Using Bees To Effect Vengeance

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Friday, February 14, 2003
Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but I fully agree with Thomas Friedman's latest column on Iraq.

More inspectors isn't going to do jack. The issue is not that there aren't enough inspectors to do the job -- it's that Saddam is not complying. Powell is right when he points out that the UN resolutions demanded disarmament, and that the burden was on Saddam to come clean or face the consequences.

The French/Germans/Russians are right in saying that the inspections have not run their course and that they see no need for immediate action. However, their refusal to be pinned down on a deadline is a big mistake. All of the diplomatic advances so far -- the U2 flights, the unchaperoned interviews, hell the inspections themselves -- are due to the fact that Saddam Hussein was confronted with a credible threat of force that made concessions to the UN the preferable option. Without that threat, he would have had no incentive to give on any of these issues, because what are they gonna do about it?

By publicly conveying their total reluctance to go to war, these countries undermine the effectiveness of the inspections they purportedly champion. The way to make real headway is to stand together and say "We'll give inspections more time, but if the UN is not satisfied by Such-And-Such-a-date that Iraq has fully disarmed then we will all agree to disarm Iraq by force. This would give Saddam a deadline, and disabuse him of any hope that he can hold on by driving a wedge between the hawks and the doves at the UN.

Going to war alone would be very dangerous, especially, as Friedman points out, in the aftermath. We need to do everything we can to build a genuine, credible international coalition. Bush needs to back off and the Security Council anti-war bloc needs to realize that what has been working is good cop/bad cop, not good cop/good cop. There has to be a mutually-agreed upon deadline that everyone is willing to enforce.

Something tells me that there are all kinds of back-channel negotiations devoted to reaching exactly this kind of compromise -- at least I hope so. That is, if the Bush adminstration hasn't already burnt all those bridges. Actually, this is a completely fascinating, complex time for diplomacy -- Iraq, al-Qaeda, North Korea, Israel/Palestine, economic concerns, larger globalization issues, all tied up, all overlapping, players in each situation using the developments in the other situations to advance their goals . I can't wait to read the history about all this stuff.


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