View Full Version : A Hail Mary

03-16-03, 11:15 AM
A Hail-Mary Peace Plan
Here’s a last-minute idea for how to avert war with Iraq

March 15 — I’m not a dove, but if I were, I’d be looking for a ‘Hail Mary’ pass just about now. Signing petitions and marching in the streets isn’t going to stop this war or even delay it. Nor will beating the United States in the United Nations Security Council. Prayers for a coup in Baghdad or a change of heart in Washington are useless.

SO IT’S TIME for a little out-of-the-box (or even off-the-wall) thinking. The first question is whether there’s anyone with the stature to spearhead a creative alternative, and the answer is yes. His name is Kofi Annan. If the Secretary General decided to step forward and lead the U.N., not rhetorically but literally, the status quo in Iraq could be transformed quickly, and, most likely, peacefully. So far, the Security Council has been obstructing and dithering, but not acting. Here’s something for the U.N. to do that would infuriate both the United States and Saddam Hussein, but could also lead to the removal of weapons of mass destruction without bloodshed:
Create a U.N. trusteeship in Iraq, not after the war, but before it. That’s right—take the U.N. plan for administering a postwar Iraqi government that was unveiled last week and implement it right now, with Saddam still alive. Instead of tripling the number of inspectors, as the French proposed, increase the number of U.N. officials on the ground in Iraq by twenty-fold. Fly two dozen planeloads of U.N. employees—experts in civil administration—into Baghdad. Fan them out across the city into every ministry and military installation —that should block a U.S. attack. Meanwhile, leave Saddam alone—wherever he is—and start running his government. Marginalize him.

Impossible, you say. Saddam is a brutal tyrant and will never allow it. But would he definitely resist? Right now, he figures he’s going to die, whether he flees or not. The U. N. is the only thing keeping him alive, and not for long. His big propaganda victory over the United States is a temporary win, and it’s dependent on his not offending the U.N. by killing a bunch of its people. So he would likely do no more to obstruct this contigent than he has done to obstruct the inspectors, who have been admitted almost everywhere they have sought acceess in the last four months. The difference would be that these U.N. civil administrators would not inspect, they would entrench. They would simply announce that henceforth, they were administering the departments of government, including access to all government documents.

You might call this a U.N.coup or invasion but it could also be described as a U.N. “mandate,” which is hardly unprecedented. The U.N. charter has a whole section on trusteeships, which were common during decolinization. The international organization has moved in to administer governments on a temporary basis before, when conditions on the ground were chaotic. In this case, they are pre-chaotic. What’s the elemental difference?

The military and secret police. They are armed and the U.N. bureaucrats would not be. Precisely. The idea of armed inspectors (floated and abandoned months ago) was a bad one because the mismatch with Saddam’s forces would have been overwhelming. But unarmed, the brave U.N. administrators would be less threatening and thus, ironically, more powerful. Annan would announce that if Saddam’s Baathist goons touched a hair on their heads, the whole group of U.N. folks would leave town. Then, of course, the U.S. military would invade as planned.

Saddam, who is hardly stupid, would anticipate this. He would rant and rave about the infringement on Iraqi sovereignty, but he would not shoot. Saddam would fight the U.N. officials if they tried to capture him, but not if they simply walked into his ministries and sat down in a kind of Gandhian occupation, evicting anyone who did not cooperate. Saddam knows that if he blocked their entrance or took them hostage, he would immediately unify the world against him, sealing his fate. So, being a survivor, Saddam would likely do nothing. He’d hide in one of his palaces and wait, playing for time.

Once he lost the actual levers of power, the fear inside Iraq would start to dissipate. This would sharply increase the odds of a coup, which would be fine with us. But Saddam will take these odds because the alternative is his total destruction. The U.S. might be convinced to take the odds, too, and refrain from exercising a veto of a plan that would quickly accomplish the stated objective of eliminating Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

Now if you believe any of this will actually happen, I’ve got two tickets for you to an Elvis concert in Basra. The Saudis, who have actually discussed such an idea among themselves, believe it’s too late. The die is cast. They’re probably right, and you no doubt have a hundred reasons why this plan is unworkable. So pick it apart. But at this point it’s useless to whine about the war unless you’ve got a better idea for stopping it.

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.

03-16-03, 12:04 PM
A Hail-Mary Peace Plan
Sounds just crazy enough to work (that's a compliment not a jab).
Is there time to outfit Annan & his team with enough balls to do the job (don't think they have it or would've already shown it).

03-16-03, 12:06 PM
It has merit, but the UN is not a body that has ever acted in unison or in a timely fashion. Could it happen? maybe-but not likely-6 of the 8 helos that the inspectors are using left Iraq today, as a precautionary move to get them out before the start of hostilities.
I wouldn't expect the Iraqi's to allow a 20 fold increase in inspectors either.

03-16-03, 12:56 PM
I would imagine that France, China, and possibly Russia would use their veto in the security counsel for the same reasons they are opposing the ousting of Saddaam now. They won't have a prayer of a chance to recover any of their investments back or a chance to see the trade concessions that they already have signed with the current Iraqi regime, in the evnet if & when the trade sanctions are lifted. They do not want to have to renegotiate those trade concesions with a competitive world looking on.