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Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Seth Gitell

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Consumer Reports


War with Iraq may not happen, after all


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | During the last several days, I happened to have meetings with two prominent conservative thinkers -- neither of whom I can name. Both support an American invasion of Iraq. Both could be considered experts in foreign policy. Both talk on a regular basis with big names in the Administration. And both completely disagree with each other on what is happening within the administration on the prospects of war with Iraq.

On one side, there is (in my words) the optimist. He believes that Secretary of State Colin Powell's forging of an agreement with the French that provides for an extended period of arms inspection is illusory. War with Iraq, he believes, is inevitable. Powell's comment to Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press -- "The principal offense here is weapons of mass destruction, and that's what this resolution is working on" -- is, therefore, mere window-dressing.

On the other side, there is the pessimist. He sees danger in the new resolution that would reinstitute the arms inspection, a regime that if fully implemented could last a year. There's no way, he says, President George W. Bush could launch a war in the middle of an election year. That political reality renders the possibility that America might go to war with Iraq during Bush's first term moot -- and increases Saddam Hussein's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction before we try to stop him again.

I'm not quite sure which interpretation is correct. Both sides have merit. But momentum seems to have shifted even since Congress voted for the Iraq war resolution mere weeks ago. For one, the disclosure that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons has muddied the waters. Although I'm of the belief it makes the case for an Iraq war stronger, because it demonstrates the imperative to stop these dictators from obtaining dangerous weapons when you still can, I'll concede that it creates one more awkward issue for the administration to deal with.

In addition, political considerations within the administration -- the need to keep Powell happy -- dictate that the Secretary of State be listened to. An abrupt Powell resignation -- in the wake of Harry Belafonte's recent comparison of him to a House slave -- would intensify political and racial pressure on the White House. In an odd way, Powell's political position within the administration was strengthened by the attack. How, after all, can the White House mistreat an official who has been the recipient of such criticism from an old friend?

A month or two ago, I was convinced that a war with Iraq might erupt around the time I'm on my honeymoon, late November. Now I'm starting to think one -- that we start, anyway -- won't happen at all.

But you never know when Hussein will decide it's time to take another risk.



JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell