Thinking this whole Iraq issue over I am curious over a few things. The U.S. has in some ways gone out of its way to look belligerent towards Iraq. They started transferring troops months ago. Their willingness to involve the U.N. appears half-hearted. Now you have a number of countries like France and Germany getting a little egg in the face from the U.S. about being too chicken to go out and do what has to be done. A lot of governments are rising up in protest. But interestingly, none of the permanent members of the security council has said that they would use their veto powers against an attack.
I see two possibilities:
1) The frustration on both sides of the Atlantic are real. The U.S. is finally pissed off that the past 12 years have been wasted because the U.N., along with most countries in the world, could not get their thumbs out and allow the Gulf War coalition depose Saddam Hussein in 1991 when they could have done it easily. 12 years later, the UN still has their thumbs firmly planted. Countries like France, China, Germany and Russia are eager to make peace with Saddam because they stand to make a killing in oil production/distribution, weapons sales, and construction projects. The above countries are pissed because the U.S. is spoiling their well-laid (and profitable) plans which might go in the water if another leader than Saddam comes to power.
2) What we are seeing is perhaps the most sophisticated PR effort and psychological warfare tactic the U.S. has ever orchestrated, as good or similar to FDR's statement in 1942 or '43 that the Allies would accept nothing from Germany and Japan but unconditional surrender.
We all know from TV shows the good cop / bad cop routine. In an interrogation, one cop foams at the mouth, looking quite ready to rip the suspect's head off if he does not give the required information. The "good cop" makes a show of being the suspect's friend, holding off the "bad cop". At the end, the "good cop" tells the suspect, "look, I can't hold him back. Tell him what he wants to know." The suspect, now seemingly defenseless, breaks down.
In early feelers towards its allies, perhaps the U.S. heard from most of them that, "Sure, we would like to see Saddam gone, but we are not prepared to take the political risk to appear aggressive in such a case." So perhaps a middle solution was reached.
What if the U.S. talked this over with France and all the other major players 6 or 12 months ago and convinced them to play "good cop" to the U.S. and U.K. playing "bad cop"? The U.S. makes tons of noise, threatening everything except nuclear holocaust, While the Russians and French et al say to the World, "Calm down, let's give Saddam another chance to come clean." We are hearing about the possibility of Saddam and his entourage being offered a one-way ticket into exile. The noise from the Brits and Americans appears to have rattled the Iraqi leadership enough that cracks are starting to appear - reports are growing about funds and treasure leaving Iraq for safer places, possible a prelude to certain highly placed people to go into exile (or at the very least, flee for their lives. Uday makes a very ill-advised statement the other day almost admitting that Iraq does have some WMDs hidden somewhere, ready to be used. All this could not have happened without the intense (and mounting) pressure that the U.S. and Britain have put of Saddam. Maybe (hopefully) Saddam will leave and/or Iraq will tell the truth about what they have.
In such a strategy, Bush would have accepted to take all the risk that others did not want. It is of course highly risky. If he loses his gamble, or has to send in the troops, the U.S. will lose a lot of face in the eyes of the world, and he will almost certainly lose his chance at a second term. But if he wins, he'll be a hero. The others like France and Russia risk very little, and can always come out later (in case of success) and say that they were actually acting in tight cooperation with the U.S. all the time.
I'm convinced that a lot of these "leaks", such as the one that came out of Russia last week saying that the U.S. was certainly planning an attack in February whatever the results of the inspections, were carefully planted by the White House, with the intent of telling Saddam that the noose is coming. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Think of the exercise as an immense geo-political pressure-cooker. Keep adding pressure until the pot sings.
If the time comes that the final deadline comes (whenever that is) and the U.S. and its allies must go forward with an invasion or else give away the charade, leaving Saddam to keep his weapons and his job, I think you will find that the key members of the Security Council will stand aside and not get in the way.
What do you think? Is my theory plausible?
By the way, I am convinced that Saddam is still hiding stuff. A guy who works for me worked as an immigrant truck driver in Jordan and Iraq in before and after the Gulf War. He himself made deliveries to camouflaged bunkers built underneath the beds of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, far from any inhabitations. Many of the containers had warning labels for bio-hazard, radiation, and other nasty stuff. He knows exactly where some of these places are. I have tried to convince him to write a letter to the U.N. inspection team, but he is scared out of his wits that if he does, that Iraqi intelligence might figure out who the leak is and come after his family. I'm still working on that. I've known him for 6 years, and I have never heard him lie or exaggerate about anything before.