President Bush has inherited a US policy of "containing" Iraq that's been going nowhere fast.
In fact, with increasing signs that Saddam Hussein has been rebuilding weapons of mass destruction, mere containment just won't do. The US can't afford to be surprised if Iraq someday threatens to use a biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon. (See story on page 1.)
The Clinton administration largely tried to keep Iraq out of the news for eight years. That's proven to be a dangerous course, especially after United Nations weapons inspectors were booted from Iraq over two years ago.
Mr. Bush has a fresh opportunity, on the 10th anniversary of the war (that his father led), to go beyond mere containment of Iraq.
He can toughen the international alliance supporting sanctions against Iraq, but he can also use the "carrot" of offering to loosen sanctions and give Saddam an incentive to end his weapons rebuilding.
The US can also further relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people - caused by Saddam's stubbornness in not meeting UN demands - by beefing up the UN's humanitarian program.
Bush can add more military pressure against Iraqi transgressions and improve the US effort to create a viable political opposition to Saddam.
The Iraqi leader may soon try to test the new US president in some way. But a firm stance by Bush could persuade Saddam instead to negotiate with the UN to resume inspections.
Bush should focus on ridding Iraq of its weapons more than the Clinton policy of just getting rid of Saddam.
After the drift of US policy, a road map to a peaceful resolution will be needed soon.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society