WASHINGTON — We wait and watch. Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein is cooperating. Or is he? He is destroying some missiles that United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix says are too powerful. But is that enough? U.S. President George W. Bush does not seem convinced. “Pure showmanship and more stalling,” he calls it as he continues his relentless pressure on the Hussein.
Prime ministers and presidents have paraded through Washington to pledge their fealty to the U.S. cause. Bush recently spent a pleasant and profitable weekend at Camp David with Prime Minister Jose Maria Anzar of Spain, who promptly replaced British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the key promoter of the new United States-backed resolution in the U.N. Security Council.
Blair needed to spend a bit of time in London to sell his position to party leaders and constituents. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was traveling with the same game plan: Sell a second U.N. resolution in tough territory — China, Japan and points east. China hasn’t bought it.
Only eight votes are needed for a majority in the 15-member Security Council, but the five permanent members, China, France, Britain, Russia and the U.S. have veto power with a “no” vote.
France and Germany have been circulating their own resolution that would not give Bush the language he wants, although language can always be compromised. Both want more time and more inspections, and are supported by Syria, Cameroon, Guinea and Angola. The U.S. needs to pick up some of these votes plus those of Mexico, Chile, Pakistan to add to the Spanish, British and U.S. votes. Powell has had his work cut out.
Bush, of course, suggests that U.N. Resolution 1441 already gives the U.S. and its coalition allies all of the authority needed to move militarily against Iraq. Blix’s report Friday on the work of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission will be considered by the Security Council this week. It is a difficult time as plans continue and tensions mount — between the U.S. and Iraq and between the U.S. and much of the rest of the world.
The Iraq question is not an easy one for the American people to resolve. There is no question about how they feel about Hussein: He is a demon and needs to be dealt with in harsh terms. He presents a threat to the region and has probably supported his share of terrorists who wish to threaten our safety. We all agree on that, the pollsters say. But there is divergence on solutions, and support for the military solution is dropping over time.
Half of the American people are said to support military action against Iraq even over U.N. objections as long as the U.S. has the support of key allies — Britain, Australia and Italy. In December, two-thirds of Americans were ready to send in the troops without further U.N. support.
The latest Gallup poll found that, if Hussein destroyed his 120 short-range Al Samoud-2 missiles as ordered, support for invading Iraq with ground troops would drop to 33 percent, with 60 percent opposed. If Iraq did not destroy those missiles, support for a ground invasion would swell to 71 percent vs. 22 percent opposed. Quite a swing!
The terrible split over war reflects the great division of the electorate that occurred in the U.S. 2000 election. We are a 50-50 nation in political thought, including opinions about a war against Iraq.
By party affiliation, 71 percent of Republicans support a war, while only 42 percent of Democrats polled do so. By gender, 59 percent of men support a war, compared with 49 percent of women.
Age matters, too: People 18 to 29 back a war by 63 percent, while only 40 percent of those 65 and older do so. As for race, 59 percent of whites vs. 34 percent of blacks favor a war. By region, U.S. Southerners support a war by 59 percent compared with 45 percent in the West.
Approval of a second U.N. resolution would be very helpful to Bush in solidifying his support at home and abroad for his war effort. And it would give several valuable allies, most importantly, Britain’s Blair, the cover they need to survive criticism at home.
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