Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2002 / 20 Kislev, 5763
Why war with
Iraq can be averted
Iraqi and Libyan spokesmen have denied a report in the London Times that
Saddam Hussein has offered to pay Libyan dictator Muammar Khadafy $3.5
billion to provide a safe haven for himself, his family, and a few top
The Times said unnamed diplomats in Tripoli told them the offer to Khadafy
had been made by General Ali Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam. Al-Majid is
known as "Chemical Ali" by Iraqi Kurds because it was he who was in charge
of Iraqi forces which used nerve gas against the Kurdish town of Halabja in
Western intelligence services expect Saddam to fight to the bitter end if
war comes, and that's still the way to bet. But the Times story is one
reason why I think war with Iraq can be averted - though not for the reason
many liberals hope for, and many conservatives fear.
One of the least publicized triumphs of American foreign policy occurred on
the night of Feb. 25, 1986, when, in the black of night, two U.S. Air Force
helicopters landed on a golf course adjacent to Malacanang Palace and
spirited away Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and as many of her shoes as they
could carry. Filipinos got rid of a corrupt dictator without a bloody civil
war. Ever since then I've thought it would be good if there were a small
country in a pleasant place - Costa Rica, perhaps, or maybe Fiji - to which
dictators could repair with some portion of their ill-gotten gains when
their time is running out. Hell, for $3.5 billion, we could offer him
sanctuary in Berkeley or Ann Arbor. He'd likely get along with his
The happiest outcome would be for Saddam to choose voluntary exile. But
there are two other possibilities which also would be satisfactory:
Saddam might actually comply with the UN resolution. Everyone expects him to
cheat, dissemble, delay. But though the odds against compliance are steep,
this possibility shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Genuine disarmament
unquestionably would be a bad choice for Saddam. It would deprive his regime
of a raison d'etre, and could signal that his days are numbered. But it is
one thing to have one's days numbered, and another to have them ended. Bad
doesn't seem so bad when the only alternative is worse.
An arrangement which left Saddam in power would be a tragedy for the
longsuffering Iraqi people. But if we could be reasonably confident that
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed, an arrangement
that left him in power could be more acceptable than the risks and expense
of a war to remove him, and an occupation afterwards, would entail.
Then there is the nine millimeter solution. The one thing Saddam Hussein has
done very well is to protect himself and his regime from internal threats. A
year ago, I'd have put the odds on a successful coup at about one tenth of
one percent. But the calculus is changing rapidly, as Iraqi generals weigh
the risks of what Saddam could do to them versus the risks of what the
United States could do to them, and the benefits of sticking with Saddam's
regime versus the benefits of being on America's good side.
There is one other way in which war might be averted. It is the way
preferred by the French, the Russians, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and
many American liberals, and it would have tragic consequences for the United
States. This is that Saddam will again successfully play the game of rope a
dope with weapons inspectors that he has played for lo these many years,
with the compliance of UN weenies who would just as soon see no evil. War
would be delayed past the season for campaigning. The international
coalition against Iraq would fizzle. Support for military action against
Iraq in America would decline.
A number of conservative commentators have warned of this possibility, and
it can't be ruled out. But I think the odds on it happening are
infinitesimally small. Pundits Left and Right continue to underestimate the
will and the wisdom of George W. Bush. Among those who have done so in the
past, to their sorrow, are former Texas governor Ann Richards, former Vice
President Al Gore, former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, and former
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Those who think Bush will cede control
over Iraq policy to Hans Blix or Kofi Annan are destined for yet another
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© 2002, Jack Kelly