Hussein Backs off, Clinton Whines

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.