The United States is pursuing the best available course of action by imposing sanctions on Iraq. That said, the effectiveness of the sanctions leaves a great deal to be desired. While the United States should continue to impose sanctions on Iraq, we have a duty to simultaneously search for alternatives that may have greater effectiveness. The perceived wisdom is that we have only three choices when dealing with a rogue state: ignoring the problem, war or sanctions.
Each of the three has flaws. Ignoring the problem leaves potentially dangerous leaders in power and gives the impression that the international community is indifferent to the atrocities being committed. War is obviously the last resort, as it increases the number of atrocities being committed. Sanctions, as we have seen in Iraq, have a very limited effectiveness, and tend to hurt the innocent people of the country more than they hurt the leaders.
Clearly, we must find new courses of action. One possibility is for the United Nations to create a permanent international court. This court would work internationally and would have the ability to issue warrants for the arrest of criminals in any country. Its jurisdiction would be limited to criminals who commit crimes against humanity under the U. N. definition. These types of crimes include attempted genocide, mass murder, torture and systematic rape. Such crimes can usually only be committed or ordered by major leaders of a country, so the international court would not be concerned with petty crimes committed by average citizens.
Given the situation in Iraq, the international court would be able to prosecute Hussein for his invasion of Kuwait and for crimes against the Iraqi Kurds. Moreover, the creation of this court would give the world a valuable tool for advancing peace and human rights in the future.
A second option would be to attempt bargaining in good faith with Iraq. While there is no reason for the United States to back down from its demands that Iraq stop trying to develop illegal weapons, it may be time for us to offer a few carrots, rather than just the stick.
Perhaps the United States could offer to not just lift sanctions if Iraq complies, but also to give certain types of aid to help Iraq rebuild its infrastructure. Such a policy would not only have a chance of increasing Iraq’s willingness to cooperate, but could help to make the relationship between Iraq and the United States less adversarial.
There certainly must be other possibilities beyond these two. The United Nations and the United States must begin to explore other possible alternatives, searching beyond the three to which we have limited ourselves. Repetition reinforces in our mind the misguided view that sanctions are the only reasonable course of action. Americans like to consider themselves a people with a great deal of ingenuity. We should put that ingenuity to work and find new options for dealing with rogue states.