THERE ARE LESSONS to be learned from the latest U.S. versus Iraq conflict. First, the United Nations is valuable even to right-wing Americans (so pay up, folks!) and civility sometimes wins where threats fail. We thank and congratulate Kofi Annan. (See Shirley Farlinger's item.)
Second, the strongest weapons are sometimes powerless. The U.S. threat against Iraq might have won more support at home and abroad if it had not been obvious that American bombers could not find and destroy Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, but instead would prevent further searches afterward. (See our story, "Saddam's Secret Weapons.")
Third, short-term, partial solutions do not suffice. The Iraqi government repeatedly "stands up to" the West - foolishly and at great cost to its people - but is defeated or has to back down in the end. But the United States is no winner either, for now the Arab world wildly supports Saddam, despite his obvious flaws, and many Americans consider their government heartless.
The fourth lesson is for peace activists. War prevention involves more than waving placards when bombing is imminent. It requires a sustained campaign demanding an international order that respects all interests and rights. Instead, we hear only one story at a time. Saddam's story singles out U.S. hypocrisy in permitting itself and Israel to keep mass destructive weapons while attacking Iraq for keeping theirs. Clinton's story singles out Saddam's capacity and willingness to use such weapons. The "peace story" singles out the evil of using sanctions and bombs against helpless Iraqis. A real solution must take all these stories seriously.
Did you attend protest meetings against the bombing of Iraq? How many of those groups demanded that a universal rule of law be applied? How many demanded that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice? How many demanded that Israel uphold its promises under the Oslo Accord? How many demanded that all countries possessing weapons of mass destruction (including Iraq, the United States, and Israel) all be held to the same standards and monitored by UNSCOM? These crises will recur until the whole underlying conflict is resolved under a rule of law that powerful states and their allies also obey. That must be our goal.