Tuesday, February 18, 2003

NYTimes editorial watch

Today's installment: Schizophrenia on Iraq

In today's editorial on Iraq, the Times' editors note that "without the coercive diplomacy of the past few months there would now be no inspections at all, let alone the limited cooperation on mostly procedural issues that the inspectors reported to the Security Council last week," and they argue that Iraq's WMDs "aren't a uniquely American problem, but an international one." In other words, they almost sound hawkish.

But then they turn around and blast the hawks in the administration for "urging President Bush to bypass the Council and prepare for an invasion joined only by Britain and a narrow coalition of smaller nations" (not that the hawks are doing this, but "it's easy to imagine").

Now, I don't want to simply bypass the UN either. But it seems that the Times' editors believe that ultimately France et al will come to their senses, and that we must do everything possible -- bend over as far backwards as possible -- to bring them to that point.

Haven't we already done that? What more can we do with the French? They say, "more inspectors!" But Hans Blix -- the man whose testimony they hinge upon -- says that more inspectors is not the issue: Iraq's compliance is. As the editorial notes, "One of the most frustrating aspects of Friday's Security Council session was the implication by France's foreign minister, Dominque de Villepin, that inspections were already working, and given enough time could successfully disarm Iraq without further coercive diplomacy."

What makes the editors think that France will come around at all, based on their track record of the past few months?

Saddam is precisely an international threat, but it looks like the international body, the UN, isn't going to deal with him in a decisive manner. At least as long as France is making its case, and other buy into it.

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