When JFK faced down Khruschev over the Cuban Crisis, he had the deck stacked in his favor. We had U2 photos of the missile freighters in Havana Harbor. We had photos of the missiles and launchers. We had world attention and we had a sense of urgency. When Kennedy presented his findings on TV to the nation and the world, Khruschev was caught red-handed. clear and present danger was clearcut and unequivocal. I remember well when he faced down Khrushchev and the missiles were (eventually) withdrawn. I was in the Armed Forces at the time. Within days, my unit was setting up Hawk missile batteries all up and down the Florida Keys.
President Bush has his hands full trying to restore normalcy to Afghanistan, hunting down Al Qaeda, and protecting the life of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Saddam is no Khruschev. His tinpot regime in Baghdad bodes no good to any nation, especially to his closest Arab League neighbors. But Iraq is no USSR.
It’s no secret that Saddam Hussein gassed Kurdish villagers, citizens of his own country. It’s clear to everybody he’d like nothing more than to acquire a bona-fide nuclear threat in addition to whatever chemical arsenal he’s accumulated. Who thinks Saddam doesn’t bother the wealthy and powerful Saudis?
But his armed forces are down to 14% of their Desert Storm strength. And there’s no smoking gun. The world needs to see him caught red-handed. Bush needs to work with the U.N. Saddam will play his hand out with or without our goading. In the end, he will fail either way.
Sure, the United States has the might to pull off an invasion “unilaterally” – meaning, no matter what else our allies in Europe and the Middle East think or say. Afghanistan alone is costing us $30 million a day – a billion dollars a month – but the real cost of a unilateral invasion is a lasting loss of credibility as a stabilizing force for world peace.
In short, Ashcroft may be able to detain individuals indefinitely just because “we think they might do something”, but the President of the United States can’t extend that alien precept to foreign soil. Right now the world is more concerned about the rights of a whole nation of Iraqis than the constitutional rights of a handful of American citizens. Ironic? Maybe, but our job is to take care of business at home, while keeping a watchful eye on Saddam. We can bomb his airbases when he steps out of line, as he did today. But let the United Nations step forward to claim ownership of the Middle East problem. We’ve carried too much of it for too long.
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