U.S. Must Demonstrate Trust In Iraq And Weaken Its Stance

23 October 1998

By Stentor Danielson

The more I hear about the difficulties United Nations (UN) arms inspectors have been having in Iraq, the more I tend to side with Iraq. And the recent dismissal of the American spy on the weapons inspection team doesn't help my opinion of the UN either.

Now, I'm not being anti-patriotic, and I don't think that we should let countries build whatever horrible weapons they want. But if I were to write a political thriller about countries getting into a hostile situation and eventually an actual war, I could start with the events that have been transpiring in Iraq. Iraq-UN relations do not seem headed toward peace.

The problem, as I see it, is that we've got Iraq up against a wall. The UN almost has the power in the situation - bigger guns, more demands and larger economic clout. Iraq got its butt kicked in the Gulf War and the sanctions the UN imposed haven't helped them get back on track. But just because they're in a bad position doesn't mean they like getting shoved around. The UN tells Iraq, "Let us look at all the weapons we think you might have or else maybe we'll attack, or, at the very least, we won't let your country participate in the world economy." It's only natural that the Iraqis will try to assert themselves and make it hard for the inspectors to do their job. Weak countries aren't like college students - they didn't choose to abide by the rules of more powerful entities and they can't quit and go out into the workforce if they don't like what's going on.

From Iraq's point of view, the deal is pretty one-sided: let us nose around in your country and then if we like what we see maybe we'll let you have the same basic privileges that we have. Granted, maybe Iraq doesn't deserve to be treated like an equal after what it did in the war. But if the UN wants Iraq to eventually become an equal, the UN has to start treating it that way. Bullying may get you some lunch money, but it won't make you any friends.

I understand that we can't let Iraq have weapons of mass destruction and I agree that crippling its economy is preferable to bombing its cities. But the way to get them to cooperate and to bring them into the circle of good, law-abiding nations, is to demonstrate trustworthiness. An Iraq without bombs, which hates the UN, is much more likely to build new ones than an Iraq without bombs, which respects the UN. So, how do we get on Iraq's good side? By showing them that we can keep our word, and that we sincerely desire to have them as a friend. Spying on their military installations is not the way to do that.

I'm sure the reasons that certain members of the weapons inspection team tried to collect unofficial intelligence with non-UN equipment sounded good beforehand. "Iraq is the bad guy," they probably thought, "and we have to be careful, and suspect every move they make." But how will Iraq respond to this distrust? Will they think, "Here are our friends, making sure we're acceptable to the international community and that we've put our past mistakes behind us?" Of course not. They'll think, "Those jerks still don't like us. If they can't keep their promise not to spy on us, how can we trust that they'll lift the sanctions even if we don't have any inappropriate weaponry?" From that point of view, the Iraqis have nothing to gain from the weapons inspections, but they have their national security and sovereignty to lose. No wonder they don't like the inspectors.

Punishing the inspectors who make their spying obvious isn't the answer. A cessation of spying is. If we want the situation in Iraq to resolve peacefully, the UN has to demonstrate that it can be trusted, that it's more than just a bully pushing around weaker nations who don't follow its rules. Iraq won't ever graduate and be out of the UN's jurisdiction unless some unknown Mesopotamian Fault Line sends the country toppling into the Persian Gulf. So we need to find a solution to the long-term problem of making Iraq a nation that can sit on the same level as other "good" nations like the U.S. and Britain. And that starts by treating Iraq as if it has that potential.

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