Picture the Lilliputians pulling ropes, tying knots, doing their
best to restrain the giant Gulliver. As a historic vote on Iraq
nears at the United Nations, some observers describe what is
happening as a similarly Swiftian scene.
The world, more concerned about the unbridled use of American
power than it is about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, is as
intent on limiting the giant's power as it is in taking away the
The global interest in restraining American power is one factor
explaining why so many countries are balking at US pressure to
support its resolution in the United Nations Security Council. It
also explains why so many are supporting France and its alternative
approach to dealing with Baghdad.
The French proposal, not yet submitted, would require the US to
return to the UN to seek permission to go to war, should a new
weapons-inspection regime fail to disarm Iraq. How the US responds
to this attempt to hobble its power may set the tone for global
relations for years to come.
Analysts note that the US under President Bush has had some
notable successes at playing the geopolitical game - drawing Russia
into the Western fold, and mending relations with China, for
example. But some wonder if the US could squander those gains by
single-mindedly pursuing Mr. Hussein, a gambit that many countries
perceive as unilateral action.
"There are risks for the United States ... especially in respect
to some of the gains it has made in the geopolitical sphere," says
Thomas Henriksen, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution in
Many heads of state are dealing with domestic constituencies that
oppose cooperation with the US on Iraq, prompting some leaders to
temper their support for America. Russian President Vladimir Putin
"was already seen as a little too pro-American when it came to the
US going to war in Afghanistan," Mr. Henriksen says. Any Russian
still longing for the glory days of the Soviet Union, "feels
strongly that Putin has to stiffen his response to the US."
A Security Council vote that had looked imminent may now be
pushed back until just after the US midterm elections next week.
That would give the Bush administration time to continue negotiating
for as much international support as possible for a tough
inspections resolution. It's a stance that the US electorate wants
from the White House, according to opinion polls.
The White House is portraying the situation as a win-win for the
US. On the one hand, it either results in the US-authored resolution
with "triggers" for US military action in the event Hussein fails,
as expected, to comply with the stiff requirements. Such a
resolution would include reference to "consequences" if Saddam fails
to meet all demands, and to the Iraqi leader being in "material
breach" of UN resolutions - phrasing taken in international
diplomacy to authorize war.
The US was "heartened," one official close to negotiations says,
by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix's support Monday for just
such a tough resolution. …