- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2002

To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the title of this column Owls and eagles is the message. For many years, the sobriquet of "doves and hawks" has often been promiscuously applied, labeling people as either "soft" or "hard" on foreign policy and issues of war and peace. Albert Einstein offered the best critique of such classifications.
Einstein believed that the solution to a complex problem should be made as simple as possible but no simpler. Doves and hawks are simplistic labels that do a disservice to complex matters. Readers can immediately draw their own conclusions about what characteristics owls and eagles suggests and why they are more appropriate metaphors.
Consider their application to containing Iraqi and North Korean nuclear ambitions. Since September 11, the Bush administration has drawn a bead on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Saddam is evil. He wants nuclear weapons. If he obtains them, he will use or threaten to use them, or provide them to terrorists who will. The surest way to disarm Iraq is through a regime change. That means war.
At first, the administration thought it could move unilaterally, without congressional and some form of U.N. approval. After the administration changed course, Congress authorized the use of force by a large margin. The U.N. Security Council began considering what action it will take.
Then, a funny thing happened. North Korea and its roly-poly leader with the 1950s brush cut, Kim Jong Il, told the world it was pursuing a nuclear weapons program in "material breach" of treaty obligations. The Bush administration quickly declared that it would use diplomatic means with North Korea. But it has not rejected a military solution to end Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Given North Korea's million-man army, perhaps the operative rule was "do unto others who cannot do unto you."
The administration has tried both approaches before. In April 2001, a Chinese air force jet rammed an American reconnaissance EP-3 airplane in international airspace. The U.S. plane crash-landed on Hainan Island. A crisis ensued. But diplomacy prevailed.
In October 2001, the administration launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Taliban rule was ended, and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda bloodied. Perhaps in Asia, the dovish EP-3 diplomatic model fits, and in the Islamic world, the hawkish Enduring Freedom applies. And perhaps not.
To draw on America's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, there is a "third way." North Korea's ugly little ex-secret may be only a speed bump to the administration's plans for removing Saddam. It could also be a major roadblock in the U.N. and possibly in Congress if the Democrats are not too soundly defeated in the elections. Still, this is a good time for the administration to assess where it is, where it wishes to go and what options it might consider. In this regard, the wisdom of the owl and the power and strength of the eagle are relevant.
Consider the notion of "muscular containment" as an alternative to dovish or hawkish solutions (and to the innovative proposal of the Carnegie Endowment in Washington calling for armed inspections in Iraq). In different form, the idea was originally Secretary of State Colin Powell's. He believed that if Iraq were caught rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction capabilities, the United States and its coalition partners would destroy them at our choosing. Operation Desert Fox, mounted in December 1998 and discredited at the time for timidity, struck at some of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Operational commanders privately assessed that this operation, lasting only four days, did considerable damage to those facilities.
A "muscular" response to Saddam's nuclear aspirations, if needed, would expand on the "no-fly zone" operations using Desert Fox-type air strikes possibly aided by ground reconnaissance and attack. For deeply buried facilities, the United States has certain weapons that can do damage. Of course, there will always be intelligence gaps, and no solution is perfect. But the threat would be a Damoclean sword that might or might not descend.
Muscular containment must be designed to "shock and awe" Saddam, not dissimilar to the effects of the sniper attacks in the Washington region. If launched, attacks would be intense, but full-scale war would be avoided. And Iraqi cooperation would be irrelevant. Most importantly, muscular containment could garner international support for the long haul, providing for diplomacy ultimately to win through.
Muscular containment also applies to North Korea should the North reject diplomacy. To remind the North of its vulnerability, one or more Trident ballistic submarines could be permanently assigned to target North Korea. Conventional forces could be strengthened. None of this would be kept secret. If diplomacy failed, then we would be prepared to wage a mini Cold War, imposing severe economic sanctions hopefully in concert with other states to isolate Pyongyang further.
The point is that the times demand considering new approaches. Owls and eagles suggest one.

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