Let's start with Saddam. Surely the funniest line of the week was his spokesman's explanation of why Iraqi TV was not showing Saddam's men destroying his Al Samoud missiles, as the U.N. had demanded. The Iraqi spokesman said it was because if the Iraqi people saw this, they would be so angry at the U.N. there's just no telling what they might do. Right, and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bus.
The reason Saddam is not showing this to his people is because it makes him look weak, and his whole regime depends on his maintaining a facade of invincibility. Giving into the demands of the bespectacled Hans Blix is not a healthy thing for Saddam. It's like the Godfather taking up knitting. It evinces weakness, and Saddam rules by fear.
What continues to breathe life into Saddam's camp is not the Arab street (which already smells his weakness and mostly wants him gone) but the French street, which is so obsessed with countering U.S. power that it can't acknowledge what is happening right before its eyes: Saddam is finally doing some real disarming, not because the U.N. sent more inspectors to Baghdad, as France demands, but because Mr. Bush sent the 101st Airborne to Kuwait.
But Mr. Bush also has some dangerous blind spots. Every day he asks us to ignore more and more troubling facts, and every day it seems more and more that Mr. Bush has mustered not a coalition of the willing, but rather, as one wag put it, "a coalition of the billing." It is very disturbing that so many of our "allies" have to be bribed or bludgeoned into joining this war.
But it's also probably too late. For Mr. Bush and for the U.S., the costs of leaving Saddam in place - having made Washington blink and abandon its allies in the region - would be enormous. I suspect that when the small group of war hawks persuaded Mr. Bush to begin a huge troop buildup in the gulf back in July - without consulting Congress or the country - they knew that it would create a situation where the U.S. could never back down without huge costs.
This reminds me of the joke about the man who gets lost and asks a cop for directions, and the first thing the cop says is, "Well, you wouldn't start from here." No, I wouldn't have - but here is where we've been put. So those who argue against the war have to admit that doing nothing now would mean perpetuating Saddam's tyranny and giving succor to all dictators. And those, like myself, who have argued that removing Saddam is the right thing to do have to admit that the risks of doing so are rising so high, and the number of allies we have for the long haul becoming so few, that it may be impossible to do it right.Excerpt made on Wednesday March 05, 2003 at 01:06 AM
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