The London Guardian today urges Britons, and especially MPs voting this evening on a deceptively-worded resolution to give Blair authority to commit his country and troops to war on Iraq, to reject war and Bush’s artificial deadline. The Guardian instead supports the French/German/Russian proposal to extend and enhance inspections. The crux of the argument, lost in the rhetoric and arm-twisting, is that Resolution 1441 did not specify a deadline for Iraq compliance. Although Saddam is in material breach of the resolution, and behaving deplorably, there is no reason to believe that sustained pressure, at least for the four months proposed in the alternative proposal, will not allow progress to continue to be made.

The logical strategy should continue to be one of containment, and as long as Saddam does not pose an imminent threat to anyone (and there is no evidence he does) that strategy should prevail. Obviously, containment including continued inspections cannot be expected to work without the threat of consequences, but 1441 already does that, and it is working, even if too slowly for the warmongers. And the wording of 1441 does not say that the only possible consequence of non-compliance is war. There are many diplomatic alternatives short of war that can still be tried if Saddam even if fails to fully comply. For example, the U.N. could insist that Saddam step down, an action which might well be supported by many of Iraq’s neighbours. The point is that many untried alternatives exist, and there is no need for a short deadline.

Diplomacy takes time. It is messy, awkward, and frustrating. And if one of the combatants is so belligerent that no amount of persuasion will cause them to agree to a peaceful solution, diplomacy can sometimes fail. But until diplomatic alternatives have been exhausted, they need to be given time to work. As the Guardian concludes, this is not the time for war.

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  1. Steve says:

    “For example, the U.N. could insist that Saddam step down” …Scene: Saddam wearing frowny face at the head of big table surrounded by henchmen. “Well boys, I’m afraid the jig is up. The U.N. now insists that I leave, so leave I must. We all knew that at some point the all-powerful insistence of the UN would come crashing down on our heads. So pack up your stuff, don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you. And will the last one out please turn off the lights.” Room erupts into a chorus of guffaws. Saddam unable to hold his straight face, pounds table between bursts of laughter. He collapses into chair and then joins several others rolling on floor gasping for breath.

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