A fragile fix

The last-minute reprieve for Saddam Hussein, negotiated by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has forestalled certain military action against Iraq by the United States-at least unless and until Iraq once more blatantly impedes the work of the UN arms inspectors. Most knowledgeable observers agree that whether Iraq will cheat is not in question, only when. Iraq’s envoy to the UN has already begun to undermine the authority of Richard Butler, the chairman of the UN’s inspection program, by asserting that diplomats, not Butler’s professionals, will control the inspections of so-called "presidential palaces." In short, it seems clear that the dilemma of what to do about Iraq’s possession of biological and chemical weapons and defiance of the UN has not been resolved, but only put on hold.

It is equally obvious that no one, including the Clinton administration, was very happy with the idea of a punitive bombing campaign. A fearsome toll could have been extracted from Iraqi military forces and capabilities-and doubtless that reality was what induced Saddam to back down from his demands for limiting the scope of UN inspections. When dealing with a regime like Iraq’s, a willingness to use force is indispensable to keeping the peace and to bringing about some measure of international order and justice. As Secretary General Annan said about his own dealings with Iraq, "You can do a lot with diplomacy, but of course you...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.