How To Keep The Next Peace

It's too early to rush to judgment on how the gulf war is going, as many seem inclined to do. In an air war, it is difficult to assess results quickly. Still, it is obvious that the U. S. has struck powerful blows against Iraq's military infrastructure. Likewise, Saddam Hussein's ability to keep firing his Scud missiles shows he is far from defanged.

Now that the U. S. and its allies have committed themselves to armed force, it's important to push ahead with all resources at our disposal to force Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait. The sooner the war is over, the less danger there will be of an anti-American reaction in the rest of the Arab world, the less time there will be for Saddam to reduce Kuwait to cinders, and the less time there will be for a recidivist Soviet Union to change its mind about its support for the war. It's equally important to keep the military momentum to head off a possible schism in the U. S.-led coalition. And most of all, the U. S. must avoid a drawn-out war such as that in Vietnam, which would even further erode the shaky U. S. economy.

But even if the coalition prevails quickly, we need a clear vision of how to win the peace. President Bush has called the massive U. S. intervention in the Persian Gulf the opening of "a new world order." What that signifies is a commitment by the U. S. to join with other nations in opposing future aggressors such as Saddam Hussein.

What we have already learned from the gulf war, however, is that collective actions to come will have to be structured from the outset to ensure that other countries--especially Japan and the nations of Europe--shoulder a full share of the burden. That will avoid the kind of frustration Americans now feel about the disproportionate contribution the U. S. is making. The commitment to policing world order that Bush envisions won't be politically sustainable among many Americans unless they see that other nations are making commensurate sacrifices.

For now, we should be pondering what needs to be done in the Middle East once hostilities end, when the task becomes one of reconstruction and reconciliation. Obviously, here is where the bulging pocketbooks of the Germanies and Japans of the world can play a major role.

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