Along the Tracks

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Or the big, public enchilada

Tom Friedman and Mickey Kaus are also pretty persuasive: Offer a sweeping resolution, with “benchmarks” and a very substantial delay (Mickey suggests nine months), but with the automatic trigger for force if any benchmark is missed, non-listed weapons are found, etc., or the whole enchilada is not resolved by the final deadline.

Politically, both around the world and inside the U.S., this is a huge winner for Bush. His poll numbers would skyrocket. A French veto would demonstrate Gaulic cynicism clearly and decisively, and French acquiesence would allow the unity Bush has sought. I think the economy would probably come out of its hesitation, at least for a while. As Mickey says, the troops could weather it out, and some could be diverted to East Asia for our other major crisis, North Korea. And to top it all off, if (when) Saddam fails and the deadline is reached, around Thanksgiving time, the president can start the war when it will be most advantageous for him and most disastrous for the Democrats - right at the start of primary season. He can ride the goodwill wave into a second term the following fall against a candidate selected by the antiwar fringe of the Democratic Party - a candidate who will have to explain why winning in Iraq, supporting the U.N. and fighting terrorism aren’t good enough.

Wow! Sign me up ... except:
  • France will never go for it. They will find some way to claim Iraq has “complied,” and just keep stirring up trouble over and over again. Remember, they voted for 1441 and now claim its words don’t mean what they mean.
  • Saddam will test the Security Council’s resolve at moments most advantageous to him and least for the U.S. and U.K.
  • Saddam will continue to fund terrorism in Israel, and the momentum for reform inside the Palestinian Authority will grind to a halt as Israel is forced to make regular incursions to root out the killers.
  • Far too many people are underestimating the danger of allowing Saddam another reprieve. He will not waste the time he’s given, just as I have no doubt he has not wasted the past six months. If he has a smallpox supply, he most certainly has looked for some way to provide it to terrorists while maintaining some type of control over its use. A “final” deadline - if he believes the world is serious - so far in the future gives Saddam and his intelligence service and terrorist allies months to plan out an attack in detail, and a willingness to accept more risks in an unauthorized release. Attacks with chemicals and other biologicals are also, undoubtedly, in deep planning. Hitting him now, or very soon, may keep most of the stores of weapons inside Iraq - minus the ones already smuggled out. But waiting will certainly create a far greater danger of a terrorist hit using weapons of mass destruction.

    If Bush was like Clinton, I have no doubt he’d wait for the advantages mentioned further above to roll his way. Thank God, Bush is not Clinton. We will be liberating Iraq in a matter of days.

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