The U.N. Dawdle

After way too long gumming the problem of Iraq, the United Nations Security Council is due to vote on the resolution within a few days. In diplomacy -- as in life -- timing is everything.

"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," advises Macbeth.

The United Nations does nothing quickly. Thus, little 'tis done there. Two-plus years as a U.S. ambassador showed me the "U.N. dawdle" up close and personal.

But even worse than inaction is mis-action. The Bush administration wants a Security Council resolution in the worst way possible. Well, that's what it'll get.

As I've mentioned before, the only realistic international inspectors for Iraq are the 101st Airborne Division. Many faithful readers e-mailed me that the 82nd and sundry Marine and other Army units could fill the bill, too.

Quite right. But all accept the big point that real inspection can only follow real liberation.

Still, the Bush team embraced a U.N. kabuki dance, dreamily imagining that U.N. inspections can assure Saddam's disarmament.

Fat chance. Saddam has perfected building chemical, biological and nuclear weapons -- and hiding them -- over the past 11 years. And he just finished four years of building, without having to bother with the hiding.

Having 80 U.N. inspectors poking around a country the size of France, with 23 million people -- where revealing information is grounds for death and torture -- is dreaming. Following World War I, 5,000 international inspectors -- not 80 -- went into Germany, and that was after its government was changed, not with the vile aggressors still in power.

Moreover, this U.N. "force" of 80 for vast Iraq equals the size of the police forces of Blacksburg, Va., and Helena, Mont. They're fewer than the force of Milford, Conn.

Hence the sad conclusion: Once U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, we can practically kiss the president's policy of "regime change" goodbye.

These inspectors will do another U.N. dawdle for months. We'll pass the winter window of opportunity for liberating Iraq, stalling if not ending that noble campaign.

Hence, if not done quickly, 'twill not be done at all.

Yet, a sliver of hope remains for "regime change" -- by proving Saddam's defiance of U.N. resolutions before the U.N. inspectors arrive.

This can be done by tough procedures for inspections, which Saddam cannot accept, particularly:

-- Allowing the "big five" Security Council members -- especially the U.S. and U.K. -- to accompany the inspectors; and

-- Insist that any Iraqis can leave the country, along with their families, to inform inspectors on WMD.

Should Saddam accept these two conditions -- improbable, at best -- then propose two moves beyond U.N. inspections:

-- Reaffirm the right for aerial inspections over all of Iraq, to complement ground inspections by the U.N. team. The no-fly zone would thus cover the entire country. Then, any shot fired by Iraqi forces -- as now happens regularly -- constitutes a casus belli; and

-- Mandate an Iraqi declaration of existing arms before U.N. inspectors arrive. Any proof -- from our, or British, intelligence -- of a single violation would thereby prove Saddam's continued defiance.

Regardless of the trigger, once war's ignited, the 101st Airborne and its brethren from the Marines and other Army units will find massive arsenals of weapons of mass destruction around Iraq. Skeptics will plainly see that this war was fully justified though few, of course, will ever admit it.

Yet this won't happen if the "U.N.-ery" plays out the Iraqi drama as the opening scenes suggest. Without some jolt, Act Two of a President Bush dueling Saddam Hussein will end as a struggle, yes, full of sound and fury but one ultimately signifying nothing.

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

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