Sddam Hussein has just backed off. He’s agreed to a diplomatic solution and has agreed to let United Nations weapon inspectors back in.
U.S. officials said that they were about to attack Saturday night, Nov. 14, when Hussein agreed to the inspections. One Pentagon official is quoted as saying “It was almost as if he knew,” which is a ridiculous statement considering that rumors of an imminent attack were circling the internet and news sites all weekend. Of course Hussein knew, we all did.
This should be cause for rejoicing. Blood won’t have to be shed, diplomacy (notably France and Russia’s) have saved the day again, and the U.N. teams can go back to work.
But U.S. administration officials are upset. They wanted a war. They’re double-guessing their timing, wishing they had bombed him earlier this week. They’re implying that they might bomb Baghdad anyway. They’re whining that now they have to once again work with the U.N. and with Iraqi officials.
Why is the Administration so upset? It’s because they have no real policy in the Gulf. Earlier this week they admitted that they didn’t know what they would do after the attack. Here they were sending warships and personnel into the Gulf and they had no long- or mid-term vision for what these people were going to do after the first hundred cruise missiles went off. U.S. policy is once more stuck in the same muddle its been in since mid-1991.
Clinton wishes Hussein would just disappear. That his military would launch a coup and drive him from power. That a cruise missile would hit and kill him. They wish that Iraqi military know-how would disappear. But none of this is likely to happen. In the real world, high-tech U.S. missiles can’t do very much. The real world requires diplomacy, negotiating with people you don’t trust, de-escalating rhetoric. These are skills that the Clinton Administration needs to develop.
It is time for the U.S. to stop whining when diplomacy works. And it is time for a U.S. to develop a realistic policy for building a lasting peace in the Gulf.