The brewing crisis in the Gulf, the byproduct of the failure of the Bush Administration to liberate Iraq as well as Kuwait, could be the defining moment of the Clinton presidency. More important than fund-raising scandals, sexual harassment allegations and Whitewater, Clinton’s true legacy, which in the area of foreign policy has in the past been sufficiently lacking, will be forged in Iraq. If Clinton stands firm and potentially rids the world of the cancer that holds court in Baghdad, then his legacy will be that of greatness, and not mediocrity.
Saddam’s latest test of the will of the international community was perfectly timed. The cohesion that held the Desert Storm coalition was beginning to crumble. While French, Russian and Chinese oil companies were signing deals with Iraq, their governments were attempting to weaken the post-war United Nations sanctions. Iraq’s Persian Gulf neighbors, who also are suffering under the sanctions, were trying to erode support for continued sanctions, and they have made it clear that they would not support U.S. military attacks against Iraq. Put simply, Saddam Hussein was stronger now than he has been since before the Gulf War.
This alone is not the reason for Iraq’s opposition to American involvement in the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the organization charged with ensuring Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions that bar Iraqi development and stockpiling of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
During the last six years Iraq has continually thwarted and defied efforts by UNSCOM, including shredding documents, barring inspectors from sites, physically impeding inspectors within the sites and blatantly lying to U.N. inspectors. Saddam’s latest tactic, to bar U.S. inspectors, was obviously planned to prevent UNSCOM from uncovering part of the strategic stockpile of chemical weapons that it knows he has. Reports indicate that inspectors were on to something just as the latest crisis began.
However, while the problems are many, the solutions are relatively few. The “popular” course of action will be to maintain existing sanctions, and possibly press for new ones. However, the last six years prove, beyond a doubt, that sanctions are incapable of liberating Iraq. Sanctions were useless before a rift in the international community threatened their existence, now it is simply a question of when sanctions will be lifted, not if.
Clinton’s other choice is another round of “pin prick” strikes that, in the end, do no real damage to Saddam’s military machine or ruling clique, and leave him in a stronger position than when he started. This was evident last November when Clinton launched 27 cruise missiles against targets in northern Iraq. Shortly after, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, testified that the strikes reinforced Saddam’s leadership.
What is needed now is a change of strategies and tactics in dealing with Saddam and Iraq. The sanctions that have been in place since 1991 do more damage to the people of Iraq then to its leaders. But the ultimate blame must fall on Saddam Hussein and those around him. A new strategy must be formed that promotes an active change of leadership in Iraq: Saddam Hussein must go.
This will require that the United States – unilaterally if necessary, together with like-minded states if possible – must use overwhelming military force to finally destroy the remnants of Iraq’s elite Republican Guard that survived Desert Storm; bolster support for anti-Saddam groups operating in the North, such as the Iraqi National Congress (INC); and remove Saddam Hussein from power, while helping form a viable government that represents the whole of the Iraqi people.
We should not let the follies of past presidents doom us forever. Therefore, we must have relief from the Carter Administration’s executive order that prevents the assassination of foreign leaders. Saddam Hussein does not deserve such respect.
This is a tall order, and it is unlikely that Clinton will find the inner courage to support its measures. However, this is the only way the people of Iraq will escape from under the debilitating sanctions, and for the international community to rid itself of the war criminal, whose indifference to life is appalling. Saddam’s continued defiance must be met, before he again uses his weapons of mass destruction. For the good of the world, especially the good people of Iraq, let’s fix Saddam Hussein – permanently.
-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.