NY Times | The President Looks Toward War

Saturday, 08 March 2003 05:47 by: Anonymous

(*Editors Note | This is an Editorial 'By The New York Times.' That is to say, it is the opinion of the publication, not merely that of an individual author. For a publication with the stature of The Times to stand so firmly -- with war at hand -- makes this a document to watch.)

The President Looks Toward War
New York Times | Editorial

Friday 07March 2003

President Bush did not sound like a man searching for a diplomatic compromise last night at his press conference on Iraq. He brushed aside any signs of possible progress that weapons inspectors may have made, and repeated his oft-stated conviction that Saddam Hussein would never disarm on his own. More significantly, he seemed to throw cold water on the British government's frantic attempts to come up with a resolution that might bring more nations behind an eventual invasion.

The Security Council is likely to vote next week on a resolution pressed by the United States that would essentially trigger a military assault. The chances that it will pass seem dim right now. The British have proposed amending the resolution to give Baghdad some additional time to disarm before military action commenced. But Mr. Bush said again and again last night that when it came to Mr. Hussein, diplomacy never worked.

"I meant what I said -- this is the last phase of diplomacy," the president said. "A little bit more time -- he has had 12 years to disarm."

The president's remarks seemed to make the work of Tony Blair's envoys an even longer shot than they were before the press conference.

We can only hope Mr. Bush was simply trying to apply pressure on wavering Security Council members to induce them to line up behind the British initiative. It is the best hope right now of repairing divisions in the Security Council that benefit only Mr. Hussein.

Although Mr. Bush has never cared for prime-time news conferences, he was right to give a worried nation the opportunity to hear him answer questions. But anyone who had been hoping for reassurance that war was not at hand could not have been reassured.

The somber president offered little indication that he saw any real way to avoid military conflict. The only diplomatic initiative he described was a firm intention to have the Security Council vote on a resolution authorizing action, even if the United States was destined to be rebuffed. It was, he said, "time for people to show their cards."

That was a stalwart position, but the spectacle of a Security Council rejection, broadcast around the globe, would not be a promising way to begin an assault that would need all the international support possible. The United States may be able to beat the Iraqi army and overthrow Mr. Hussein on its own, with a scattering of mainly powerless supporters cheering the effort from the sidelines. But it is highly unlikely that it can run Iraq after the assault and control the inevitable show of anger in the rest of the Arab world on its own.

The differences over Iraq may be too deep to be papered over. But diplomacy should be given a chance to rescue the Security Council from damaging paralysis, and to present Baghdad with one last opportunity to change course.

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