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Western Press Review: U.S.-British Strike At Iraq

Prague, 13 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- With the United States, together with Britain, now preparing an attack against Iraq for its defiance of the United Nations, newspapers in both countries are expressing their views of what seems to be an imminent event. Most commentators approve of a military strike, but many urge that it be a strong one and a few say it won't do any good.

NEW YORK TIMES: Any new missile and bombing campaign must be extensive

The New York Times today says that "the Clinton Administration must clearly define its goals and the best military tactics for achieving them. Although diplomacy now seems exhausted," the paper's editorial goes on, "there is a faint hope that Saddam Hussein will blink at the last minute and start honoring his international obligations"

The editorial says further: "If Baghdad remains defiant, President Clinton would be fully justified in ordering an attack. The world cannot leave Saddam free to manufacture horrific germs and nerve gases and use them to terrorize neighboring countries."

The NYT continues: "The primary purpose of military action should be to compel the return of UN weapons inspectors and assure their access to all locations suspected of harboring evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons or missiles.... To achieve (this), any new missile and bombing campaign must be extensive, going far beyond the pinprick Tomahawk missile attacks of the past."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Action is clear

The Wall Street Journal Europe's editorial is an appeal for what it calls "credible force" against Iraq. The paper recalls that, "last winter President Clinton built a sizable military force in the Persian Gulf and a sizable amount of (world) support...only to squander the latter on a last-minute deal with Saddam Hussein. Let's hope," the WSJ says, "he doesn't make the same mistake again."

The editorial goes on to say that the final purpose of any new military action against Saddam should be his "removal from power and the encouragement of more moderate forces." The paper adds: "Even if that can't be done quickly, crippling his military capabilities will give the world time to breathe and plan."

The WSJ sums up: "No sane person ever relishes the prospect of war....But politics is often about hard choices....And the choice between inaction -- that is, a discredited world order and a destabilized Middle East -- and action is clear."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: It is time to move beyond a bombing strategy that has been tested and found wanting

The WSJ also runs a commentary today by strategic analyst Lawrence Kaplan, who says that "Cruise missiles are dumb weapons to use in Iraq." Kaplan says that the unmanned cruise missiles launched against Iraq in the past served as "a means (of wielding) military power with minimal risk, minimal uncertainty and minimal mess. Yet (they) have merely led Saddam to conclude that he enjoys more room to maneuver than Washington's rhetoric would allow -- as indeed he does."

The commentary continues: "An effective air campaign against Iraq cannot be conducted by cruise missiles alone. A serious effort to punish Iraqi malfeasance must seek to diminish its military capabilities, and that aim requires a sustained and massive bombing effort executed at least in part by manned aircraft."

Kaplan concludes: "If U.S. strategic goals are to be decided by the...Administration's self-defeating preoccupation with casualties, then the U.S. should forego action altogether....If, however, the U.S...judges (otherwise), then it is time to move beyond a bombing strategy that has been tested and found wanting."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Match Saddam Hussein's continuing violations with an equally persistent response

In the Los Angeles Times, a commentary by military analyst Edward Luttwak also argues for more than "another ineffectual one-time attack" against Saddam. Luttwak urges that the U.S. undertaking "match Saddam Hussein's continuing violations with an equally persistent response."

The commentary spells out its message in detail: "While there are no magic targets," Luttwak writes, "there are plenty of very purposeful ones located well away from any civilian population centers: The maintenance and repair facilities for the roughly 500 helicopters (120 armed) that are the indispensable tools of the regime's military intimidation of the Shiite majority; the repair depots and heavy transports that are essential to keep Iraq's tanks an effective threat against both the Kurds and Kuwait; the barracks and supply stores of the four Special Republican Guard brigades and presidential security units that are crucial to Saddam's political and personal survival."

Luttwak concludes: "It is useless to try to educate Saddam by episodic reprisals; even if he gives in momentarily, he will resume his violations soon enough. But each reduction in the physical power of his regime would be useful in itself."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Bombing should be accompanied by a review of UN sanctions

In Britain, the Financial Times today declares in its editorial that "Saddam must be deterred." The paper writes: "It looks as though the cat-and-mouse game Saddam Hussein has been playing with the United Nations for the past seven years is coming to an end. Unless the Iraqi leader resumes cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, the U.S. will attack within days."

The editorial goes on: "The U.S. appears to have concluded that the usefulness of (UN weapons inspectors) -- obstructed by Iraq for the past year -- is over. Indeed, the inspection process has become the tool with which Baghdad mounts its periodic challenges to the UN. In deciding what to put in its place," the FT says, "the West should remember its prime objective, which is to prevent Iraq from threatening its neighbors."

The paper concludes: "Any bombing campaign...should be clearly limited to the Iraqi regime's military infrastructure. To be politically credible, moreover, it should be accompanied by a review of (UN) sanctions, to ensure their effects are concentrated on Mr. Saddam and his henchmen --and not on their victims."

GUARDIAN: Does the punishment really match the crime?

The Guardian daily disagrees with those supporting a strong and prolonged strike against Iraq. Its editorial asks: "Why are we doing it?" The paper says that Saddam "is a man of ruthlessness and desperation who cares little for most of his people." It adds that "the prospect, therefore, is that he will not back down in the face of the looming threat..."

For the Guardian, this reality poses a series of questions: "Does the punishment (planned by the U.S. and Britain) really match the crime? Are cruise missiles and smart bombs not an excessive retaliation for the offense of defying UN inspectors. Are those who pick the targets sure they will be putting the right people to death, and not innocent civilians? If the aim is more than punitive, what is the political strategy behind it?..."

"These queries (and others)," the paper's editorial sums up, "may have convincing answers, but we (British) need to hear them independently of the Americans. (Foreign Secretary) Robin Cook and (Defense Secretary) George Robertson should tell us what they are."