U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson huff and puff in one breath that Iraq's Saddam Hussein will not get away with fragrantly violating the United Nations. Then in the next breath they hail a U.N. travel ban on some Iraqi officials as "a great victory."
Who are they kidding? Such double-talk bespeaks a paper tiger. If the U.S. is going to talk tough and carry a Q-stick, it's credibility and prestige will plummet around the globe like the Hong Kong stock market. Correspondingly, Saddam's will rise, as it already is in much of the Arab world.
No sooner was the travel ban imposed, than the Iraqi dictator upped the ante: Not just banning Americans from U.N. inspection teams, but kicking them out of the country. What resounding U.N. wrist-slap will follow next?
Clearly, it's time to consider military action -- not just another round of missiles fired at Iraqi targets. Saddam's prepared for that, and it would only add to his martyrdom.
This time the U.S. must set out to finish what it started in 1991 -- remove the thug from power. It won't take any 500,000 troops to get the job done, either. The Iraqi army, still in shambles from the Gulf War, has no appetite to re-engage U.S.-led forces in another round of combat.
This, increasingly, is becoming the view across the political spectrum. Tough talk must be followed by tough deeds. The primary hang-up is the coalition that supported the Gulf War is losing its nerve and the Clinton administration is reluctant to act unilaterally. It doesn't have to.
"It's important we not confuse multilateralism with U.N.-ism," says Richard Haas, President Bush's senior Mideast adviser during the Gulf War. He urges building a coalition outside the U.N.
The bottom line, as The Washington Post points out, isn't maintaining the frayed U.N. coalition but getting weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of a madman.
"The goal is, must be, to make clear that the United States will not allow Saddam Hussein to maintain and rebuild a deadly arsenal, to threaten millions of people with death by anthrax, to flout every rule of civilized behavior," says the Post.
"If the U.S. is firm in that determination, other nations will more likely come along. Whether they do or not, the U.S. cannot flinch from its strategic purpose -- a purpose that has little in common with travel bans on Saddam Hussein's lackeys."