Containing Saddam Hussein without war
Regarding your Feb. 7 editorial "Send in the Marines?": I agree that French President Jacques Chirac presents an interesting proposal for containing Iraq without entering into war. Why not try it?
Whereas US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld makes demeaning remarks about France and Germany, calling them "problems" and worse, I am grateful to the leaders and citizens of these two nations for having the courage to stand up against the intense propaganda efforts of the Bush administration to push the UN into authorizing an attack on Iraq.
War will not make us safer. Rather it will release a tidal wave of chaos and suffering in the Middle East, encouraging yet more hatred to be directed toward the US. Could it be, in the eyes of the world (with few exceptions), that we are the problem?
Your editorial "Send in the Marines?" seems to approve of the French proposal for more muscular inspections as an approach to disarming Iraq without resorting to war. Another approach starts by asking what motivates Iraq to want weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was convinced that only Iraq's use of chemical weapons stopped Iranian massed infantry attacks in the Iran-Iraq war. He apparently also believes that his WMD deterred the US from going all the way to Baghdad in the Gulf War.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush repeated his assertion: "The only possible use he could have for those weapons is to dominate, intimidate, or attack." This may have been a motivation for Mr. Hussein before the Gulf War. But the devastating use of US force following Iraq's incursion into Kuwait clearly ruined Hussein's appetite for further expansionist forays.
Furthermore, Iraq's arsenal is of present utility only to deter and defend against US attack. Iraq has no assurance that the US will not attack even if Iraq demonstrates acceptable proactive compliance with the UN demand to disarm. In the words of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the top US diplomat in Iraq before the Gulf War, Hussein sees WMD "as necessary to defending himself against what he believes will be an American assault on his government and his life."
If this motivation is indeed operative, a nonaggression pact or other assurance from the US would permit Hussein to move toward proactive compliance.
It is to be hoped that Mr. Bush will agree to the call for new congressional authorization for war. In making his case to Congress the president needs to answer: (1) why, if he claims to have taken all steps for peaceful resolution, he has not addressed Iraq's need for assurance; (2) why he has chosen to increase the terrorist threat to American civilians by making war on Iraq; and (3) why, if Secretary Powell's evidence is so compelling, he has not informed the public that our troops could face WMD attacks of unknown dimensions?
The administration has repeatedly asserted that the choice of war or peace lies with Hussein. In fact, only the US has the choice of war or peace. Whether or not he complies, Hussein sees his only option as war with weapons of mass destruction.
If threatening a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear country makes us less safe, then it follows that threatening a weaker country with our strong military also makes us less safe. Furthermore, using the same logic, the consequence of our counterproliferation strategy is to cause other countries to proliferate with WMD. Will the Bush administration make the world a safer place by its military strategy?
St. Louis Park, Minn.
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