- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) — By any standard, it has been a rough week for America's diplomats.

As the U.S. military began the "shock and awe" phase of its military campaign to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Secretary of State Colin Powell had to persuade Turkey's prime minister to allow American planes to fly over his territory. And only hours after securing permission, the Turks sent troops to its border with northern Iraq, testing Powell's warnings not to cross it.

On Wednesday evening when hostilities began, the State Department cabled over 60 foreign capitals urging them to exile Iraq's ambassadors and senior diplomats, only to see this request flatly ignored and rejected in Beijing, Berlin, New Dehli and Ottawa — to mention only four countries unwilling to break diplomatic ties with a government whose days President Bush has promised are numbered.

"If some countries choose not to do that, that is their choice," Powell said after meeting with Cameroon President Paul Biya, in a visit set up to reward a Security Council member for a vote that was never called to authorize a war many of America's friends believe violates international law.

The White House's coalition of the willing only includes four of the 15 members on the U.N. Security Council. One week ago Powell thought he was within striking distance of the nine votes needed to authorize the war. He now has to go back to this body — that spurned his intelligence briefings on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and efforts to deceive inspectors — to ask for modifications to the U.N. program that funnels Iraq's oil profits for food and medicine. Not surprising, French President Jacques Chirac already has expressed his opposition to the proposed changes.

The Nigerian Foreign Ministry Friday summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest a decision to cut military aid, perceived to be a punishment for opposing the American-led war on Iraq. Pakistan's prime minister cancelled a trip to Washington scheduled for next week in protest of that war. And embassies from Asia to Europe have ceased all but essential services in light of not only terrorist threats but also large gatherings of locals voicing their disapproval of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It looks bad now, but Powell and Bush should take comfort in some very old advice from the Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli: People will never question your methods, so long as you win. Powell in particular, who advocated a diplomatic tack for war that has alienated many of America's allies and emboldened her foes, must now hope for swift and unquestioned victory — the kind of victory that will make both fair-weather friends like France and steadfast enemies like North Korea tremble with fear.

But there is a catch. What exactly is victory in this war? The president announced Wednesday evening the "early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." An hour earlier, a round of cruise missiles rocketed into what the Pentagon called a "leadership target" outside of Baghdad, followed by a statement from the White House press secretary that initial phases of disarmament had begun.

This sequence of events was so confusing that CNN anchor Aaron Brown had to correct his often-accurate White House correspondent John King on the wording of Ari Fleischer's statement. King substituted disarmament for liberation.

On Monday evening Bush demanded that Saddam and his sons leave the country. And the day before that, Bush said from the Azores that the war would enforce the will (not the authority) of the U.N. Security Council. On Feb. 26 at the American Enterprise Institute, the president said, "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region."

If victory is defined by the president's March 17 address, an ultimatum to Saddam and his sons, then victory is measured in relatively short time, when Al-Jazeera broadcasts Saddam, Qusay and Uday Hussein's bullet riddled bodies, followed by images of U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks addressing liberated Iraqis in Baghdad.

If measured as disarmament, perhaps victory would be attained when Iraq's mobile biological weapons labs are parked in front of the U.N. offices in Baghdad? As for making the world safer, it would only take a terrorist attack in the coming weeks to give the impression that the war has made the world more perilous.

But if victory is democracy in the Middle East, than the world may have to wait years to see whether Egyptians, Jordanians, Iranians, Palestinians, Saudi Arabians and Syrians live in freedom. Machiavelli would caution against making democracy in Iraq the goal of the war. He warns, "One should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order to things." He reasons that all of those who "profit from the old order" will hate you, and those that profit from the new one will be reluctant to give you their full support.

But the president clearly cares deeply about democracy in the Middle East. He does not tend to talk about the phenomenon of biological, chemical or nuclear proliferation in and of itself. He almost always about such proliferation from states unaccountable, indeed at war with, their own people — countries that have no incentive to yield to diplomatic pressures that effect their populations.

Stuck with this resolute idealist, Machiavelli would probably advise him to get rid of all the Ba'athists in Iraq to make sure they won't make trouble for those democrats he will soon empower. So far, the president has endorsed a plan that would only remove the top leadership of Iraq's various ministries. The White House has developed a list of around 20 individuals who would have to be purged from any leadership in the new government. Machiavelli would probably recommend expanding that list to include many of the civil servants, domestic spies and military officers who have reaped the arbitrary benefits of Saddam's cruelties.

Above all, Machiavelli would remind the president that a false victory, something short of a free Iraq, can be intoxicating and lead to a later defeat.

But besides this the president should be optimistic. As more and more Iraqi soldiers surrender and deface the murals and statues of Saddam, his critics will become silent. Not just because they will see the shock and awe of America's military, but because the Iraqi people will love this president for removing a man they so hated and feared.

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