November 21, 1997
Return to this forum's introduction.
Questions answered in this forum:
Wouldn't it have been better to remove the American inspectors? What do Arab nations think of America's peace keeping objectives now? Who would be impacted most by an unrestricted Saddam Hussein ? Why is U.S. foreign policy so inconsistent? How would the U.N. have reacted to a U.S. military strike? Viewer comments?
The Online NewsHour asks:
This conflict has shown that the U.S. and the rest of the U.N. do not agree whether military action is wise. Would this administration have hesitated to act against the will of other U.N. members and bomb Iraq? What would have been the consequences of a U.S. military strike within the U.N. community?
Amb. Alvin P. Adams of UNA-USA responds:
Iraq has played a clever game in exploiting the divisions which have appeared among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. and Britain want to maintain a tough line against Iraq and keep economic sanctions in place until Iraq complies with the Security Council resolutions, which demand that it reveal all its weapons of mass destruction. For a variety of reasons, China, Russia and France would be prepared to ease the sanctions at the present time.
The Allied campaign in the Gulf War was a mandate of the United Nations. The U.S. would prefer that compliance with U.N. sanctions against Iraq remain a U.N.-led effort and not become a dispute between just the U.S. and Iraq. During the recent crisis, the U.S. has hesitated to take unilateral action against Iraq, relying on Russian and French efforts to find a diplomatic solution strictly within the context of existing U.N. resolutions. The U.S. has repeatedly said that it will not yield to Iraqi demands for concessions over U.N. weapons inspections. If diplomacy fails, it will retain its military options as a last resort.
Unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq will no doubt provoke repercussions in some quarters of the U.N. community. However, the consequences of letting Iraq literally get away with murder would be far greater than imposing a military solution. The U.S. view, which is supported by many of its allies, is that by letting Saddam Hussein dictate the terms of inspections and the lifting of sanctions, the U.N.'s credibility would suffer mortal injury. The organization would be paralyzed in its ability to unite against future threats from other rogue states. Iraq would also be able to continue producing weapons of mass destruction with unfettered discretion, further threatening the stability of the Middle East and beyond. And that is something everyone in the world should worry about.
John Bolton of American Enterprise Institute responds:I am reluctant to predict whether the Clinton Administration would have been willing to use sufficiently punishing military force to deny Saddam Hussein the goals he was seeking (which I have described above in response to Question One). Indeed, the repeated uncertainty, weakness, and indecision of the Clinton Administration in foreign policy is one of the reasons why it was only a matter of time until Saddam Hussein made an effort to break through the Security Council's wall of resolutions around Iraq.
My former boss, Jim Baker, always used to say that he would not permit the United States "to get wrapped around the U.N. axle." By that, he meant that he wanted to keep his eye on the ultimate American objective, and not get lost in the toils of U.N. diplomacy.
I worry that the Administration, in the present crisis, was more concerned with keeping the appearance of unanimity in the Security Council than with the reality of forcefully opposing Saddam's obstructionist efforts. In very substantial part, I think the U.S. operated at a real disadvantage over the past several weeks because of five years of inattention by the Clinton Administration to the maintenance of the international coalition it inherited from President Bush. I think Iraq understood exactly that the coalition was in disarray, the Administration was indecisive, and that our guard was down.
Had force been used, or if the use of force becomes necessary over the next several weeks or months, there will undoubtedly be those in the U.N. who criticize it. But more importantly, there will be a far greater relief that the United States is finally acting decisively. Many nations now publicly critical of the threat of force, will come into line; many others, even if still publicly critical, will be sending private words of support for the American initiative. This is the hypocritical way in which diplomacy often works, and our citizens need to understand that vigorous U.S. leadership often eliminates second-guessing from the sidelines.
Yahya Sadowski of The Brookings Institution responds:A limited launch of Cruise Missiles against Iraqi targets would have been a largely symbolic American response to this crisis. It would certainly not have driven Saddam from office or crippled his ability to pursue weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, it would have brought only modest pressure upon him to reverse his policy of confrontation with UNSCOM. As such, I suspect the U.N. Security Council, and America's allies in Europe and the Middle East, would not have protested the action very loudly.
The real tension between Washington and the other members of the Gulf War coalition is not about the use of military force: it is about the continuation of the economic embargo. Recent statements by both Secretary of State Albright and President Clinton suggest that American policy is to not lift the embargo on Iraq until Saddam is removed from office. Saddam shows no signs of volunteering to leave, nor is there any serious threat to his power within Iraq (particularly since America failed to support the massive uprisings against him in 1991). In effect, this means that Washington seems content to leave the embargo in place until Saddam dies of old age. (Sadly, he just turned 60 years-old and is probably in better health than Arafat, King Hussein, Hafiz al-Asad, and most other Arab leaders).
Many European and Arab leaders think it is time to rethink American policy. The embargo is not only ineffective in unseating Saddam, it hardly seems to promote the UNSCOM mission. Yet it takes a real humanitarian toll: perhaps half a million children have died as a result of the poverty and shortages of food and medicine that attend the embargo. The conditions for the easing and lifting of the embargo should be redefined in more realistic terms, so that it serves its real purpose - pressuring Iraq to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction - rather than being squandered as part of a grudge against Baghdad's two-bit tyrant.
Saddam Hussein is one of the most abominable men in world today. He deserves death for his use of weapons of mass destruction, for the wars of aggression he launched, for his sponsorship of international terror, and for his policy of systematic genocide against the Kurds. Current U.S. policy, however, damages him very little. Instead, it just erodes the system of alliances that provide a minimum of security for the region. Washington needs a new policy that either works better against Saddam, or ignores him and focuses upon more important strategic issues.
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