News reports inform that Secretary of State Colin Powell in an interview with BBC has called for a return of UN inspectors to Iraq. Period.
Secretary Powell indicated that the on-site examinations originally called for by UN resolution should be thorough and meaningful technically. Inferentially, if inspections should develop damning evidence, armed intervention would then be necessary.
Thus the United States’ chief foreign policy advisor to President Bush appears to have gotten out of step with other senior officials concerned at least peripherally with foreign affairs. The vice president—especially the vice president—, the secretary of defense, and the White House national security adviser have taken positions leaning toward having the United States, with or without allies, invade Iraq. And sooner rather than later. The object: to take out Saddam Hussein before he develops an offensive capacity with weapons of mass destruction.
Characterized in a forthcoming article in this journal by Professor Peter Sederberg as the world’s sole surviving fascist regime, the Iraqi government could pose a danger to the United States at some point, given the sheer frightfulness of biological and nuclear weapons and their ease of concealment and delivery. No doubt Saddam’s rule is a malodorous stench in the nostrils of civilized governance. What’s lacking in the equation currently, however, is 1) demonstrable proof that Saddam has deliverable biological or nuclear ordnance, 2) hard intelligence indicating that he would use such weapons against other countries, including the United States, and 3) international support for the United States in invading and taking out the regime.
This last point is crucial. Until such time as the other two points show evidence along lines that can be called truly alarming, there appears to be little likelihood that any nations in the region, save Israel, or any powers elsewhere in the world, save perhaps Britain, would help. Communications this writer has received from the Middle East from personal friends sound the alarm, not about Saddam’s intentions, but about possible U. S. intervention. The current uneasiness in Lebanon, for example, is laid at Washington’s doorstep, not that of Baghdad.
Diplomacy, like politics, is the art of the possible. Secretary Powell shows that he understands that dictum by calling for first steps first. Would that his cabinet and sub-cabinet colleagues understood, as well. There is an obvious difference between calling for groundwork to be laid toward a desired end and advocating a rush headlong in that direction. In this instance, the first has a chance to succeed whereas the other almost certainly does not.
Editor Henry E. Mattox, Sep. ’02