- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Prior to September 11, Americans regarded Dec. 7, 1941, as the nation's singular day of infamy. On that bright Sunday morning, Japan's "dastardly" surprise attack sent a goodly part of the Pacific Fleet to the bottom of Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300 servicemen and women.
The Japanese gambled that the strike would pre-empt American resistance. It was a bad bet. The sneak attack awakened a sleeping giant that would demolish Japan's Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and Hitler's Third Reich.
Saddam Hussein may not have an historical sense of irony. Nonetheless, he launched a surprise attack of his own on Dec. 7, 2002. A day before the U.N.-ordered deadline, Iraq released a voluminous report detailing its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, vehemently denying any possession. A press conference in Baghdad followed a day later, setting off an Iraqi charm offensive. The report could be very bad news for the Bush administration.
The president remains convinced that Iraq has substantial stores of WMD. He also believes that the ultimate remedy to relieve Saddam of WMD is through regime change. The U.N. inspections were a necessary step to rally international support. But they raise a dangerous political conundrum.
If Iraq is lying, evidence of WMD must be found. Should Iraq fully comply with U.N. resolutions and should inspectors uncover little or no evidence of WMD, the administration's argument for war and for regime change will evaporate. Going to war based on the failure to find WMD or to assure that at some uncertain future date Iraq does not reconstitute these weapons is fraught with risk. Only if Iraq remains in material breach of U.N. resolutions, or if substantial stores of WMD are found, will the alternative of war and regime change have broad support.
This risk is shared. Many Democrats, including former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Sens. Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, supported the president on the resolution to disarm Saddam, believing Iraq had WMD. If major discoveries of WMD are not made, at the least, the credibility of the United States and Britain will be tarnished and the administration will face a political firestorm. And, in the likely case inspectors request more time to finish their work, possibly months, maintaining patience will be difficult especially with large military forces on station awaiting the attack order.
The British, bless their perfidious hearts, have begun dealing with these prospects. Last week, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw released a 23-page dossier highlighting Saddam's crimes against human rights. By portraying Saddam as the ruthless and vicious leader he is, the British are building a longer-term case for action. Without powerful U.S. reinforcement, this case will neither be successful nor sustainable. There rests an alternative plan.
A major danger facing the advanced and advancing worlds is political and economic instability. Outgoing Chinese President Jiang Zemin reiterated the threat of instability in his last official meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Terrorists and extremists, from al Qaeda to Chechen rebels and the IRA, represent the more obvious political sources of instability certainly to larger powers. But heinous governance is also a source of instability. When a government so violates basic norms of behavior, at some stage, the international community must consider the responsibility to act, even to the point of changing that regime or its behavior.
This is a question many members of the United Nations wish to avoid. Yet, Iraq should be the test case for regime modification. Iraq had been in material breach of 16 U.N. resolutions for more than a decade. And Saddam still flagrantly violates the U.N. Charter on human rights. This combination of unacceptable behavior is the basis for long-term international action. Furthermore, if WMD are not found, there must be future guarantees to prevent Iraq from obtaining these capabilities.
The British dossier thus takes on a larger context. The excesses of Saddam's regime make the case for international action irrespective of whether U.N. inspectors find a smoking gun or only the smell of gunpowder. The war crimes tribunal and the International Criminal Court could be venues for next steps, even absent official U.S. recognition. Or, a formal "white paper" as the basis for pressing charges against Saddam's violation of human rights could be taken to the U.N. Security Council. All the while, U.S. military power is at the ready to be used when needed or in the last resort and as the ultimate lever to compel Iraqi compliance.
Taken together, these and other actions to confirm Saddam's unacceptable behavior form the basis for a long-term strategy. The infamy is Saddam's, not ours. If regime change cannot follow, then behavior modification might. The last thing the administration needs is wags or future politicians citing this Dec. 7 as another day of infamy.

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