Public doubts raise
odds for Iraq restraint


Congress is considering a resolution that would give President Bush wide latitude in using military force against Iraq.

PRESIDENTS often have used the bully pulpit to apply public pressure on Congress to support White House policy. In a reversal of such circumstances, Congress appears headed for bipartisan approval of a resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action against Iraq, but the public has yet to climb aboard. That ambivalence provides the best assurance that the president will exercise restraint in exercising the broad authority contained in the congressional resolution.

The resolution, at its extreme, would allow the administration to use unilateral military force against Iraq, independent of United Nations action, in defiance of the U.N. Security Council and in disregard for U.N. inspection and destruction of weapons of mass destruction. Bush now sets forth a more cautious and acceptable scenario, one that justifies enactment of the resolution.

"I hope that this will not require military action, but it may," Bush told a Cincinnati audience this week. If such action is needed, he added, "we will act with allies at our side."

Stipulating conditions such as multilateral action or failed weapons inspections before permitting U.S. military action would have satisfied concerns voiced by some members of Congress but could have undermined the resolution. Approval of the resolution instead should demonstrate American determination to the United Nations and help build a significant coalition that is needed for military action.

No one questions that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is a menace to his region and the world and that the toppling of his regime would be beneficial to humanity. The uncertainty revolves around how to go about disarming Iraq, ending Hussein's rule and building a peaceful nation in its place.

Bush described Iraq a year ago as part of an "axis of evil" -- with Iran and North Korea. However, he told the Cincinnati audience that Iraq is a "unique" threat "because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place" -- referring to chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weaponry. Waiting until those weapons are used, he said, is "the riskiest of all options."

Americans remain dubious. They overwhelmingly agree that military force is warranted against Iraq, but polls show increasing opposition to a unilateral attack by the United States. According to one recent poll, three-fifths of Americans oppose a U.S. invasion without allies, or without U.N. approval. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to another poll said U.N. weapons inspectors should be given more time to work.

Most Americans seem to be patient about entering a war against Iraq, but their patience may wear thin when it comes to departing Iraq following a war. Bush spoke of a peaceful, prosperous and free post-Saddam Iraq, but the problems associated with building such a society from a country with rival tribes and religions will be immense.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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