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Posted on 01/31/2003 8:29:24 AM PST by Servant of the Nine
When President Bush first publicly contemplated going to war with Iraq, some members of his administration said he need not obtain approval from Congress before doing so. But liberals insisted, rightly, that a war would lack constitutional or popular legitimacy if the president did not first receive explicit authorization from Congress. Bush complied. Later, some administration officials maintained that the United States could attack Iraq without giving Saddam Hussein one more chance to disarm peacefully through U.N. weapons inspections. But liberals argued, again rightly, that a final push for inspections was necessary to demonstrate that the United States desired war only as a last resort. And Bush complied again, persuading the U.N. Security Council to unanimously approve Resolution 1441, which offered Iraq a "final opportunity" to dismantle its nonconventional weapons. Bush may now dismiss the importance of these steps--"America's purpose is more than to follow a process," he said in his State of the Union address. But, in fact, so far the process of disarming Saddam has gone exactly as liberals rightly demanded.
The day before the president's address, the world received what should have been the final word on that process in the form of a report by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix's verdict is positively devastating. Iraq, he writes, "appears not to have come to genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it." Blix produces a litany of noncooperation: Iraq has failed to provide a full accounting of its weapons, as demanded; it has denied private interviews with its scientists; it has hidden crucial documents in private homes; and it has whipped up demonstrators to harass the inspectors with slanderous charges. (Some, hilariously, have described this report as "mixed." By this standard, Saddam's record of aggression is also mixed--we must consider the lengthy list of countries he has not invaded.) All these actions unquestionably fulfill the definition of a material breach agreed to under Resolution 1441.
So we now have reached the conditions under which, according to the standards once urged by most liberals, the United States must disarm Iraq by force. Yet the moderate, respectable opponents of the war--those who claimed they would favor military action if other steps failed--remain, for the most part, unmoved. Their predominant view now is that the only thing preventing a bloodless disarmament of Iraq is Bush's precipitous rush to war. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle summed up this sentiment when he asked this week, "How are our efforts to deal with this threat helped by short-circuiting an inspections process we demanded in the first place?"--as if the inspections were being stymied by Bush rather than by Saddam. It is now clear that Bush's critics didn't mean what they said all along: The mask of nuanced criticism has been pulled off the moderate antiwar position, exposing it for the abject pacifism it truly is.
The editorials of The New York Times are a good showcase of the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics. The Times is worth dwelling on not only because of its great influence but also because its opposition to war is carefully calibrated, closely matching the views of mainstream Democrats rather than those of angry street demonstrators. In fact, as the Iraq debate raged last fall, the paper's editorials professed to share the same goals as the administration. Last September the Times declared, "What really counts in this conflict ... is the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms." The Times stressed that Iraqis must cooperate actively, not merely fail to put up resistance, in order to avoid war. Iraq "must provide a full and accurate list of its unconventional weapons programs," the Times insisted on November 9. The following month it added that, to succeed, the inspectors "will need cooperation from knowledgeable Iraqis." Indeed, in its November editorial the Times explicitly sanctioned a unilateral war if Iraq failed to actively disarm: "If Baghdad violates any of these provisions [emphasis added], Washington should insist that the Security Council enforce its decision. Only if the council fails to approve the serious consequences it now invokes--generally understood to be military measures--should Washington consider acting alone."
The time to "judge Baghdad's overall cooperation and decide whether Iraq can be disarmed by peaceful means alone," the Times noted in late December, would be when Blix offered his report to the Security Council after the first 60 days of inspections. Now that moment has arrived-- and with it undeniable proof that Baghdad has not offered the active cooperation deemed essential by the Times. You might think, then, that the paper would cite its previous criteria and endorse war. Not at all. Instead, the Times has already raised the bar. An editorial published the day after Blix's report pleaded that "the inspectors should be granted additional time" so they can "produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps." This echoed the logic of the previous Sunday's editorial, which declared, "There are some threats and some causes that require fighting even if America has to fight alone, but this isn't one of them." Disarmament, which the paper previously called "the unwavering goal" and "the lodestar of American and United Nations policy," has been reduced to a mere preference to be undertaken only if or when international opinion embraces it.
The most curious feature of moderate anti-war sentiment, at the Times and elsewhere, is its refusal to engage with the central question: Would Iraq, if permitted to rebuild its nuclear, biological, and chemical arsenal, pose a threat to the United States? We believe the answer is yes. The example of North Korea demonstrates that when a hostile, irrational state obtains nuclear weapons, it immediately intimidates its neighbors, opens the possibility of passing such weapons to terrorists or other enemy regimes, and leaves the United States with few diplomatic tools to work with other than appeasement. Saddam's megalomaniacal aspirations and repeated pattern of aggression make him an even less attractive candidate to join the nuclear club than Kim Jong Il.
Antiwar liberals do not dispute this logic, they elide it. Liberals' most pervasive intellectual tic has been to argue against war on the grounds that somebody else is against it. Usually, that somebody else is our international allies, whom war critics have granted not merely consultation but full veto power over any military action. Earlier this week, the Times threw up another impediment: "The American public has not signed on," argued Sunday's editorial--an odd new standard, given that the paper has previously endorsed interventions both real (Kosovo) and hypothetical (Rwanda) that notched even lower levels of public approval. But if a nuclear-armed Iraq does pose a threat, then surely it's a threat worth diffusing, not only through inspectors but, if need be, unilaterally or without overwhelming public support.
Recently antiwar liberals have found yet another way to oppose the war without seeming to oppose the war: They say the United States should wait and "let the inspections work." Waiting would indeed be worthwhile if it boosted the odds of gaining world support for war or of Iraq's agreeing to disarm. But the truth is that, in either case, delaying is likely to have the opposite effect.
Nobody seriously disputes that Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. disarmament resolutions. The logic of waiting, after a dozen years of Iraqi refusal to disarm, is that somehow Saddam will become "more" in material breach. But Iraqi violations to date hardly constitute a technicality. Weapons inspections simply can't work against the will of the host country. Previous inspectors owed whatever breakthroughs they achieved to conditions--such as the unexpected defection of Saddam's brother-in-law--that are unlikely to be repeated. It would be ideal if Saddam could be persuaded to make a clean breast of it and disarm voluntarily. But letting his current recalcitrance continue indefinitely is probably the worst imaginable strategy to persuade him to do so. Allowing Iraq's current noncooperation to go unpunished would codify it as the new baseline, and only a more flagrant defiance would then constitute a casus belli. The level of defiance most objectors seem to have in mind is the "smoking gun." But the chance of finding such a thing without Iraqi help is small. For one thing, Iraqi intelligence may well have infiltrated the weapons inspectors, as it did with previous U.N. teams. For another, it would take an astonishing blunder by Iraq to allow inspectors to uncover a weapons program of real note. Suppose the inspectors did get a tip on, say, a nuclear weapons plant and managed to descend upon it unannounced. No doubt the Iraqis would simply refuse the inspectors entry while they smuggled out or destroyed incriminating evidence. The most incriminating thing Iraq will ever be accused of is denying access to a sensitive site.
Indeed, the supposition that any level of Iraqi defiance would spur the Security Council to authorize war is ahistorical. During the 1990s, our non-British allies compiled a record of consistent appeasement. After Iraq whittled away at the prerogatives of weapons inspectors, going so far as to deem areas as large as Washington "presidential palaces" and thus off-limits, China, France, and Russia refused to back even a toothless resolution admonishing Iraq for its lack of cooperation. After Iraq expelled the inspectors, France and Russia opposed pinprick bombing. If they considered bombing too strong a response to massive violations then, why would they support the vastly stronger alternative of full invasion in response to weaker violations now? It may be that our allies' reluctance to enforce Iraqi disarmament stems in part from their distaste for Bush and his cowboy style, disregard for environmental accords, and fondness for protectionism. But the lack of commitment to Iraqi disarmament on the part of France, Germany, and Russia long predates the Bush administration. And yet many American liberals prefer to reside in an alternate universe where the United Nations stands poised to defang Saddam if only the United States would be just a bit more reasonable.
There is one sentence in Tuesday's Times editorial that comes closest to expressing the true sentiments of antiwar liberals: "The world must be reassured that every possibility of a peaceful solution has been fully explored." Consider the implications: The character of the Iraqi crisis is such that there is always the possibility of a peaceful solution. At every point in time, Saddam permits the minimal level of inspections cooperation he can get away with. Whenever he is threatened, he backs down until the crisis subsides, only to ratchet up his defiance later. The only logical end to this cycle is Saddam's successful acquisition of a nuclear weapon, at which point disarmament, forcible or otherwise, will no longer be an option. Indeed, this would be the actual result of the policy favored by antiwar liberals--whether they consciously desire it or not.
The New York Times editorials as of late have been mind bogglingly inconsistent and appeasement oriented.
The Washignton Post, on the other hand, has earned my respect with consistant editorials that cut to the chase.
If Iraq can be disarmed at the will of the UN can the same be demanded of the United States?
It can if we lose a war and agree to those terms for a cease fire like Saddam did.
Maybe you should read up on the subject. You seem to be under a delusion.
|The New Republic is too old an institution to recklessly advocate for the wrong side of history.
Just as importantly, they seem to know it. The current people in place are but the custodians of a reputation that took a long time to build, and that will have value long after they are gone.
I do not understand why the owners of the just-as-venerable New York Times have chosen to trade their institution's incredible reputation and power for a few ineffectual spears thrown at one Republican President. Such short-term thinking boggles the mind.
1. We have a Veto on the Security Council.
2. The UN and it's General Assembly don't have the power to enforce the color of their Berets without US support.
3. The UN can vote to lower the acceleration of Gravity. So What?