What to do about the Middle East?

We tried to answer that question in our December 5, 1997 editorial; and we try again this issue (page 5). There were several letters dissenting from our December editorial, among them was one from Arthur T. Downey. In fact, he sent a whole new agenda for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. We aren’t sure how his plans could be carried out given the current crisis; still, they point to a framework larger than the narrow one that now shapes U.S. policy. Here is an edited version of Mr. Downey’s proposal.

Recurring confrontations with Saddam Hussein have brought us again to the brink of hostilities. We tend to see the Iraq situation in simple terms, and in isolation from its regional context. It is as if we are sitting at the table with Iraq, and ignoring the two other elephants sitting there, namely Iran and Israel. The three are so tightly linked that it is unwise to consider our Iraq policy without taking the other two countries into account. I believe that the U.S. position with respect to all three needs to change.

Iraq Here are three ways in which we should change our approach.

• We should depersonalize our focus on Saddam because that simplifies and distorts a very complex situation. There is considerable uncertainty about the policies of a potential successor and so Saddam’s departure may not end Iraq’s totalitarian regime.

• We should continue to ease the economic sanctions that...

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About the Author

Arthur T. Downey, an attorney, served on the staff of the National Security Council (1969-72), in the State Department (1964-69), and taught international law at Georgetown School of Law (1978-90).