MOST nations have condemned Iraq for its blitzkrieg invasion of Kuwait last week. Now the international community must move beyond condemnations to action, including strong economic sanctions and the mustering of military force to counter further aggressions by Iraq's ambitious and ruthless leader, Saddam Hussein. The world was caught asleep when Iraqi tanks and artillery roared across Kuwait's northern border Thursday and swept into the small sheikdom's capital. Hussein had assured other Arabs that armed action would not be taken against Kuwait. His professed withdrawal is another charade.
For the industrialized nations, the immediate effect of Iraq's invasion has been disruptions in world oil markets. Oil prices are already mounting, with Iraq in control of Kuwait's fields.
Beyond the effects on oil prices, though, Hussein's brutal action challenges international norms regarding the resolution of disputes. The international community must uphold those values or lose moral force and political influence.
Iraq's Arab neighbors have a stake in containing Hussein's bullying. Yet a number of Arab governments are reluctant to condemn Hussein's aggression, either fearing his retaliation or expressing resentment against wealthy Gulf Sheikdoms like Kuwait.
While an Arab response would be welcome, it appears the bulk of responsiblity may fall on the larger international community to mount a coordinated and disciplined resistance to Iraq. An embargo on Iraqi oil and other economic sanctions won't be easy to sustain, but they are crucial. The United Nations Security Council is behind such actions. The US and USSR, in this post cold-war period, are uniting in action.
Saudi Arabia, across which a large percentage of Iraqi oil is piped, must protect against a potential Iraqi invasion. France, a major buyer of Iraqi oil, and Japan too will have to take part in containing Iraq.
Making Iraq pay for its actions will be costly to the economies of the US and other oil consumers.
Hussein calculated that his Arab neighbors and the major oil consumers would dither. He must be proved wrong.