In Washington, the steady din of the Bush administration's sword-
rattling may be obscuring the fact that possibilities remain for the
United States and Iraq to settle their differences without going to
Some peace scenarios are admittedly far-fetched. Saddam Hussein
might jet off to palmy exile on the Riviera, as Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld suggested Wednesday, but it seems unlikely.
President George W. Bush might simply change his mind, and decide to
contain Mr. Hussein instead of forcing his disarmament. Given the
determination of Mr. Bush's rhetoric, that now seems unlikely, too.
But between these extremes there is a narrow opening - a very
narrow opening - through which peace might crawl. Such a solution
might depend crucially on two things: Hussein's recognition of the
hopelessness of any resistance, and an administration determination
that weapons inspectors truly had the run of Iraq.
"I don't think the administration would go to war if Iraq was
allowing inspections to proceed rapidly and without constraint,"
says Stephen Walt, a professor of international politics at
Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
It's an indication of how far down the road toward armed conflict
the current crisis has gone that the question "Can we avoid war?"
elicits amused chuckles from some Washington experts.
Such a reaction may reflect how tough the administration's
rhetoric has been.
Constant talk of Iraqi "regime change" as official US policy (and
it is official policy, according to congressional resolutions that
have so ordered it) has made it seem that the administration will
accept nothing less than Hussein's removal from power. Considering
the administration's depiction of him as evil and ruthless, it seems
that they regard Hussein himself as Iraq's most dangerous weapon of
And what kind of dictator decides to just step down and hand the
levers of power over to others? It has happened - the Shah Muhammad
Reza Pahlavi of Iran fled in the face of domestic revolt. Haitian
dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier eventually decided that life in France
as an ex-strongman might not be so bad after all.
But Hussein is made of ruthless stuff, and does not appear to
face internal revolts that threaten his life or power. That makes
war seem inevitable.
"I cannot imagine any circumstance under which President Bush
will make his State of the Union address in the third week of
January, 2003, without having successfully brought about regime
change in Baghdad," says Raymond Tanter, a Middle East expert at the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. …