November 18, 2002
Now that the United Nations has given Iraq's Saddam Hussein a last Last Chance to disarm, the games have only begun.
Will he accept or reject the Security Council's terms? Or neither? This fox has escaped the trap before. First he'll extract all the propaganda value he can out of the latest showdown and try to extend it indefinitely -- by negotiating, demagoguing, adding reservations to the U.N.'s irresolute resolution, and generally playing for time.
Why else would Saddam call his rubber-stamp parliament into session? His is a regime of One Man, One Vote -- and he's the one man with the one vote. The televised proceedings of his parliament are just for show -- and to gain time.
Saddam may be tantalizingly close to acquiring fissionable material for his own nuclear weapon, or he may just want to put the finishing touches on his chemical and biological arsenal. His aim right now is neither war nor peace, but enough time to make himself unassailable -- a la Kim Jong Il.
North Korea's sainted leader also signed on the dotted line, promising to forgo nuclear weapons -- preparatory to announcing, years later, that he'd acquired them. Only the usual naifs were surprised.
After weeks of negotiation, hesitation and general vacillation, our "friends" on the Security Council -- France and Russia -- have agreed to pretend to crack down on Saddam Hussein. In return, he can pretend to obey.
In the end, it will be up to America and our allies (read Great Britain) to enforce the U.N.'s wispy words. Or watch the U.N. follow the League of Nations into history. It's almost there now.
Imagine what would have happened if, instead of seizing Kuwait in 1991, Saddam had waited till he had a nuke of his own -- and pressed on to seize the Saudi oilfields as well. He soon may be in a position to do just that and more if he can only extend all this palaver till it becomes even clearer that's all it is.
If the U.N. will just dither long enough -- that is, if it will just be the U.N. -- Saddam Hussein, too, may be able to hold off the world. Till now, without a fully developed strategic arsenal, he has been deterred by the West. But once he's a nuclear power, he'll deter the West.
Saddam needn't actually use his nuclear weapon to dominate the Middle East and the world's oil-based economy; all he has to do is have one. Under a nuclear umbrella, his unrealistic ambitions might suddenly seem realistic, his delusions of grandeur less delusional -- and far more dangerous.
As this president noted early in the game: (SET ITALICS) Time is not on our side. And that was some time ago.
Almost from the moment he seized power in Iraq, Saddam has been dreaming of global power: "We draw a large picture of Iraq. We want Iraq to possess a weight like that of China, a weight like the Soviet Union, a weight like the United States, and that is indeed the factual basis of our actions." -- Saddam Hussein, January 1980.
The succession of disastrous wars he has launched since indicates how little his mad dreams have changed. He seems to have learned little from all those defeats but to be craftier.
And would Saddam, once he had his nuclear assembly line in place, slip a sample or two to a favorite terrorist gang or two? That's the question the experts on terrorism have been debating in their rarefied precincts.
A more practical question for Americans to consider is: Why wait till he has one to find out?
Is anyone really willing to gamble that Saddam Hussein, once allowed to develop strategic weapons, won't use them? Or distribute them? Or at least advance his dominion under their cover?
There will always be those whose response to any oncoming danger is to temporize. Maybe if we do nothing, or extract still another promise to disarm from some dangerous thug, he'll reform. We can now see how well that approach worked with North Korea's Kim Jong Il.
As the long, long debate proceeds over just what to do about Saddam Hussein, if anything, it might be well to remember all the statesmen and pundits who assured us that Kim Jong Il, too, could be trusted to keep his word and abjure nuclear weapons.
It's quite a long and distinguished list. Among its brighter luminaries: Bill Clinton; Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, of course; both see-no-evil secretaries of state during the Clinton Years, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; Jessica Matthews then of The Washington Post; and of course The New York Times.
All their assuring statements about North
Korea during those blissful years need to be kept in mind whenever these
Pollyannas resurface to warn that this current administration is much too keen on disarming Saddam Hussein, who surely can be reasoned with. Just like Kim Jong Il.
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