In one of the first warblogger responses to the proposed compromise resolution on Iraq, Stephen den Beste at USS Clueless confesses himself confused, reaches the obvious conclusion that crucial allies (he names Kuwait and, interestingly enough, Qatar) wouldn’t go along with a unilateral war without UN approval, then contradicts himself by saying:
Given that the Bush administration now has the ability at any time to kiss off the UN entirely and move if it becomes necessary, then as long as we’re marking time anyway, there’s little danger in this.
One possibility is that the US “agrees” to the two-stage approach, and when the time comes it will go back to the UNSC and say, “It’s time for that second resolution. Oh, by the way, the bombing began fifteen minutes ago.”
Are these strikes supposed to be launched from Kuwait and Qatar? And while den Beste is confident that the US can do without the ‘Europeans’, he doesn’t clarify whether this includes the British, who would certainly be unable to countenance this kind of thing, and whose forces are operationally integrated with those of the US.
But the best clue to how den Beste really sees things is in the filename link to his post, which is “Knuckling under.shtml”.
The fact is that, if the proposed resolution is passed, and the inspectors are admitted and do not report Iraqi obstruction, the US government will find it virtually impossible to launch an invasion unless it is willing to violate the sovereignty of numerous allies in both Europe and the Middle East. den Beste and others should admit this and start thinking about the consequences, rather than grasping at straws.
Stephen den Beste replies “I guess I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was. Publicly, Kuwait and Qatar are saying they need UN approval. Privately, I suspect they don’t, but they want to be seen saying “No” right up until five minutes before the bombing begins, launched from their territory. (Launched from Qatar. Kuwait will be holding some of our troops preparing for ground assault.)”
I still don’t think this analysis stands up. The presence of UN inspectors, operating under a resolution agreed by the US, is going to impose incredible costs on any country that participates in an invasion, unless of course, Saddam obliges by obstructing the inspectors to the point where they report noncompliance back to the UNSC. Why put Qatar and Britain in this position just to please the French?
If the US were really committed to an invasion, surely it would be far more sensible to have proposed a resolution that was vetoed by the French or Russians. Then Bush could denounce the UN and present the US as the only real opponent of terrorism. Of course, the “veto” part of the story assumes that the US resolution would have obtained a majority, which doesn’t seem likely, but that isn’t crucial.
I conclude that the Powell faction in the administration has won, even if the hawks haven’t yet realised it. And of course, there’s still the possibility that Saddam will give Bush the war he wants.
Further update Powell is now engaged in desperate spin to conceal the fact that the compromise he’s agreed to will make a unilateral US decision to go to war with Iraq almost impossible. But they can’t go without Britain, so it’s useful to read what the Brits have been saying:
“Britain, the United States’ only ally so far in its campaign for military action against Baghdad, stepped in to try to bridge the persisting gap between Washington and Paris, assuring France and other wary Council members that London would insist on another round of “detailed discussions” before any military assault.”
“Even Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s ambassador, felt forced to insist that “our first preference is a peaceful solution.
He said that whenever Mr. Blix or weapons inspectors reported that Iraq was not cooperating, Britain would insist on a new Council meeting to “hear the view” of other members.”
In other words, once the compromise resolution is passed, the issue is in the hands of Saddam and Mr. Blix. No negative report, no grounds for war.
Update Powell’s spin has kept some warbloggers happy. But remember that only a couple of months ago, the US position was an unconditional demand for regime change. All that’s left in the reported draft resolution, and in the statements of the UK and US governments, is that, if inspectors report obstruction to the UNSC, the US and UK will not necessarily accept a veto on military action cast by, say, France. This keeps the pressure on Saddam to comply, which is good, but concedes defeat on the original US position, which is also good.