Friday, October 18, 2002

Despite the headline, France and Russia Considering U.S. Offer on Iraq, it would appear that it was the U.S. that came around to the French position on Iraq:

In an effort to end a five-week impasse among the permanent members of the council, the United States, supported by Britain, dropped a demand that a resolution explicitly authorize military force against Iraq.

The new offer was designed to win support from the other three permanent members of the council -- France, Russia and China -- which want to give Iraq a chance to cooperate with weapons inspectors without the threat of force...

...Despite the U.S. offer, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said Thursday that France was sticking to its demand for a first resolution to empower inspectors -- and a second to authorize action if Iraq obstructs their work.
Other parts of the article highlight that Russia appears to be a little warmer to the U.S. position than it was before, and this is true, but it would still seem to be the case that we're much more likely to end up with the French two-resolution solution than the American single-resolution one.

And why not?

Honestly, outside of those who say "inspections can't work" (a position really grounded only in the belief that this is somehow 1994 and that Iraq hasn't the faintest idea that the U.S. is poised to invade and panting at the opportunity), this should be a logical way of approaching this issue. We're not sure if disarmament through inspections is going to work or not, but most of free world agrees that, if successful, it's infinitely preferable to an invasion. The French solution allows for the possibility that Iraq might be as good as its word out of sheer self-preservation. If it isn't, then the Security Council can give the go-ahead and the U.S. can let loose the dogs of war; secure that the questions of multilateral legitimacy and the U.N. Charter that a unilateral American invasion posed are answered.

(To a point... I still don't buy that enforcement of resolutions can allow a government to violate the Charter and would prefer that the U.S. focus on enforcement rather than the disturbing doctrine of "regime change", but it's better than nothing).

And from the looks of it, the resolution won't be a WWI-style ultimatum, either:

In addition, the United States was prepared to drop some demands on a new weapons inspections regime, including armed escorts, an idea inspectors oppose. Inspectors also believe a U.S. idea to fly Iraqi scientists outside of the country for interviews is unworkable.
Again, inspectors aren't stupid, and probably understand the situation on the ground better than most U.S. administration officials... certainly more than any blogger. If they don't think something can work, and if they think that they can do the job without it, then that belief should be respected. A lot of the demands and rhetoric that was bundled into the proposed resolution were clearly set up in order to ensure that the U.S. could find an excuse to invade no matter what Iraq did, and it's encouraging that saner heads are prevailing.

Still, the question remains: if Iraq does happen to be as good as its word (again, not out of benevolence but because of self-preservation) and the inspectors get to work in earnest, will the U.S. be willing to stand down from an invasion that it believes is all but certain? Is it politically viable, especially for an administration that has hung so many of its foreign policy goals and so much of its political capital and reputation on the prospect of the invasion, occupation, and pacification of Iraq?

I'm not sure... but then again, I didn't think the U.S. would go along with the French, either. Maybe now they're hoping that they can give Iraq enough rope to hang itself. Heck, they might even be right.

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