Encouraging further debate on the impending and apparently inevitable Desert Storm Zwei is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s modest proposal that President Bush – in a last-ditch attempt at diplomacy – fly to France to unite the leaders of France, Russia, China, Britain and the chair of the Arab League together in an attempt to unify a fractured U.N. Security Council.

Zac Peskowitz

It is the French, after all who appear to present the greatest roadblock in Bush’s path to war, and Friedman is correct in his suggestion that bringing the aforementioned leaders together could only strengthen the United States’ pursuit of legitimacy for its forthcoming war in the Middle East.

French President Jacques Chirac, a thorn in the U.N. Security Council vote (from Bush’s perspective) is taking an awful big gamble using the Iraqi conflict as an opportunity to promote France as a legitimate world power. Chirac seems to think through flexing his country’s veto power at a Security Council vote he is reflecting the view of a greater world ideal, and he and his nation will subsequently be lauded by the global community for their staunch detraction of military action in Iraq.

As Friedman suggests, should Bush head to France and conduct reasonable negotiations in search of legitimizing U.S. actions against Iraq – it could only save face for a president being portrayed as a trigger-happy rogue gunfighter. Or in more flamboyant metaphors as “The genial cheerleader and stickball commissioner with the gregarious parents, the frat president who had little nicknames and jokes for everyone …” courtesy of the oh-so-witty New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Heading off this sort of criticism at the pass would be a concern of Bush’s were he not so focused on a resolution in Iraq. Keep in mind this is the president who once referred to Hussein as, “the man who tried to kill my dad.” This paternal loyalty, while touching, should hold (and likely holds) no ground in Bush’s actions in Iraq.

It is as foolish to subscribe to the idea that Bush’s actions against Iraq are some facet of paternally-motivated reciprocity – a personal, guttural and juvenile response to the first Gulf War and Bush Sr. However, it is equally suspect to rely on the American interest in Iraqi oil as a central motivator in the U.S. intervention.

What Bush must do, is exercise the diplomacy suggested by Friedman and be patient. For the last 12 years Iraq has been jerking around the U.N., bobbing and weaving through sanctions. In reflection, Saddam Hussein has admitted to the mistake of invading Kuwait without nuclear capabilities – a scenario that Gerard Baker of the Financial Times said would have made Kuwait and Saudi Arabia the 19th and 20th provinces of Iraq, if not for the first Persian Gulf War.

It is now, under these pretenses (the volatility of a nation in a dictatorial vice grip) that the United States is springing into action, while the U.N. Security Council lags behind. Australian Prime Minister John Howard intelligently noted that, “failure of will by the Security Council over Iraq will render the handling of North Korea infinitely more difficult.”

But the Security Council needs more time. The urgency being pressed by the Bush administration detracts from the ability to validate an armed conflict in Iraq. With patience and votes or more likely, some proof of Iraqi non-compliance the United States can leap to war, but without something to incite the immediacy of war, the urgency is not necessary.

That the United States is focusing so vigilantly on a return to a desert storm, when it truly should be devoted to rising tensions with North Korea – a nation that announced its reactivation of a nuclear arms program – is erroneous.

The two-fold effect of these situations’ diplomacy should be evidenced in the U.S. foreign policy’s treatment of the two potentially disastrous scenarios (Iraq and North Korea). The North Korean accosting of a U.S. spy plane 150 miles off the coast of North Korea 11 days ago was a far greater affront against the United States than anything out of Iraq in the last year.

Yet, the United States was relatively silent. They aren’t necessarily exercising diplomacy, so much as insolence in their refusal to talk to North Koreans, and in the case of North Korea, action would seem to be a more logical approach, than a childish silent treatment.

The diplomacy, or lack thereof, being used in the en masse commissioning of U.S. troops to Iraq to depose a dilapidated despot seems far more urgent than the situation warrants. True, Iraq has likely been in material breach of U.N. resolutions for 12 years, but the focus of U.S. foreign policy must take a two-pronged approach in the Axis of Evil members.

Iraq should be receiving the silent treatment we are instead giving North Korea, while if there is to be any active talk of regime changes and disarmament, it should be immediately directed toward Pyongyang and Kim Jong II.

Smith can be reached at lukems@umich.edu.

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