Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The President Is in a Bind

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The President Is in a Bind

Article excerpt

APRESIDENT'S lot is not an easy one.

President Bush announces that he's going to send another 150,000 troops into the Gulf. This move is aimed at Saddam Hussein, to let him know that Bush means business. Instead, it ignites resistance to war in Congress and among many Americans.

Saddam Hussein must have noted the public response in the United States to Bush's troop-buildup. Saddam announced an additional 250,000 troops of his own last week. So, it can be argued, he may well have decided that Bush is less likely now, rather than more likely, to go on the offensive.

If Bush means it when he says that Saddam "has only a short while" to give in to the US and United Nations demand to depart Kuwait, he very likely isn't being fully believed by his adversary.

Indeed, within the White House itself there is a growing perception that the option of initiating a shooting war in the Gulf - unless, of course, there is further provocation by Iraq - is being closed off. A public figure who meets regularly with top administration foreign-policy makers said privately the other day that the impact of the latest troop buildup was to "significantly reduce" what he called the "political consensus" behind Bush getting involved in a shooting war. And he said Bush's people were wrestling with that problem right now.

So it is that while signaling to Saddam that his days of peace are numbered if he doesn't comply, the president and his advisers are giving more and more heed to letting the economic sanctions have more time to work - perhaps waiting for another three or four months.

They see that this move to what they call their "patience option" would quiet many of their critics in Congress and dampen down the incipient protest movement.

Yet if Mr. Bush lets all those troops sit there for months in the Gulf, he will probably find a growing public resistance to the US being there at all.

There may not be open protest. But he's bound to be called indecisive and blamed for all the money being spent there. …

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