The state of war

Will Iraq comply with the rigorous demands of UN inspections? Hopes are high that Saddam Hussein’s resolve to stay in power will override his desire to conceal nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons sites. If so, the Bush administration’s pursuit of his disarmament through the UN will prove as Brent Scowcroft writes, "a remarkable exercise in diplomacy," offering "the peaceful resolution of the crisis over Iraq that few would have thought conceivable only three months ago" (Washington Post, November 21). Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, was one of those most critical of calls for an Iraq war; his very vocal criticism (and perhaps that of his former boss) may have induced a more cautious approach in Bush II.

Even so, there is little doubt that should the inspections collapse, the president will authorize an attack. Regime change remains a powerful impulse in an administration at odds over its Iraq policy. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s diplomatic efforts have prevailed and may succeed; meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz wait in the wings ready to force Hussein from power-by war if necessary. Failed weapons inspection and the requisite UN resolution may give legal justifications for a military attack, but its moral justification is highly problematic, as the U.S. Catholic bishops said at their November meeting. Bombing Baghdad...

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