WITH each passing day, the United States is moving closer to achieving its objective of destroying Iraq's ability to produce and deliver weapons of mass destruction. It is unlikely that we could have attained this goal through purely peaceful means. However, both the United States and Iraq know that the costs of military involvement will rise dramatically when ground forces are committed to combat. The U.S. assumes that it must bear these costs in order to achieve other objectives.
But this assumption is not true. The liberation of Kuwait, the restoration of its legitimate government, and the peaceful settlement of outstanding regional disputes are all goals that could conceivably be attained without a ground war. To get what it wants while minimizing further bloodshed, the United States should consider a carefully crafted settlement--and soon.
ANY proposal would, of course, have to be more attractive to Saddam Hussein than continued war. The proposal should therefore describe clearly the consequences of acceptance (e.g. immediate cease-fire, mutual and balanced withdrawals, resumption of oil sales) and rejection (e.g. continued destruction of his military assets, humiliating defeat, personal danger). Furthermore, it must not seem like an American ultimatum. And to be acceptable to the United States, it must assure that all our goals are met; aggression must not be rewarded.
The following outline for a United nations Security council resolution satisfies all of the above criteria for success. To be effective, it would be sponsored by a respected third country (possibly Algeria, Sweden or India) and presented to both Iraq and the United States simultaneously.
The resolution would invite all states involved in the conflict to accept a settlement package. If by noon on January 28, all such countries have informed the Secretary-General that they accept the package, a cease-fire would go into effect one hour later. In the next 48 hours, a United Nations peacekeeping force would arrive and begin enforcing the cease-fire along the Saudi-kuwaiti border.
The next stage would consist of balanced and mutual withdrawals by both sides. Iraq would immediately begin to leave Kuwait. It Would have two months to complete this withdrawal. The coalition forces would also begin immediately to withdraw. After two months, no more than half of its forces could remain, with withdrawal to be completed in the following to months.
Because the U. S. would have to move its forces much further from the area than Iraq, it would be entitled to do so at a slower rate. Recent U.S.-Soviet agreements provide a powerful precedent in this respect.
As soon as the forces begin to withdraw, all prisoners would be exchanged and economic sanctions against Iraq lifted. The proceeds from Iraqi oil sales, however, would be deposited in an escrow account supervised by the U.N. Secretary General. Iraq would receive this money upon completion of its withdrawal from Kuwait.
After all Iraqi forces have withdrawn, the U.N. peacekeeping force would oversee the restoration of the Kuwaiti government as it existed on August 1, 1990. Two months later, after the last coalition forces depart, it would monitor a referendum in Kuwait on the country's future form of government.
The resolution would also bind Iraq and Kuwait to settle any outstanding disputes between them by peaceful means. It would recommend recourse to Arab mediation.
THIS proposal does not seek to remove Saddam Hussein from office. This omission is fully intentional. Obviously, it makes the proposal more acceptable to Saddam himself. More importantly, Saddam is the least of several evils. Saddam's successor could be both as dangerous as Saddam and more popular than he. Whereas Hussein has made many enemies in the Arab community, a successor would be given the benefit of the doubt--particularly if he was able to take up the mantle of a great martyr.
Finally, Iraq cannot afford to withdraw without a guarantee that the Palestinian issue will be addressed. The united States cannot afford to accept such linkage. The solution to this last dilemma involves a fourth country--besides the U.S. Iraq, and the nation that sponsors the resolution--that would commit itself to taking up the issue, once Iraq had withdrawn.
The United States need not agree to any linkage, and Saddam would have tangible justification for cooperating. The fourth country's role is crucial to the success of this (or any other) proposal.
We must consider that Saddam Hussein's previous unwillingness to withdraw has been affected by the allies' demonstrated willingess to fight. This proposal affords us a low-risk opportunity to achieve all our remaining goals without sacrificing the life of an additional American soldier.
President Bush should let other countries know that we would respond favorably to such an approach, and the American people should support his pursuit of both victory and peace.
Peter Schlactus '90 works for Conflict management Inc., and David Hoffer '90-'91 will be working for Endispute, Inc. Both have worked at the Harvard Negotiation Project.