New York Times
With Saddam Hussein stalling and the United States and its allies quarreling, the world seems to be lurching toward an endgame in which the United Nations dithers and the Bush administration goes to war against Iraq without broad international support. This is the worst possible scenario, one that would leave the U.N. weakened and the United States saddled with all the responsibility for rebuilding a post-Saddam Iraq.
The Security Council already appears to be headed for another futile trans-Atlantic spat at its next meeting tomorrow. This gathering could be better used by the Council to pull itself together and approve a resolution setting a date for Iraq to comply with disarmament demands or face the likelihood of united military action. …
Debating a new resolution would compel both the United States and France to answer a fundamental question. For President Bush it is what, if anything, would persuade him not to go to war with Iraq. And France must declare what, if anything, would persuade it to endorse military action. Their answers could restore a sorely needed sense of common purpose. …
In November 1990 the Security Council gave Iraq an ultimatum: Withdraw from Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991, or face war. Mr. Hussein stubbornly rejected the demand, and his armies were thrown out of Kuwait. The equation now is more complicated, since he is likely to lose his job, if not his life, once a war commences. But the United Nations should be no less clear about its intentions — and about the potential consequences if Iraq does not budge.
Christian Science Monitor
As he prepares a war against Iraq, President Bush’s request for help and approval from NATO and the United Nations has split those international bodies, and could end up disabling them.
That’s a legacy Mr. Bush must weigh heavily against his laudable goal of eliminating Iraq’s terrorist-friendly weapons.
So far, Bush has decided the “course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.” He will risk almost anything, even close ties with allies, to save one American from being killed in a terrorist attack.
It’s hard to fault the commander in chief for seeking zero risk for his country after Sept. 11. But he must also ask if greater risks lie ahead if the US becomes an isolated superpower, one that now claims its military supremacy must last forever but could wind up overextending itself in places like Iraq, leaving the nation more vulnerable than it is now.
Empires of the past have faltered when their reach exceeded their grasp, causing more damage than the harm they initially sought to avoid. …
After World War II, the US was more powerful (relative to others) than it is now. Yet it chose to share and channel that power through international organizations it helped set up. Now, before the war on terrorism becomes a crisis of imperial overreach, the US needs to decide again if it can work with other nations even as it defends itself and promotes freedom.
Dallas Morning News
The nuclear weapons crisis in North Korea grew more intense yesterday. The International Atomic Energy Agency appropriately referred the matter of the country’s grave violations of arms agreements to the United Nations Security Council. And U.S. military intelligence warned that North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of hitting the western United States.
There are both opportunity and risk in the Vienna-based agency’s action. The opportunity is that North Korea will understand that its violations pit it against the world, not just its archenemy the United States, and that it will stand down to avoid sanctions or other concerted retribution. The risk is that North Korea will become even more belligerent and threatening, seeing the Security Council’s involvement as an extension of the U.N.-approved multinational armies that defend democratic South Korea against the erratic Communist dictatorship.
North Korea has said that it would consider U.N. sanctions an act of war. Nevertheless, the Security Council should use the threat of sanctions as a lever to engage North Korea in negotiations that would result in the country dismantling its nuclear weapons program. …
The administration’s desire to avoid repeating what it perceives to have been President Bill Clinton’s mistaken policy of bribing North Korea to obtain good behavior is understandable. So is its hesitancy to deal with a country that has broken virtually every agreement it has ever signed. Still, the administration should be prepared to talk as an alternative to a war that could quickly go nuclear. At the very least, talking could buy time until a better option for eliminating North Korea’s small but fecund nuclear arsenal presents itself.
Los Angeles Times
Twenty years ago, French President Francois Mitterrand stood before the West German Bundestag to support Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s request for approval of a new generation of U.S. nuclear missiles in Germany. Protesters against the weapons deployment filled streets in Europe and the United States, but France and Germany supported Washington’s successful effort to counter a Soviet weapons buildup. It was a dramatic example of transatlantic cooperation.
The need for credible allies is no less urgent as the United States prepares for possible war with Iraq. The Bush administration should take care not to fray relations beyond repair in responding to the sometimes shrill objections of France and Germany. …
Diplomacy should not be a demolition derby. Listening to complaints, even those not apparently relevant, and responding to them calmly keep the door open for future alliances. The administration took pains last fall to keep working until it got a 15-0 U.N. Security Council vote demanding that Iraq disarm. That slam-dunk will certainly not be repeated. But intense, levelheaded negotiation will bear more fruit than poisoned words between America and Europe.
There’s something almost surreal about the security precautions that top federal officials are suggesting Americans take against a potential terrorist attack. Some are familiar: stockpiling of a three-day supply of water and food, a radio with extra batteries, a manual can opener, a first aid kit. But there’s also this added precaution: government officials now recommend that families consider designating a room where they will gather in event of emergency. That “safe” room should hold a supply of duct tape and plastic sheeting, which people could use to seal off the room from a chemical or biological attack. …
It’s hard to say how scared — or prepared — many Americans are. Some stores in Chicago and Washington D.C. report that plastic sheeting, duct tape and bottled water are selling briskly. It’s safe to say that the elevation of the nation’s terrorism threat level to code orange — or “high” risk for an attack — has some Americans pondering their canned food supply, something they probably hadn’t considered since the Y2K scare. …
Look on the bright side. Even if nothing happens, you can always use some extra duct tape.
As though there wasn’t enough to feel unsettled about, you can now move Osama bin Laden back near the top of the list — and add duct tape.
Add, too, the Bush administration’s propensity for alienating allies needlessly at a time when the United States should be working to win them over.
Need convincing that the United States is better served by friendly relations with civilized nations? Consider the message in the new audio tape said to be from bin Laden.
He tries to bolster his cause by latching on to possible war with Iraq to encourage attacks against America. The evidence never has been strong that Saddam Hussein and bin Ladin were actively cooperating. But the tape suggests that the current drums of war may be pushing them closer together in precisely the way advocates of the war fear. …
Frustrating is indeed the word for the French and Germans, as they spar cynically with the Bush team at the United Nations and in NATO. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did nothing to soften the nations’ pique at the White House when he snarled that they’re relics of “old Europe.”
He and other Bush hard-liners seem to think that U.S. security lies in the unabashed, unilateral use of American power. In their view, might gives the United States the right to do as it pleases, while other nations are expected to follow a code of conduct from which America is exempted.
If that’s the road the President wants America to travel, it could be a lonely and bloody one.
(Compiled by United Press International)