News | Oct. 1, 2004

Eliminating Adversary WMD: Lessons for Future Conflicts

By Rebecca K.C. Hersman and Todd M. Koca Strategic Forum 211

As tensions between Iraq and the United States worsened in mid-to-late 2002 and as preparations began for Operation Iraqi Freedom, policymakers and military planners began to wrestle with the challenges posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Indeed, Iraqi defiance and deception in the face of United Nations (UN) sanctions, coupled with growing fears of WMD transfer to terrorist organizations—most prominently al Qaeda— were two primary reasons for confronting Saddam Hussein. Just as in the first Gulf War in 1991, deterring and defending against possible Iraqi use of WMD against coalition forces were key concerns for planners. However, as the crisis escalated in 2002, Department of Defense (DOD) planners began to foresee another challenge: how to remove comprehensively and permanently the threat of Iraqi WMD, not just to U.S. troops but also to the Middle East region and the world.

When faced with this challenge in late fall 2002, military planners and supporting DOD organizations realized that the comprehensive elimination of an adversary WMD program would entail far more than targeting enemy sites for destruction. A new mission, WMD elimination, was created, and planners began trying to define, adapt, and incorporate this mission into existing and developing war plans. As they did, they discovered critical gaps in U.S. preparations for dealing with a WMD-armed adversary. READ MORE >>