THE question of the moment is when the ground war begins in
Kuwait. The next question is how and where it might end.
Few doubt that the United States-led coalition will prevail in
driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait, based on the progress of the
allied aerial bombardment and the defeat of Iraqi forces in early
The question for George Bush then becomes whether to stop at the
Iraq-Kuwait border or to push into Iraq.
Either choice carries risks and repercussions. To stop at the
Iraq border could leave Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in power with
substantial military firepower intact - a continuing threat. To push
into Iraq could begin to kick away political support, both
international and domestic, for a war that appeared to be expanding
its aims and expending more casualties on both sides.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev gave a strong admonition this
weekend that the momentum of the war was growing and leading toward
the "catastrophic destruction" of the Iraqi nation.
In the latest effort to forestall the march to a military
conclusion, Gorbachev emissary Yevgeny Primakov arrived yesterday in
Baghdad to try to persuade Saddam Hussein to prevent the massive
destruction of his armies by withdrawing from Kuwait.
Other countries are setting up as intermediaries as well. The
most prominent is Iran, which held diplomatic discussions with Iraq
as well as some coalition members last week. Iran is no friend of
Iraq's, after eight years of war, but it seeks a political
resolution that will avoid the obliteration of Iraqi strength. Iran
is also interested in putting its own stamp on the postwar
blueprints for stability in the Gulf.
Prime Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan of Pakistan is facing the kinds
of problems the war is presenting many Muslim leaders. As the
fighting wears on, anti-American unrest grows in his country. He is
traveling the Muslim world promoting his own peace plan, but such
initiatives hold little promise of shortening the war. Iraq has
rejected it outright, and the US also shows little interest.
The US will not accept cease-fire proposals without clear
evidence that Iraq is withdrawing posthaste from Kuwait, Mr. Bush
explained last week.
Most US experts consider the chance that Saddam will give up
Kuwait, before being driven out, as possible but unlikely.
Laurie Mylroie, a Harvard University Middle East specialist who
wrote a recent biography of Saddam Hussein, sees him giving up to
the force unleashed against him only if he dies or is incapacitated.
"He just feels nothing for the destruction that is being wrought,"
In keeping with Saddam's sense of stature in the Arab and Muslim
worlds, he is deemed likely to want to inflict as much pain as
possible on the powers arrayed against him. …