Evan Maloney's Brain Terminal

Give Peace a Chance to Do What, Exactly?

By Evan Maloney evan@brain-terminal.com

Toothless diplomacy that requires no real results yields disaster. That's the lesson of the 1994 diplomatic mission to North Korea, which ultimately failed to thwart that country's nuclear ambitions. It is also the lesson that President Bush warned the world to heed in his State of the Union address last night.

Former Clinton Administration officials say the United States and North Korea quietly came close to war in 1994 over the latter's attempt to develop nuclear weapons. Instead of war, however, diplomacy prevailed--phew!--and an agreement was struck with an untrustworthy murdering dictator. Crisis averted, the world hailed the agreement and celebrated the fact that there would be peace in our time.

Diplomacy's Greatest Hits

In the deal, North Korea agreed to give up its development of nuclear weapons. Inspectors and monitors were put in place to verify North Korean compliance. (Stop me when any of this begins to sound familiar.) The only problem was, North Korea never had any intention of honoring its commitment. Now, not quite a decade after that great victory of diplomacy, North Korea informs us that they had their fingers crossed the whole time. Turns out--gasp--they have been developing nukes! In fact, the rogue nation that fired a test missile over Japan in 1998 may now possess nuclear warheads as well.

This should teach us that wily adversaries can exploit a peaceful people's desire to avoid war. When allies state that achieving peace is simply a matter of the effort put forth by our side, it projects weakness. It signals to our adversaries that there are no limits to our patience, that we'll endure an endless process until we either make unwise concessions or wash our hands of the issue entirely. Since the mid-1960s, this is how "Old Europe" has handled crisis. And this is exactly what the queasy among our trans-Atlantic allies are advising us to do now.

Long after the hands shake, the bulbs flash, and the smiles fade away, agreements are only as meaningful as the results they achieve. We know what was achieved by making agreements with Hitler, for example. Similarly, the agreement to stop North Korea's nuclear program did in fact not stop their nuclear program, so what was the point of that agreement? Despite this, several nations still cling to a blind faith in processes that produce no discernable results. They want one more meaningless round of talks to get one more meaningless agreement with Iraq, so that we're still having the same discussions and facing the same threats tomorrow and a year from now.

Unacceptable Risk

When people say about Iraq, "give peace a chance," I wonder, a chance to do what? How will peace disarm Iraq if Iraq is dead-set against disarming? Do we want to wake up one day and discover that the inertia of diplomacy allowed Iraq to follow North Korea's lead? Unfortunately, if that does happen, we probably won't know about it until we turn on the news and see a pile of dead Americans.

We may not have any pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden sharing a hug, but we do know they share a common enemy. In terms of goals and capabilities, Iraq and al Qaeda complement each other quite well. Iraq can produce, while al Qaeda can infiltrate and detonate. Do we really want peace to give Saddam Hussein a chance to share his toys with al Qaeda?

The Last Stand of the U.N.?

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 [PDF] gave Iraq a final opportunity to prove its claim that it has disarmed. The resolution states that if Iraq fails to cooperate or provide a full accounting of its weapons programs, the country will face "serious consequences". Yet, Iraq is not cooperating. Chemical weapons discovered by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s are now missing and unaccounted for. Chemical weapons warheads have been found that were not declared in Iraq's supposedly complete disclosure. Saddam Hussein hasn't changed, he won't comply, and now he must be confronted.

The only question that remains is whether the word of the United Nations is as worthless as Saddam Hussein's. If the U.N. backs away from its commitment to hold Iraq accountable, then the U.N. will be committing itself to permanent irrelevance. The only way for the U.N. to save itself from that fate is to endorse real remedies that result in a disarmed Iraq. Continued inspection is not sufficient, because Iraq is already being inspected, as it has been on and off since its defeat in 1991. If inspections haven't been effective thus far, what's the point of prescribing additional ineffectiveness? Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is looking like the only option.

All I Am Saying...

Sometimes, there is no choice but to meet danger with force. To resort to war is not the sign of ultimate failure, as some argue, it's just the sign of diplomacy's failure. But we shouldn't let failed diplomacy fester while stealthy enemies strengthen and scheme. Now that we've seen how easily terrorists can bring death to our door, we must prevent them from acquiring weapons from thugs like Saddam Hussein. The best way is to make sure there aren't any thugs like Saddam Hussein.

To the peace-at-all-costs crowd, I say: peace was given a chance, and peace failed. So, rest up. There will be plenty of protests for you to attend in the near future. That's because we're fortunate enough to have a president who recognizes the lurking dangers that you choose to ignore. As you savor the freedoms, comforts, and luxuries of the American existence, remember the Iraqi people, who have none of these things thanks to Saddam Hussein. And think of our kids in the Gulf, the ones you probably view as offspring of rednecks and other unsophisticates. They've pledged their lives to secure your right to scream yourself hoarse about the evil United States. They're the ones who are about to liberate the Iraqi people. And when they do, they'll be making a far greater contribution to humanity than has ever been made by antiquated actresses bellowing stale sixties slogans into bullhorns at peace protests.

Evan Maloney's essays about politics and world affairs are online at www.brain-terminal.com.