Iraq’s ploy proves a dangerous game

NBy Kathryn Bailey

not so long ago, President George W. Bush stepped up to the podium of the United Nations and delivered a forceful and even powerful address. He took the United Nations to task for failing to enforce varying resolutions against Iraq, the most important being the required presence of weapons inspectors in Baghdad and other areas. He asserted if the United Nations didn’t act and enforce its own acts, the United States would do that on its own.

Fair enough. After all, there was another world body that was once too gutless to enforce its own resolutions. That was the League of Nations, and we all know what happened there.

A few days later, Iraq did an about-face from its previous position and announced weapons inspectors could now look forward to an unconditionally welcoming Iraq. Apparently, the White House wasn’t expecting that one. Bush pointed a finger and called the gesture a ploy, then immediately turned and declared he was working on a means to obtain a congressional resolution allowing for action against Iraq.

In all fairness, President Bush, what exactly are you looking for?

Saddam Hussein is neither insane nor stupid; he lasted some 20-plus years as Iraqi dictator for a reason. He is playing the political chess game with the United States, and he is winning. The United States gained precious ground in the arena of world opinion with the speech to the United Nations, but the president seems to have badly undermined that progress.

It really does no good to point a finger and call it all a dirty trick while the rest of the world applauds, smiles and says, “See? He’s doing what you want.”

Bush says the big reason he is riding the Iraq issue so hard is because there is credible evidence that Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction, and his expulsion of weapons inspectors is unacceptable.

The president is bound and determined to have his war with Iraq; it seems that nothing short of Hussein stepping down will stop him. He makes that clearer every day. Iraq called Bush’s bluff and allowed for the entrance of weapons inspectors, and Bush has no means of provocation. America really will be going in alone, and the rest of the world will likely see it an aggressive, and perhaps even illegal, invasion of a sovereign nation.

This is not a war or situation that we want to further entangle ourselves in. In all ways possible, Bush is asking for a catastrophe. This is not 1991, when President George H. W. Bush forged his coalition and removed Iraq from Kuwait. That Bush had overwhelming support from public and private circles, both parties, Congress and the world.

The younger Bush doesn’t seem to have any of that.

Even Bush’s own administration seems to be divided on an invasion of Iraq. There is a line between hawks such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and more dovish individuals such as Colin Powell. They’ve gone so far as to contradict each other in public, muddying the administration’s message and making it seem as if they are utterly unprepared for the prospect of a war in the desert. The president has been forced to account for a bickering administration, making him appear uncertain and even confused in the face of important decisions. It’s no wonder that he immediately called Hussein’s offer “a ploy.” With his administration so divided, Bush doesn’t seem to know what to think anymore

Meanwhile, public opinion polls may peg support for a war on Iraq at approximately 56 percent, but that fully pales in comparison to the 80-plus percent support for Desert Storm and the war in Afghanistan. I think that it’s very telling when a majority of Americans say they would only support an attack on Iraq if it ended quickly with a minimum of bloodshed. The public has become wary; the memories of the attack on the World Trade Center have faded somewhat. ground zero has been cleared, the tears have been shed and the memorials carried out. Now, as they look on this year-old war on terror and realize more American soldiers could die in a never-ending action against an ambiguous enemy, they’ve pulled back a touch.

With a margin of error as small as the one that the American public seems to be offering, Iraq seems to be roughly equivalent to a bear trap. If they want a quick, bloodless war, they are in for a surprise. Our soldiers are in position, but they are nowhere near maximum readiness. It’s a military rule of thumb that, for an army to be effective, they must be kept constantly prepared for battle. Our armies have languished on the Iraqi borders for several months now. They are out of shape and they are unprepared. In the meantime, the Iraqis have made it clear that any war in Iraq will be fought from house to house, street to street. Fighting in the streets of cities of Baghdad, America would be forced to reduce their superior air power to a mere supporting role as the soldiers below attempt to root out the opposition. Casualties will probably be high, and like I said before, that would be unacceptable for the American public. By attempting an invasion of Iraq, Bush is likely facing another debacle similar to our fights through Bosnia and Somalia.

If nothing else, Saddam’s “ploy” would seem to be a means by which to further rile the Bush administration, and he has certainly succeeded. The onus is sitting squarely on Bush, and that’s just fine with Iraq. It wouldn’t be a bad thing for them if America invaded with a divided administration and a wary public. Without the tide of public or world opinion at America’s back, all that Hussein would have to do would be to play the waiting game and let the United States chase its own tail while attempting its regime change.

It’s a sad thing, but Hussein is toying with America, and we are letting him. Somewhere, he’s laughing and saying, “Who needs a ploy? Let them invade, and we’ll see what happens.”

Does America really want to find out? I know that I don’t.