Thursday, 30 January 2003

Two Editorials

From this week's Economist (subscription required):

Going to war this way is far from ideal. If war is necessary, it would be better under explicit UN authority, commanding the sort of legitimacy that only the Security Council can confer. That is why so many voices, not least American ones, are urging Mr Bush to try harder to talk his allies round, give the inspectors more time, or offer Iraq a “final, final” opportunity to disarm. And if it were indeed the case that extra time and effort, or offering Iraq yet another last chance, could produce consensus, Mr Bush would be wise to heed these voices. But it is probably not the case. For, at bottom, if the Security Council splits it will not be because of a lack of time or a failure of diplomacy. It will be because of a difference of opinion. America and Britain say that if Iraq under its present management got hold of a nuclear or biological bomb, this would be so dangerous that it would be worth going to war to prevent it. Many other governments demur. And it is hard to see how extra time will convert them.

... which dovetails nicely with The New Republic's, assailing the New York Times editorial page for “moving the goalposts” over the past four months:

[T]he supposition that any level of Iraqi defiance would spur the Security Council to authorize war is ahistorical. During the 1990s, our non-British allies compiled a record of consistent appeasement. After Iraq whittled away at the prerogatives of weapons inspectors, going so far as to deem areas as large as Washington "presidential palaces" and thus off-limits, China, France, and Russia refused to back even a toothless resolution admonishing Iraq for its lack of cooperation. After Iraq expelled the inspectors, France and Russia opposed pinprick bombing. If they considered bombing too strong a response to massive violations then, why would they support the vastly stronger alternative of full invasion in response to weaker violations now? It may be that our allies' reluctance to enforce Iraqi disarmament stems in part from their distaste for Bush and his cowboy style, disregard for environmental accords, and fondness for protectionism. But the lack of commitment to Iraqi disarmament on the part of France, Germany, and Russia long predates the Bush administration. And yet many American liberals prefer to reside in an alternate universe where the United Nations stands poised to defang Saddam if only the United States would be just a bit more reasonable.

There is one sentence in Tuesday's Times editorial that comes closest to expressing the true sentiments of antiwar liberals: "The world must be reassured that every possibility of a peaceful solution has been fully explored." Consider the implications: The character of the Iraqi crisis is such that there is always the possibility of a peaceful solution. At every point in time, Saddam permits the minimal level of inspections cooperation he can get away with. Whenever he is threatened, he backs down until the crisis subsides, only to ratchet up his defiance later. The only logical end to this cycle is Saddam's successful acquisition of a nuclear weapon, at which point disarmament, forcible or otherwise, will no longer be an option. Indeed, this would be the actual result of the policy favored by antiwar liberals--whether they consciously desire it or not.

Andrew Sullivan also takes down the Times editorial in question.