25 October 2002

We can Avoid War in Iraq

If we are to believe the press, Iraq continues to attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction. The United States and many other countries perceive this as particularly dangerous, because Iraq does not have a government. Iraq has a family-owned and operated extortion/protection racket, namely Saddam Hussein and his mob, that masquerades as a government. As part of its War against Terrorism, the United States wants to deal definitively with this threat, citing the aid Saddam Hussein is known to give to terrorists of various sorts.

Well, the stated goal of US policy is the disarmament of Iraq. It is a worthy goal, which we can achieve without war. But we cannot achieve it without credibly threatening war, because that threat is the only thing in the Universe that seems to get Saddam's attention.

The Congressional resolution authorizing the President to use force was an essential first step. A United Nations resolution authorizing the use of force to enforce its previous binding resolutions, which Iraq has flouted, is an essential second step. It is not necessary in terms of whether the United States can credibly threaten Iraq with war, but it is necessary in terms of the future relations of the United States with the rest of the world in general, and Europe in particular.

Suppose the resolution passes. We can still avoid war. We can adopt a modest proposal I call "The Iraqi Site Preservation Plan," or ISPP for short.

The ISPP works like this. The UN inspectors attempt to enter Iraq to inspect one or more sites. Either they are allowed to inspect the sites, or they issue a notice to evacuate the areas around whatever sites they are denied access. As soon as reasonably practical thereafter, allowing some time for civilian and personnel evacuation, the site or sites get bombed to rubble. Either way, the UN gets to check the site or sites off the list, and progress toward disarmament is made. The choice of which sites get preserved is left to Iraq.

There are other details to work out, such as providing armed protection to the inspectors to prevent their being taken hostage, whether we can have enough confidence in such an inspection regime to lift economic sanctions against Iraq (which Saddam's propaganda machine has played against the US, despite Iraq's currently selling more oil than it did before the Gulf War), etc. It is not my purpose to present a complete solution, only to sketch a possible line that may lead us to a desired outcome without a major war. But it will not be possible to pursue this line without being willing and able to threaten and wage war, to back it up.

Given who we are dealing with, this is probably as peaceful as we can get. The removal of Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten his neighbors with mass destruction will not solve the problems of the Middle East, but it will improve the region's politics. Maybe it will give the world a moment to catch its breath, and think about that other family-owned and operated business failure, North Korea.

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