Jewish World Review May 5, 2003 / 3 Iyar 5763

Paul Greenberg

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Glimmerings of peace | Remember how a war with Iraq would only divert us from dealing with the real danger -- North Korea's nuclear madness -- and make Kim Jong-Il even harder to deal with?

Remember how a war in Iraq would only divert us from our real challenge, the war against terrorism?

Remember how taking on Saddam Hussein would turn the world against us and cost us the support of old friends like France?

Well, well, well.

It turns out that North Korea would like to talk with Washington after all, and in the setting Washington has insisted on all along: not one-on-one apart from others in the region but together with the Chinese. And with our South Korean and Japanese allies standing by and kept fully informed.

That way, all the countries with a direct interest in restraining Pyongyang's ambitions will be represented in these negotiations. It's called a Regional Solution, which is what Washington has been pursuing.

It seems that after Baghdad opened under new management, a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry almost immediately noted that his country would no longer "stick to any particular dialogue format" in talks with Washington. How about that?

The South Korean government's top security adviser didn't think it was just a coincidence that Pyongyang chose this moment to demonstrate a welcome new flexibility.

"North Korea's softening position," said Ra Jong-Il, "seems to have mainly come because it wasn't in an advantageous position internationally. . This war on Iraq seems to have become a significant opportunity in deciding the landscape of international politics."

Even the French have started making nice, and talking about how they could help with the reconstruction of Iraq. Somehow this is not unexpected, considering all those commercial contracts they negotiated with Iraq's old regime, and which are now at risk. As soon as the regime changed, so did France's attitude. Cherchez la moolah.

Jacques Chirac, the French president who was badmouthing the American war effort till it proved successful, now says to Americans: "We can hope to rebuild our unity around the values that all great democracies share."

Gosh, Jack, what would those values be? Collective security? Freedom? A determination to disarm dictators who defy the world for years before ignoring a final chance to disarm?

Was there any democratic value France did not seek to undermine when it led the opposition to American policy at the U.N. Security Council?

Lest we forget, this is the same Jacques Chirac who waited till April Fool's Day to say he was glad Saddam Hussein was being deposed. (No thanks to him.) Never fear, France is not about to abandon us in our hour of victory.

The best thing the French could do for the new Iraq would be to forgive its people their odious debts to French companies.

Such a gesture would also demonstrate France's good faith, lest anyone think that country's opposition to the war was motivated in any way by crass commercial concerns.

As for the war on terror -- pardon our French -- the denouement in Iraq is already being reflected in attitudes here and there in the region: The Palestinians are putting a new leader in place who's making peaceable sounds. Nor would it surprise if the Syrians and Iranians at least pretended they were no longer supporting terrorist outfits like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Much of this welcome change of attitude will be largely pretense at first. Note that the Palestine Authority is demanding that American forces release Abu Abbas, one of the more notorious terrorists to be snagged in Baghdad at war's end. He was the mastermind of the Achille Lauro raid and countless other acts of terror; pretending that he's just an innocent "political leader" does not bode well for the peace this new Palestinian leadership was supposed to embrace.

But if Washington refuses to play along with this pretense, the Palestinians may in the end prove as flexible as the North Koreans.

Conclusion: Knock a wheel off the axis of evil and the whole thing goes wobbly. Few arguments in international diplomacy are so convincing as a convincing victory.

Some wars, especially those that are swift and decisive, tend to clear the air. Around the world, this war could give peace a chance. Let's keep the good thought -- and never forget those whose sacrifices made it all possible.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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