Parchment Peace

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The Iraq-a-thon has gone on way too long already. The president’s determination to set March 17 as Saddam’s "drop dead" date -- one hopes literally, though for now diplomatically -- at least gives some closure to the much-vaulted "diplomatic phase."

It seems like a bust for now. The U.N. foolery messed up the Iraq timetable.

President Bush’s press conference last week would have been nearly unassailable a year ago. He would have moved the country, and at least silenced the Europeans, by telling how Sept. 11 constituted a massive wake-up call to previously shrouded dangers to America -- a growing global terrorist network eager to destroy us, and expanding arsenals for mass destruction.

Saddam has long supported that terrorist network. There’s a far more powerful case than Bush mentioned last Thursday.

For starters, the only convicted fugitive for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center -- which caused a number of deaths and may have tumbled the towers, with many more deaths -- now lives in Baghdad. Saddam’s henchmen tried to assassinate an ex-president of the United States that same year.

Moreover, he runs a terrorist training camp near Salman Pak, north of Baghdad, with a Boeing aircraft for training. Plus, Czech authorities still insist that Sept. 11 ringleader Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague a few months before Sept. 11, 2001. Lastly, Iraq sends big bonus checks to Palestinian families of the homicide bombers in Israel.

All this puts Saddam squarely in the terrorism business.

Granted, there are some who dispute aspects of this. But no one disputes his relentless drive for weapons of mass destruction. Nor his hatred for America. Nor his savagery against his people.

Nonetheless, the French and other opponents advocate giving Saddam a last, last, last, last, last chance.

Sorry, but I thought that's what United Nations Resolution 1441 was -- Iraq's "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."

At least that's what it said. But that was four (long) months ago.

Several "final" opportunities have come and gone since then, and more are advocated all the time.

Why? Waiting yet longer brings more danger, and problems. Saddam gets stronger by the day. While cashiering some missiles that the team of chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix must have tripped over, Saddam's scores of government laboratories and production facilities are enlarging their stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. His nuclear program -- or programs, as we uncovered three years after the Persian Gulf War -- is surely proceeding apace.

If we are to confront him -- as we must -- sooner is better. Later he's stronger.

Second, every passing day spurs more anti-Bush, anti-American fervor. Waiting emboldens France to act like an important country. Others, such as Turkey, begin to doubt our determination and cover their own risks.

Third, delaying further undercuts whatever credibility the United Nations still retains. With Syria prominent on the U.N. Security Council, Libya now becoming chair of the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Iraq soon chairing the U.N. Committee on Disarmament, the U.N. smacks of becoming the world's theater of the absurd.

Another approach was clearly open. All these months, I kept thinking of how, early in my two-plus years as a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., the British ambassador took me aside to say that he was under strict orders from his prime minister to block any serious Security Council debate on Britain's use of force -- in Rhodesia, the Falklands, wherever. In 1982, Margaret Thatcher knew how that action against aggression was far more powerful than any Security Council resolution, which furnishes parchment peace.

Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair often speak of a "second resolution" for the Security Council to consider this week.

I wish they'd stop saying that. There is no "second resolution" being considered at the U.N. now. There was a second resolution in 1991.

There's an 18th resolution there now. Should that pass next this week, France and others will immediately push for a 19th.

Those who believe in parchment peace rather than action against tyrants will support any stalling that the imaginative minds of diplomats may devise. Then, not just the U.N. Security Council, but all international efforts to face grave security dangers will become scenes in the theater of the absurd.

Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of