Wednesday, September 18, 2002

# Posted 10:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NAME OF THE GAME is Good Cop/Bad Cop. The question is "Who are the players?" It is hard to resist the conclusion that the unabashed belligerence of the Bush administration toward Iraq is nothing more than well-coordinated effort to intimidate both the UN Security Council as well as Iraq. After all, how much credibility can one give to statements such as Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that "No terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.'' As Rumsfeld's use of the term "terrrorist state" rather than "terrorist organization" shows, even he is not willing to argue that Saddam represents the same sort of immediate threat as the remnants of Al-Qaeda.

The Bush administration's rhetoric has created a diplomatic environment highly conducive to achieving the American objective of disarming Saddam Hussein. While the US dutifully plays the role of Bad Cop by threatening Iraq with a unilateral invasion, the UN unwittingly plays the role of Good Cop, doing its utmost to achieve disarmament via inspection rather than invasion. The impact on Saddam has been apparent: his immediate acceptance of the demand for unconditional inspections.

While the Good Cop/Bad Cop idea is somewhat plausible, I don't even find it convincing myself. Why not? Because Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney just seem so sincere in their demands. One struggles to detect even the hint of an admission on their part that European demands are legitimate. Their sincerity is reinforced by the unabashed unilateralism of the Bush administration in the months before September 11th. Nothing the Bush administration has done on either the domestic or international front has suggested that it has either the imagination or the discipline to follow through on even the sort of moderately sophisticated public relations campaign that a convincing Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy would require.

This doesn't mean, however, that the United States shouldn't start to implement such a strategy as of this moment. The lesson of the past week has been that neither the UN nor Saddam has the will to sustain their resistance to a credible American threat. Bush conceded virtually nothing to the UN in his speech last Thursday. And yet neither Kofi Annan nor the European diplomatic corps has thought to demand further concessions. Instead, they are so glad that Bush recognized the legitimacy of the United Nations that they are now willing to do anything short of sanctioning an invasion in order to disarm Iraq. Saddam got the message immediately and accepted inspection with embarrassing speed.

If the US can bend others to its will this easily, there is no reason to hold out for an invasion of Iraq. Instead we can have the UN and our allies do the hard work of disarmament for us. This position entails the premise, of course, that inspections can work. While intelligent observers such as Michael Kelly and Josh Chafetz have made a strong case that they cannot, a special report issued by the Carnegie Endowment asserts that they can. (The report is available in PDF format and must be downloaded).

The fundamental premise of the Carnegie report is that inspections can work IF backed by considerable military force. The report thus refers to its proposal as one for "coercive inspections". Such a program force would the dispatch a heavilty armed task force possessing both units capable of securing entry to all weapons productions sites in Iraq -- without advanced warning -- as well as units capable of paving the way for an invasion force should Iraq fail to comply. There is reason to believe that even Russia and China would support such a plan and that Saddam would be intimidated enough to accept it. The Carnegie report makes the critical argument that the failure of inspections in the 1990s reflects not just misguided implementation procedures, but a fundamental failure of political will that CAUSED the failure of the plan's implemenation. In light of how malleable the UN now is, there is good reason to believe the US could keep it in line long enough for inspections to work. And if Saddam resists a UN-approved plan, the Bush administration will have the green light for a unilateral invasion that it has been demanding all along.

There are also strategic reasons to believe that coercive inspections are better than an immediate invasion. As the Carnegie report argues, the first and foremost reason is that if Saddam believes the US is committed to an invasion, he will attack Israel with chemical and/or biological weapons. Even the most convinced hawks cannot deny our moral obligation to protect our only dependable ally as well as the only democratic state in the Middle East. What the Carnegie report fails to do is think long-term about the impact of coercive inspections. If Saddam disarms, he will no longer be able to rely on the implicit threat of murdering tens of thousands of Israelis in order to deter further US action. Once Saddam disarms, the US can begin to prosecute him for his human rights violations and other crimes. As they did in Kosovo, there is every reason to believe that America's allies will be more than willing to countenance a humanitarian war against Iraq. (Somehow, the European public finds the idea of fighting an offensive war for the doctrine of human rights more compelling than a defensive war to stop a brutal dictator with weapons of mass destruction).

In addition, the precedent of disarming Iraq via coercive sanctions will set a powerful precedent which the United States can take advantage of to disarm other rogue states. The long-term justification for such a strategy is the fact that in a world where only the members of the Security Council possess nuclear weapons, the United States military can do whatever it wants -- short of invading Moscow or Beijing -- to whoever it wants. The great challenge then would be to use such power wisely.
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