Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2003 / 27 Shevat, 5763

David Warren

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Consumer Reports

No ambiguity | There was nothing left to say, yesterday, in light of President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech. After a clutter of applause lines on various domestic issues had been cleared out of the way, he spelled out what the U.S. can and will do in Iraq -- and why -- with a remorselessness that silenced friends and enemies alike.

The one concession to opponents was announced not by Mr. Bush, but by Colin Powell. The U.S. will declassify and publish damning evidence of Saddam Hussein's defiance of U.N. resolutions, next week -- even at the risk of telegraphing war targets and compromising intelligence sources. This will give erstwhile allies one last chance to dismount their high horses. The Russians appear eager to be given the opportunity, the French seem to be looking for a still taller steed, as President Jacques Chirac sails towards the non-ambiguity of the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder's position: to oppose U.S. action no matter what the evidence, and no matter who supports them.

The publication of evidence will have the opposite effect on Iraq, effectively removing Saddam's last chance at full confession and immediate disarmament. He is in checkmate: for even if he did disarm, he would lose power within Iraq by publicly denuding himself of his ability to deliver on threats. This is why "regime change" has been inevitable from the beginning: Saddam's whole position requires the weapons he has accumulated, and you can't get rid of them without getting rid of him.

I think it can be said with confidence that of his two bad options, Saddam has decided to fight. And since he has no chance of winning, he will make that fight as destructive as he can. He is now more likely than before to try to strike first, in the hope of catching some part of the assembled U.S. and allied forces unprepared, and gaining the advantage of surprise. His best hope, given his desire to maximize casualties in Iraq as well as abroad, is to do something that could somehow provoke Israeli or American nuclear retaliation. It is the Hitler psychology -- he would prefer his own country to be erased from the map, than that it should survive his own destruction.

While the U.S. and Israel have fully anticipated this, and feel they are in a good position to intercept whatever Saddam can throw, there is no certainty in this world. Moreover, if unable to strike abroad, it is entirely possible that he will unleash nerve gas, anthrax, or use other genocidal weapons against his own people, once again -- and in the hope that the world will blame America.

Needless to say, the U.S. has a large stake in minimizing casualties.

The Israeli election has removed another layer of ambiguity. While Israelis were divided on many issues of personality, tactics, and domestic policy, and were in a grim mood with politicians, they were overwhelmingly clear on one point. Labour, the only political party that still supported the "Oslo process" in any form, was annihilated. The hard fact, for diplomacy, is that a people subjected to constant terrorist attacks will either capitulate or defend themselves; they will not negotiate with the terrorists. And in the case of the Israelis -- this Jewish people with the experience of Auschwitz in their blood and in their souls, surrounded once more by murderous hatred -- there can be no capitulation.

The message here to the Europeans, Russians, and United Nations (which with the U.S. make up the "quartet" of "peace brokers"), is plain. Israel will no longer make real concessions in return for diplomatic pieties. She will not follow a "timetable" that her enemies are not compelled to follow. The Oslo process is dead, and Israel considers the "roadmap" now to be that sketched out in President Bush's Rose Garden speech of last June 24th.

While Natan Sharansky's small Russian-immigrant party failed to hold ground in the election, his principle has essentially prevailed because of it. There will be a Palestinian state when the Palestinians themselves have chosen leaders who not only eschew terrorist violence, but can effectively suppress it; and who will embrace a democratic constitutional order. The "acceptable level" of terrorism is zero. And until that is achieved, the "tragedy of the Palestinian people" will simply continue. If it never happens, that tragedy will continue for ever.

But I think it will eventually happen, and that the process will be advanced by the extinction of Saddam in Iraq. This will remove one of the chief external sponsors of Palestinian terrorism, and give the others something to think about.

On another front, the news for Israel is grim. In addition to the increasingly radical anti-American crowing of the French rooster, there is a hardening of that country's anti-Israel posture. M. Chirac is trying to lead Europe in demanding the imposition of a "peace plan" that would force Israel to abandon its forward defences, regardless of concessions by the Arab side.

These two hardening positions -- anti-American and anti-Israeli -- are themselves corollaries of a more comprehensive power grab within the European Community, by M. Chirac and Herr Schroeder, who have also agreed between them to arbitrarily extend the ruinous Common Agricultural Policy for another seven years. They are both exploiting and fuelling anti-American, anti-Israeli, and now anti-British shifts in European public opinion, to restore the French-German axis at the heart of the EC -- sidelining the British and arresting the progress towards equality of new member states in the East.

What at first seemed a transitory manifestation of French and German hurt pride, now appears to be something of much greater significance, though it is still embryonic. It will be something to keep our eyes on in the future. The genie of European self-destruction once again stirs in the Franco-German womb.

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JWR contributor David Warren is a Columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. Comment by clicking here.

12/05/02: A farce
11/13/02: A game of chess
10/30/02: Material breach
10/21/02: Armed & dangerous
09/11/02: The enemy within
08/21/02: Bush v. world
08/06/02: Has Sharon gone 'wobbly'?
07/24/02: Evil Sharon
06/19/02: The end is nigh
06/17/02: Those darn American imperialists!

© 2002, Ottawa Citizen