Prague, 11 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Discussion in the major Western dailies today is dominated by the debate over a draft UN resolution giving Iraq a 17 March deadline to disarm or face military action. France and Russia, two of the five permanent members on the UN Security Council, indicated yesterday they would veto any such resolution, instead opting for more time for UN weapons inspections.
We also take a look at today's launch of the International Criminal Court and China's change in leadership.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
In "The Washington Times," Tod Lindberg, editor of "Policy Review" magazine, draws a distinction between what he terms the American and French views of the role of the UN Security Council.
In the U.S. view, he says, Security Council resolutions unequivocally state the collective will of the council. They are thus "an end in themselves," spelling out the actions a country or leader -- such as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- must take "to be in compliance with the articulated will of the Council." In Iraq's case, Baghdad is simply either in compliance or not in compliance.
Subscribers to this view clearly conclude that the Iraqi leader, having failed to use what the resolution calls his "final opportunity" to disarm, is now in "material breach" and must thus face the "serious consequences" threatened by Resolution 1441.
But in the view of France and other nations, a Security Council resolution documents the council's stance on an issue, in an attempt to change a leader's behavior. The question is then what steps will be taken in response to the UN's declaration. The resolution is thus "a means to an end, not an end in itself." Next, the council debates whether the steps taken were sufficient.
"In the first case," says Lindberg, Resolution 1441 is "an ultimatum to be complied with down to the last letter." In the second, "it is a step in an ongoing negotiation to try to find a modus vivendi between the international community [and] a known troublemaker."
In the British "Guardian," columnist George Monbiot says the United States is using the widespread support and autonomy it was granted in Afghanistan "as a license to take its war wherever it wants."
Monbiot says even those who oppose the expected war in Iraq must recognize the possibility that it "could improve the lives of many Iraqi people." But he says this campaign does not begin and end in Iraq. The real context of an Iraqi war "is a blunt attempt by the [American] superpower to reshape the world to suit itself."
Since the 11 September 2001 attacks and the onset of the war on terrorism, the U.S. "now has bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Georgia." This January, U.S. forces also moved into Djibouti, ostensibly as part of the antiterror campaign, "while accidentally gaining strategic control over the Bab al-Mandab -- one of the world's two most important oil shipping lanes. It already controls the other one, the Strait of Hormuz."
Three thousand U.S. forces are now in the Philippines, and negotiations began last year to establish a military base in Sao Tome and Principe, from which the U.S. "can, if it chooses, dominate West Africa's principal oil fields." Monbiot ironically remarks: "By pure good fortune, the U.S. government now exercises strategic control over almost all the world's major oil producing regions and oil transport corridors."
A "Washington Post" editorial discusses suggestions by several governments that UN weapons inspections in Iraq should continue, although Baghdad is not "fully" complying with UN weapons inspections or the "final" order to disarm. Inspectors, they say, are making progress, so why not extend their mandate?
The "Post" says if a delay of a few weeks on a new resolution would "overcome the current rift" between members of the Security Council, "then it would be worth the wait." But the paper says it is "important to understand that any extension of the inspectors' mandate would only delay, not prevent, a conflict." Three months of inspections "have demonstrated [that] without a strategic decision by [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein to fully cooperate, it is not possible even to locate Iraq's most deadly weapons, much less ensure disarmament."
The "Post" says reports by chief weapons inspectors have been "arguments for continued inspections, rather [than] reports on Iraq's compliance." They speak of Iraq's "progress," which in turn is "hailed by some as proof that the 'inspections are working.' " But the editorial says this ignores that Iraq "has still not disclosed its weapons" as ordered by Resolution 1441 and earlier resolutions. In fact, says the "Post," inspection teams can really "only wait to see if Iraq will be more forthcoming, or hope for a lucky break that will lead it to hidden stockpiles."
Writing in the British daily "Independent," Stephen Castle in The Hague discusses today's launch of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new court is being hailed by some as "the most important human rights development in half a century." The ICC's objective "is twofold: to provide justice for the victims of genocide and to deter future war criminals by illustrating that, however senior they are, those responsible for atrocities are not immune."
"Expectations of the court are high," says Castle. But the ICC still faces a "formidable task in establishing its credibility," he says. Its staff is comprised of just 44 people, and it will not hold a full trial for several years to come. Moreover, it is bound by several limitations. The court can only take action if the accused is a national of one of the court's signatory nations or if the alleged crime was committed in a signatory country. Thus, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could not be indicted, as Iraq is not a signatory state. Nations themselves also have the right to first try the accused. The ICC will only take a case if the relevant nation is unwilling or unable to try a case.
The court is being inaugurated today amid "fierce opposition" from the United States, which has signed immunity agreements with more than 20 countries after subjecting them to what Castle calls "considerable diplomatic pressure."
The U.S. fears its soldiers, peacekeepers, and diplomats may become the targets of politically motivated court cases.
Alan Posner in the German daily "Die Welt" focuses his attention on the significance of Russia's resolute "nyet" regarding the current U.S.- and British-backed draft resolution giving Iraq's Saddam Hussein a 17 March deadline to disarm.
This marks the first time Moscow has explicitly said it would veto the resolution, and was in response to U.S. President George W. Bush's demand for Moscow and others on the Security Council to "show their cards."
But Posner is more concerned with the consequences of the veto for Germany. He says, "Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder may feel his decision not to engage in war with Iraq has been confirmed, and he may rejoice that his unconditional refusal to join in a military campaign has resulted in the isolation of George W. Bush, not Germany."
However, in the long run, this success may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. Posner says, "Saddam will be toppled, his country disarmed. Nothing will alter this, not even the Russian veto. But then, when a new order will be in the making, after Saddam, the rejection of U.S. policy on Iraq will mean the United Nations will hardly be able to exert influence."
In a commentary in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," Harald Maass looks at "the end of an era in China."
Once China's leaders were emperors who ruled the land with a mandate from heaven. Mao Tse-Tung and half a century of socialism came next, then President Jiang Zemin retrieved the republic from its isolation and reformed the agriculture sector. Jiang has been in power since 1989. He was the one to finally lead China toward a market economy, but he also ruled with an iron fist.
Maass says a "generational shift" will take place at the National People's Congress, which began 5 March in Beijing, where delegates will vote on China's top leadership positions, including replacing the president and prime minister.
Maass says while the new leaders no longer wield as much repressive power as their predecessors, they are faced with ensuring relative prosperity for the people. The commentary says, "As long as the majority feel that their living standards are improving, the political system and the one-party rule will not be questioned."
But there are many factors preventing economic growth and the new leaders are aware that the political system has reached its limits. However, says Maass, new leader Hu Jintao lacks the authority of his predecessors that would enable him to implement reforms.
The only solution, says Maass, requires Beijing's leaders to learn to share their power -- perhaps even with the people.
In an item in France's "Liberation," Serge July remarks that at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, U.S. leaders were very clear as to their war aims. The war liberated Kuwait, a small country that had "purely and simply" been annexed by Iraq. But a dozen years later, we do not hear much about "war aims."
Washington claims that war in Iraq is necessary, either with or without the United Nations. But the stated "necessity" of war seems to be outstripping the "justifications" for war, July says. First it was claimed Iraq poses an "imminent threat" to its neighbors, calling for a pre-emptive strike. Then "regime change" in Baghdad became the goal. Later, the stated aim became the injection of democracy that Saddam Hussein's ouster would bring to the region.
July says the anticipated war in Iraq, as described by the U.S. administration, has no distinct objectives. But Washington's motivations are geostrategic in nature, he says, all part of an attempt to restore U.S. hegemony in a period of globalization and during the emergence of new, potentially rival, powers. But these are not reasons that can be cited at the UN, July remarks.
For the first time in its history, he says, the United States is thinking openly as an imperial power, seeking to defend its hegemony and interests after 11 September, and to re-establish its power of deterrence.
Writing in "The Washington Post," E. J. Dionne Jr. says events of the past few weeks indicate U.S. President George W. Bush had "intended to make war on Saddam Hussein under almost all circumstances short of Hussein's removal or abdication." This may be why public opinion abroad "lined up against Bush," and why a majority of Americans "still harbor deep doubts" about going to war in Iraq. Dionne says "Bush's problem" is that "when he sought United Nations support last fall, he was looking for a marriage of convenience, not commitment. The administration never expected inspections to work -- and many in its ranks clearly hoped they wouldn't."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in contrast, was winning broad support abroad "for tougher action carried out in a way that would have strengthened the United States by strengthening our ties with allies." He sought to make disarming Hussein a "genuinely cooperative venture."
But in the months since that effort, Washington's lost allies "and the turn of public opinion in so many democratic nations against [U.S. policy] reflect fears that the United States is going to war not just to rid Hussein of weapons but on behalf of a grand theory." This theory, Dionne says, "sees unfettered American power as capable of remaking the world." But this is a "dangerous" idea, he says. "The paradox is that creating the more democratic world we seek requires more than power. It demands alliances, institutions and trust."
(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)