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Make France really decide

The latest reports are that France, Germany, Russia and now China are all steadfast in their opposition to war in Iraq. Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix says he thinks Iraq is cooperating "very actively, I would say proactively." Everyone loves the status quo.

Of course they love it: It doesn't cost them anything. The longer the world waits, the greater the expense to the United States — in both money and possibly in lives lost fighting in hotter weather — but not to the rest of Europe. And they don't even have to consider the possibility that Saddam will get away with anything; Bush has assured them repeatedly that he won't.

So the only thing for the United States to do, if it actually wants to turn this dynamic around, is to call them on it — to say, OK, fine: We will abide by the U.N. Security Council's decision — and if it vetoes the resolution, we will pack up our missiles and our guns and go home.

Think about it. Do France, Germany, Russia and China really want to be responsible for saving Saddam's hide, and allowing him to flaunt the U.N.? Because that's exactly what would happen, without the immediate threat of U.S. military action. Would such a thing be a victory? Could they really go back home and say, We have saved the scourge of the Middle East! We have preserved instability and uncertainty and crippling sanctions for the beloved Iraqi people for decades to come!

I tend to doubt it. The only possible victory for them is over the United States. And the only reason that it's possible is because the U.S. president has told them (repeatedly) how he intends to ignore them if they protest: It's only by forcing him to pay attention that France et al. can claim they've accomplished anything. The U.S. could take that opportunity away from them any time it wants, by simply saying, OK, sure, we'll listen; what do you want to do?

Of course, it's too late for that — who would believe Bush or Colin Powell if they said it now? If it seems like just another bluff, it'll fail: The gambit would only be worthwhile to whatever extent it could force the Security Council to take its responsibility seriously. Still, it's a thought.

March 6, 2003 12:35 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

inspections are working. waiting is cheaper than invading. i agree with france, germany, russia. aggression should be avoided at all costs. a pre-emptive strike is bad foreign policy.

time to use the inspectors as a beachhead. make inroads for a systemic change. recognize saddam hussein as a despicable tyrant, but talk. unless he's stupid, he's no imminent threat. not imminent enough to go in guns ablazing. keep inspectors in iraq indefinitely, evolve them into quasi-peace keepers. even syria wouldn't object. if things get nasty, add protection. open an international embassy-like fixture in baghdad. if things go smooth, lift embargoes. foster a systemic sea change. catch the mullahs and baathists by surprise with what u.s. does best: commerce. perhaps too ideal, but my point is that with a little work while still under the int'l spotlight, we could let the genie (freedom?) out. war is friggen obsolete. war won't stabilize the region like brute diplomatic relations will.

btw, i missed helen at that bizarro press conference last night:

Posted by dan on March 7, 2003 2:37 PM

inspections are working. waiting is cheaper than invading.

I don't think war is a good thing, but the possibility of it is the only reason those inspections are working, to whatever extent they are. And waiting is cheaper now, yes, but for how long? Because if we say we're willing to keep waiting forever, we will.

I don't know what's the right thing to do. Most likely, no one really does. But if the Security Council is going to make some decision, it should be an honest one, about what should actually be done in their estimation -- not some contrived political statement about whether they support or oppose a decision because the United States has already made it.

Posted by M on March 7, 2003 3:30 PM

Why on earth it is not talked about more explicitly that the inspections started to "work" to the extent they do, IS because the US Army is there ready to shoot?

Posted by N. Field on March 10, 2003 9:49 PM

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