Calling All Allies

A ``PATIENT'' collective embargo on Iraq as outlined by US Secretary of State James Baker is the right way to deal with Saddam Hussein. It shows international resolve. It is consistent with Western values. It avoids what now would be a mainly US-Iraqi military conflict that could lead to nationalist uprisings among Arab populations in states like Jordan and Syria. It may contain the crisis. Whatever the initial impulse to send US troops to the Gulf may have been, at this point it should be clear the US presence there is not just a matter of self-serving economics - of defending a few cents less at American gas pumps. Most of the world runs on oil. A destabilized Mideast where oil production is cut, causing prices to skyrocket, affects the stability of all nations. Europe and Japan depend on Mideast oil more than the US. Nations such as Poland, Brazil, and the Philippines - where democratic gains are in jeopardy - stand to be harmed by higher prices, to put it mildly.

Since the Aug. 2 Iraqi attack on Kuwait, a new set of security concerns has presented itself to the West. So far, as Mr. Baker points out, the US has taken the lead in the Gulf.

Yet patience has a price. For now, the US is picking up the tab - estimated to run from $1 to $5 billion a month. There goes the needed peace dividend. Such costs must change, and quickly, if the good will of US taxpayers is to continue. Shared responsibility and risk implies shared costs. Saudi Arabia understands this principle has agreed to ante-up. Where is the rest of the world?

In the next month, firmer assurances, along with assistance, and money need to be forthcoming from two places - Japan and the European Community (EC) nations. Perhaps long-term security in the region should come through the United Nations, and through regional groupings such as a reconstituted Arab League. But for now there must be help for the US security force in the Gulf.

So far, most of Europe and Japan have chipped in only the bare minimum. The promised $1 billion from Japan is a start. Europe has 15 battle ships and 40 aircraft compared to 45 US ships and 170 aircraft. A few boats aren't enough, though, and if military might can't be assured, financial might should be. Nor is the 16-month $2 billion aid package promised Friday by the EC enough. Why can't the EC underwrite the $7.1 billion US loan forgiveness to Egypt? The EC is taking some refugee costs. Why not all? Germany and Japan have constitutional problems in giving military aid. But such hurdles can and should be overcome.

A reckoning of value paid for value received should be made.

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