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The Greatest Threat

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The Greatest Threat
Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security. By Richard Butler. (PublicAffairs: 2001. Pg. 288.) ISBN: 1586480391

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - April 28, 2003

Was Saddam Hussein one of the greatest threats to ever face mankind? The jury is still out on this intriguing question. However there are few people that would deny that throughout the years of his reign in Iraq he was a threat. Without a doubt he threatened and murdered his own people, he threatened and attacked his neighbors, notably Kuwait and Israel. It is also very likely that he helped support various terrorist groups. It is also plausible that he had at his disposal weapons of mass destruction. Yet was he 'the greatest threat'. According to Richard Butler, former chairman of UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission), the answer was yes!

What does this mean today? After all, if Saddam is even alive, hasn't he been defanged? While the fate of Saddam may not yet be known, what is know is that even if he is no longer a threat, it is only a matter of time until the next Great Evil arises, and we find ourselves again under the threat of imminent doom. How we deal with the 'next great evil' will depend in large measures on what we have learn from how the world powers dealt with Saddam - and the many mistakes made.

In The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security, Richard Butler takes a harsh and in-depth look at the entire weapons inspection program, and how various global powers dealt with Saddam's regime. In discussing the diplomatic machinations that surrounded the world's dealing with Iraq, Butler offers some compelling insights that help to explain France's willingness, and barbarous desire, to do business with Saddam. He also looks at Russia's efforts to undercut the UN and the USA's efforts to curb Saddam power, in order to protect their own sphere of influence in the Middle East.

In precise and clear terms, Butler explains why he feels that Saddam was a threat, and by extension the implications that this threat posed to international security. He also explains why the weapons inspections were a failure, and how this need not have been the case had the program been given the support and power that they were suppose to have had. Butler also delineates, in exacting detail, his tenure as chairman of UNSCOM.

The core of this text chronicles the events surrounding Saddam's efforts, after the first Gulf War, to amass a formidable collection of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and the corresponding efforts taken by the UN to stop him. During this narrative, Butler also paints a picture of the UN, as a political entity, that makes it difficult to imagine how the UN ever gets anything done. Technically, the UN is a united forum composed of various national states that have joined together in order to foster global peace and security. In actuality, however, it is a body composed of a wealth of countries that are each striving to protect their own interests - both political and economic. Just because an action might be good for the common good, there is no surety that it will be carried out. As Butler clearly points out in this book, national self-interest was all too often used by many countries as an excuse to sabotage efforts to contain Saddam.

The Greatest Threat is an intriguing book, and one that is just as relevant now, that the second Gulf War has technically ended, as it was before this war began. This book highlights the numerous faults inherent in how the UN is structured, and the importance of correcting them in order to make the UN an authoritative and potent body. This text also serves as a compelling historical narrative of a period in which the world once again stood on the brink of disaster - and by sheer luck, survived. How long will our luck hold out?

Related Reviews:

The Rise of the Islamic Empire and the Threat to the West, By Anthony J. Dennis.
A provocative book about the rise of Islamic Fundamentalist and the threat that it poses for the West.

Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, by Dore Gold.
A compelling and timely look at the history of Wahhabism and Saudi support of radical Islamic terrorist groups.

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