course, these new additions to CENTCOM's AOR will have little
impact on U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) based in Bahrain,
since the Central Asian states are landlocked or border only the Caspian
Sea, itself landlocked.)
The addition of five new countries to CENTCOM's AOR also reflects the
shifting realities of the post-Cold War, post-Soviet world, and the increasing
obsolescence of the older regional divisions. The growing importance
of the states around the Caspian Sea is an example: conventionally, Turkey
is classed as part of Europe, the three countries of the Caucasus and
the new states of Central Asia as part of the former Soviet Union, and
Iran as part of the Middle East. But all of these Caspian states have
to work together to get the new oil and gas discovered in the region
to market. The CENTCOM shift in part reflects the need for new ways of
thinking about the region (even though the Caucasus states were shifted
to the European Command's AOR rather than to CENTCOM).
From Kosovo to Kashmir: A New Arc of Crisis
It probably is worth noting that conventional boundaries of "The
Middle East" are shifting in all directions. In the late 1970s and
early 1980s it was fashionable to speak of an "arc of crisis" running
from the Middle East through Iran and Afghanistan. Today there is a new
arc of crisis, running from Kosovo to Kashmir. There is no common factor--not
Islam, not weapons of mass destruction, not even the emergence of a single
regional power--in the various disputes but most individual problems
have links with countries and quarrels nearby, and, while each may be
defused separately, the possibility of a chain reaction of unforeseen
events (perhaps as explosive as those of August 1914) is not completely
out of the question.
A quick tour d'horizon of this trans-regional instability before one
looks at the "Middle East" proper may be in order. Turkey is
today more actively involved in the Middle East than it has been in decades,
building a strong defense alliance with Israel, and openly confronting
and challenging Syria (with which it not only has disputes over Kurdish
rebel support but also a major water dispute and a latent boundary problem).
But Turkey also is a major player in the crisis in the Balkans--and in
the growing debate over the Caspian oil pipeline routes.
Today there is a much broader arc: from the Balkans--the continuing
problem of Bosnia and the growing one of Kosovo--through Cyprus (where
the arrival of Russian surface-to-air missiles in the Greek Republic
of Cyprus threatened to provoke Turkish military action late in 1998)--and
on through the Syrian-Turkish confrontation, and Turkey's deepening strategic
alliance with Israel, already alluded to. Syria clearly sees itself as
the target of that alliance, and it is most likely right. Turkey also
continues to periodically invade northern Iraq to chase Kurdish rebels,
and this--plus the fact that Turkey provides the bases for the northern
no-fly zone patrols over Iraq (the operation is now called Northern Watch)--makes
it a player there as well. The whole Caspian oil embroglio links it both
with the disturbed Caucasus and with Iran.
In the Caucasus itself the year saw a new hard-line president in Armenia,
another assassination attempt against the president of Georgia, Verdana,
Arial, and a highly controversial reelection of the onetime KGB chief
and Soviet Politburo member, Heydar Aliyev, who is president of Azerbaijan
and at the moment the darling of the Western oil companies.
Eastward the ferment inside Iran continues, and Iran came close to a
possible intervention in Afghanistan, but was perhaps dissuaded by lessons
learned by British, Russian, and (a bit farther back) earlier Iranian
experiences. The tensions remained very high, though, as the year was
drawing to a close. The Taleban in Afghanistan, once supported by Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia and tolerated by the United States, had alienated both
the Saudis and the Americans, but continuing Pakistani support led to
increased tensions between Iran and Pakistan. Iran also found itself
supplying arms to the same side in the Afghan civil war as Russia, and
cheering on the American attacks on Usama bin Ladin's camps in Afghanistan.
Geopolitics is making strange bedfellows indeed.
Pakistan and India usually are considered outside the Middle East (India
always, Pakistan sometimes), but the detonation of nuclear devices by
both clearly had repercussions in the region, and certainly will spur
nuclear ambitions in such neighboring countries as Iran, and perhaps
others. Some of the camps bombed in Afghanistan housed Kashmiri rebels,
and India and Pakistan first fought a few border skirmishes in Kashmir
and then began talks, but questions remain about Pakistan's internal
stability--thus, with challenges on the Iran-Afghan border as well as
in Kashmir, and the stark fact of Pakistan's new nuclear capabilities,
the future is unclear.
Then, too, of course, there were the bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi,
Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania--countries never considered part of
the Middle East (although Kenya is included in CENTCOM's AOR). The bombings
led to retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan, which are now
counted in the Middle East.
Conventional regional boundaries are thus bending and expanding: The "Middle
East" is now interlinked with the Balkans, South Asia, Central Asia,
the Caucasus, and at times even the Indian Ocean basin. These links are
particularly evident in the proliferation field: India wants a nuclear-weapons
capability in order to deter China; Pakistan developed its nuclear capabilities
to deter India; Iran is now quarreling with Pakistan, and may well be
more determined to pursue its own nuclear-weapons program; and Iraq,
never exactly reticent about the idea anyway, will certainly want to
The Middle East "Proper"
Shrinking the horizon a bit permits one to look more closely at the
region that most people still consider to be the Middle East: from Morocco
to Afghanistan, perhaps, or at least Iran. Before looking more closely
at some of the problems encountered by U.S. policy in 1998--and some
of the problems encountered in defining U.S. policy in 1998--a more detailed
tour d'horizon of the region than that already given of the broader arc
of crisis area may be in order.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks made virtually no progress all year
until the apparent breakthrough at the Wye Plantation Summit in Maryland
in October--which was followed in short order by new terrorist incidents
in Israel. In any event, the progress achieved in Wye will merely move
the process a small step forward, and President Clinton's historic visit
to Palestine in early December also may help--but the regional repercussions
of the Desert Fox strikes were not clear as of 20 December [press deadline
for the 1999 Almanac]. In any event, next May is the deadline originally
set by the 1993 Oslo accords for completion of the "final status" talks,
which have not yet even started. And those talks deal with the most intractable
issues: Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, the final borders, and Palestinian
independence. If the Palestinian Authority declares independence in May,
as it has threatened to do if no progress is made by then, events could
spin out of control quickly.
Iran's slow, contested, winding struggle towards liberalization has
continued, but with every move challenged by the hard-liners opposed
to President Mohammad Khatami's tentative overtures to the West, and
even to the United States. The visit by Khatami and his foreign minister,
Kamal Kharrazi, to the United Nations in the fall of 1998 marked another
step in this new opening. But newspapers allied with Khatami were under
attack at home, and his efforts to end the fatwa against Salman Rushdie
have been challenged by groups that have offered to raise the reward
for Rushdie's execution. Iran clearly is on better terms with the West,
and even with the United States, than at any time since the Revolution.
In short, despite the setbacks, progress has been made--but it usually
has been two steps forward followed by one and a half steps back. The
U.S. waiver of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in the case of the French-Russian-Malaysian
natural gas plan for Iran was a gesture aimed at defusing a problem with
Europe as well as an overture to Iran; that deal has suffered, though,
from the economic collapse of both Russia and Malaysia.
Ironically, the United States and Iran also find themselves on the same
side, in a manner of speaking, in the confrontation in Afghanistan between
Iran and the Taleban, who once seemed to offer a possible end to Afghan
civil wars and a pipeline route to the Indian Ocean that avoided both
Russia and Iran. But Afghanistan now seems more mired in instability
than ever before, remains hostile to the West, and has been the host
of Usama bin Ladin. Perhaps one reason Iran seems more tractable is not
just the mellowing of the 20-year-old revolution and the victory of Khatami
(with a 70 percent share of the vote) over the establishment candidate,
but the comparison with the Taleban. Although women serve in the Cabinet
in Iran and read the news on television, in Afghanistan the Taleban have
barred women from school and have banned television altogether. Iran
is a constitutional republic; in contrast, the Taleban proclaimed an "emirate" with
no visible constitutional structure and a very hazy leadership.
An Aging Arab Leadership
There were no revolutionary changes in the Arab world in the past year,
but the evolutionary changes that appear imminent may be profound. King
Hussein of Jordan has served since the late Truman Administration; although
only in his 60s, the relapse of his cancer and the long but reportedly
successful treatment at the Mayo Clinic (which took him from his kingdom
for several months) are a reminder that an era is ending. Hafiz al-Assad
of Syria has served since 1970, and is both aging and ailing; Saddam
Hussein has been a major player since the late 1960s; Egypt's Husni Mubarak
has been in power for 17 years, serving longer as president than either
Gamal Abdel Nasser or Anwar Sadat. Yasser Arafat has led the PLO since
the 1960s, and is suffering from some sort of degenerative problem (rumored
to be Parkinson's). King Fahd of Saudi Arabia had several surgeries in
1998, and his stroke a few years ago left him impaired; the around-the-world
tour of Crown Prince Abdullah in late 1998 was widely seen as a get-acquainted
tour for the next king. Abdullah is (at most) only a year younger than
Fahd, but is in far better health. Still, those in the next generation
of princes are chafing, and the future of Saudi Arabia in the near term
could be a succession of elderly kings who serve at most for a few years.
King Hassan II of Morocco will be 70 next July, and has been in power
since a month after John F. Kennedy's inauguration; even the region's
onetime enfant terrible, Col. Muammar Qadhafi of Libya, has been in power
since 1969: 30 years this year.
Clearly, change is in the offing: Age and the laws of entropy guarantee
that. Ironically, at least the monarchies have clearcut heirs apparent:
Despite Hussein's long tenure, there is little doubt that his younger
brother Crown Prince Hassan, in his early 50s, will succeed him. The
debate in Jordan is about who will succeed Hassan, a subject of much
speculation among the sons of Hussein and the one son of Hassan. Abdullah
will succeed Fahd in Saudi Arabia. Hassan II, Morocco's Crown Prince,
had a playboy reputation--but so, once, did his father. In any event,
Hassan II is now being given a higher profile. Other monarchs in the
region also are aging: Sheikh Zayid of Abu Dhabi is the oldest, but his
succession is rather clear and undisputed.
The republics are much chancier. President Assad of Syria clearly has
groomed his son Bashshar to be his successor, and has been clearing other
candidates out of the way, but what will happen once the elder Assad
is gone is hard to predict. Saddam Hussein also has groomed his sons
to succeed. Who Qadhafi's successor will be has long been a subject for
speculation, and Egypt's Mubarak has never named a vice president. Finally,
although there are many talented Palestinian officials, none has the
reputation or sheer political clout enjoyed by Arafat.
Of course, the exact timetable for any of these changes is unknown,
but it would seem likely that, within a decade or less, many of the oldest
and most familiar faces in the Arab world will have changed. Those changes
could have significant policy impact: The peace process with Israel certainly
will be different if Arafat, Assad, Mubarak, and Hussein have all left
the scene. If their successors are less stable, less secure, or less
entrenched in power, their negotiating room may also be considerably
The Problems for U.S. Policy
There has really been no change in fundamental U.S. interests in the
Middle East in the last several years. The United States wants to see:
(a) the continued flow of oil from the region; (b) security and stability
in the oil-producing countries; (c) security for Israel (within the context
of peace with its neighbors); and (d) a limitation on terrorism--and
on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (and the means of
There are few who would argue with those basic policies, but once implementation
gets beyond the level of "peace good, terrorism bad," policy
definition naturally becomes more complex. The past year has shown several
areas in which U.S. policy seemed, at times, adrift or at any rate unfocused.
The major problems seem to have centered around three areas: coordination
with allies and other friends in the region; recognizing that those allies
see links between U.S. policies on differing issues in the Gulf; and
avoiding a loss of credibility when threatening the use of force.
The Iraqi Confrontations
All three of these problems were in play during the confrontation with
Iraq in the winter of 19971998, and the subsequent challenges of
late summer and mid-November. The United States built up a crescendo
of threats of action in an attempt to force Saddam Hussein to accede
to United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspection of sites he
had kept closed. As the U.S. military buildup in the Gulf and adjacent
waters intensified, there were widespread indications given, in each
instance, that military action was imminent. But military options were
limited in the earlier confrontations by the refusal of Saudi Arabia
and Turkey to allow bases in those countries to be used for strikes against
Iraq. That limited U.S. ground-based air operations to Kuwait and possibly
Bahrain--and, of course, the U.S. Navy's carrier force in the Gulf. But
Saddam had proven himself able to absorb considerable punishment--and
none of the targets reportedly under consideration would have directly
affected the inspections situation. Moreover, military action would almost
certainly have led to the immediate expulsion of UNSCOM. The targets
hit in the first two days of Desert Fox seem to have been well-selected,
and Pentagon officials provided a credible rationale for the strikes,
but the politics of the situation created controversies that may affect
U.S. influence in the region for a long time to come.
In effect, the United States found itself painted into a corner, with
few options, and it had done most of the painting itself. In the end
the compromise worked out last summer by U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan was probably as face-saving a way as any to stand down from the
threats. But the Annan compromise, as many predicted, did not resolve
the inspections issue.
When, on 3 August, Iraq blocked UNSCOM inspections of additional new
sites, the United States did not respond with the same military threats
it had enunciated previously. Saddam appeared to have won, therefore,
or at least to have sharply limited what UNSCOM could inspect. But Saddam
later overplayed his hand and the end result, all politics aside, was
With the forces it had assembled in early 1998, the United States certainly
could have applied military force earlier. But, as noted earlier, such
action might simply have ended all UNSCOM inspections, angered the Arab
world, and accomplished little except destroy some Iraqi military assets
that were unrelated (or only tangentially related) to the inspections
issue. (Obviously, known weapons of mass destruction plants have long
since been dismantled; the whole point of the inspection regime is to
find the hidden ones--until they are located, they cannot be bombed.)
A key element in the earlier confrontations was the lack of support
from the former coalition partners, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia,
but also including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman. Only Kuwait
was openly supportive, and Bahrain--home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet--issued
conflicting statements. Because a major rationale behind the U.S. presence
in the Gulf is to defend Saudi Arabia and its smaller neighbors, their
lack of support not only limited operational options from land bases,
but also was politically embarrassing.
Some U.S. commentators have blamed the Saudis, the Turks, and others
for their alleged timidity, but this criticism overlooks the fact that
popular opinion in the region has shifted dramatically in recent years.
The Arab "street"--i.e., the average citizen--was never enthusiastic
about Desert Storm, either, but the Arab elites were supportive of the
United States. Today, the elites tend to agree in most respects with
the "street" that the United States is pursuing a double standard:
insisting that Iraq adhere to the letter of every U.N. resolution, but
making no similar demand of Israel. The rulers of the Arab world are
not democrats, but they do have a constituency of sorts to answer to--not
so much the general public, but the powerful forces of the political
elite. In the Gulf this generally means the wealthy businessmen and big
merchant families. During the period of U.S. threats against Iraq in
early 1998, the public image of the United States in the Arab world,
not just in the street but among the elites, was lower than it had been
at any time since the 1950s or 1960s.
This touches upon another of the problems that U.S. policy has encountered:
Virtually everyone in the region (including, incidentally, the Israelis,
from their separate perspective) sees a close linkage between the Gulf
security and Iraqi issues and the Arab-Israeli peace process. In the
Arab world, that linkage takes the form of charging the United States
with a double standard--i.e., not holding Israel to U.N. Resolutions
but insisting on precise Iraqi compliance. In Israel, the linkage consists
of an insistence that support for Israeli security must be a major component
of the overall Gulf security equation. In the wake of the Gulf War, President
George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker recognized this linkage
by pressuring Israel and the Arab states to attend the Madrid Peace Conference.
Today, though, the United States seems to deny that there is a real linkage.
Among many statements fortifying that impression is the following, made
by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the now somewhat notorious
February 1998 "town meeting" at Ohio State University:
Secretary Albright (answering a question about the impact on the Israeli-Palestinian
peace talks of possible U.S. military action against Iraq):
I have spent quite a lot of time on this issue in the last months--1997
was not a great year for the peace talks, but we are determined to continue.
These are two very separate issues that need to be resolved. [Source:
Town meeting at Ohio State University, 18 February 1998; U.S. Department
of State transcript.]
But such comments fail to reflect the perception in the region, and
have much to do with why the United States and its best friends in the
Arab world (even Egypt) did not see eye to eye on Iraqi policy in 1998.
Few in the region really care for Saddam, and most fear him, but they
are concerned about the suffering caused to ordinary Iraqis by the embargo.
That Saddam is largely responsible both for its continuation and for
the hardships inflicted is true, of course, but regional perceptions
helped all year to undermine the U.S. approach.
Needless to say, the earlier threats and military buildups, and then
the lack of follow-through, followed by apparent acquiescence when Saddam
again turned defiant in both August and November, had already undermined
U.S. credibility before the Desert Fox attack started on 16 December.
Elsewhere in the region, the long delays before taking action in Bosnia,
and later the threats and posturing in Kosovo, added to a growing perception
that the United States is much more willing to threaten military force
than it is to actually use it. Moreover, when it does use force, it uses
Tomahawks and hits targets whose actual relevance to the crisis at hand
is not always clear. In short, it has seemed at times that the United
States has adopted a policy of "speak loudly, but carry a small
The Attacks Against Sudan/Afghanistan Targets
Some of these same policy problems were evident again in the 20 August
raids against a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, and training camps along
the Afghan-Pakistani border operated by Usama bin Ladin. Retaliating
against the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam,
the United States struck, in both cases, with Tomahawks that reportedly
were launched from Navy ships in the area. According to several published
accounts, the United States notified Pakistan at the very moment of launch,
for at least two reasons: (1) the missiles to Afghanistan had to overfly
Pakistan; and (2) Pakistan had already, according to the Pakistani press,
detected U.S. naval vessels operating close to the Pakistani coast.
The attack against the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan may have been
launched from ships in the Red Sea, which would not require overflying
any third country. In any event, no U.S. friends in the region were notified
in advance of the plan except for the Pakistanis, at the last moment.
The lack of advance notification led to considerable concern in general,
and resulted in much Pakistani anger.
The Sudanese pharmaceutical factory may have been poorly chosen as a
target. Its links with Usama bin Ladin are tenuous at best; after several
explanations the United States sought to link the factory with Iraq instead.
An initial U.S. claim that the factory did not produce medicines at all
was clearly unfounded (as dozens of Westerners who had visited the plant
soon testified); it may have been a dual-use facility, of course, but
the United States has produced no direct evidence that it was--and, although
U.S. officials continue to defend the attack, rumors persist that a different
facility actually is involved in the Iraqi chemical weapons research
program, not the one hit.
The attacks on the Afghan camps were less controversial, except for
the embarrassment caused in Pakistan. But such primitive training camps
are easily rebuilt, and it is not entirely clear that these particular
camps had any direct link to the embassy bombings. The Tomahawk was not
designed in any case to be a counterterrorist weapon, and striking at
a network like bin Ladin's is more difficult than had been the case with
groups clearly supported by sovereign states. Bin Ladin's network is
self-financed from his own millions, is a loose alliance of separate
national underground movements with only a small international nexus
coordinating them, and is not clearly linked to any state. It is, in
other words, the sort of movement usually targeted by covert operations,
not by cruise missiles.
With these lingering doubts about the choice of targets and the appropriateness
of the weapons, it is hard to determine exactly what the United States
accomplished. That new retaliatory attacks will take place again seems
quite likely, but the question remains: Did the United States win anything
of consequence? It did not decapitate the bin Ladin network; it apparently
has, though, further substantiated the U.S. image as a bully in the region.
A clearcut, decisive, massive military operation against targets clearly
linked to the bombing would have possessed more inherent credibility
than the attacks actually inflicted.
But U.S. military operations anywhere in the world are increasingly
constrained by political and budgetary concerns. Unlike the early buildup
against Saddam, in which two carriers and a third on the way were used,
only one carrier was kept routinely on station in the Gulf, and ground-based
air strikes were usually ruled out by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Moreover,
U.S. forces in the Mediterranean are preoccupied with Bosnia and Kosovo.
The overall drawdown in U.S. forces limits options even further. All
of this has combined to produce a pattern of threats by the United States
that either are not carried out--or are carried out late and/or halfheartedly,
with questionable military results.
The Peace Process
In the midst of all this, the United States also is still laboring to
reach the next step in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. When Israel's
Yitzhak Rabin was alive and the prime minister of Israel, negotiations
were slow and painful. But both sides were willing to overlook minor
flaws in the other's behavior because they trusted each other to move
toward a common goal. Binyamin Netanyahu's government has been openly
hostile to the Oslo accords themselves, however, and this has made Yasser
Arafat even less able to make certain concessions. The appointment of
hardliner Ariel Sharon as foreign minister on the eve of the Wye Plantation
Summit certainly did not make the negotiating there any easier. And even
if a breakthrough were to take place, and to be implemented in full,
the thorny issue of the final-status talks remains ahead, when the really
difficult negotiations begin. Meanwhile, the Palestinian threat to declare
independence next May hangs over the whole process like a Sword of Damocles,
threatening widespread Arab recognition and a reversion to the old days
of broader Arab alliances against Israel.
Proliferation of WMDs
The worst may not happen, but from Kosovo to Kashmir the number of dangerous
crisis situations has proliferated. So, too, have the weapons, including
weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them. India and
Pakistan are now nuclear powers. Medium-range missiles have been tested
by Pakistan and India, and longer-range missiles are in development.
Iran also is extending the range of its missiles. Israel already possessed
longer-range missiles--and nuclear weapons as well.
Chemical and biological weapons programs are not limited to the well-publicized
cases of Iran and Libya, either; Israel, Egypt, and Syria all have chemical
and biological weapons capabilities, perhaps more advanced than Iran's.
In short, Pandora's box is open; missile and WMD proliferation will
not go away. As Iraq has demonstrated, even with an intrusive inspections
regime it is not hard to hide such weapons capabilities. Deploring, sanctioning,
and embargoing may have some impact, but in the long run the only way
to check the use of such weapons is through deterrence. The clear message
that the use of such weapons will be met with an unacceptably punishing
response--and perhaps comparable weapons--is, in the end, the only way
to restrain their use.
Deterrence does work. But in a world without the polarized superpowers
of the Cold War, the danger of a rogue state actually resorting to the
use of such weapons is greater--especially with the "sole remaining
superpower" not acting like one. To maintain peace, therefore, deterrence
needs to be not just credible, but virtually certain.
As U.S. naval and military leaders insist, today's world is in many
respects more dangerous than the Cold War world of the previous half
century, and the Middle East remains one of the most dangerous regions.
The broader region in particular, from Kosovo to Kashmir, was far more
dangerous in late 1998 than it was just one year earlier.
Dr. MICHAEL COLLINS DUNN is editor of The Middle East Journal, quarterly
journal of The Middle East Institute, and has also for 10 years been
editor and publisher of The Estimate, a biweekly intelligence newsletter
on the Islamic world.