WASHINGTON — THREE MONTHS have passed since President Bush first announced his decision to send American troops to the Persian Gulf.
Forces from a dozen states have now been assembled in and around the region. The president has spoken of sending another 150,000 troops to supplement the 230,000 U.S. forces already there. But not one move has been made to end the devastation and plunder of Kuwait, or to defend its beleaguered people from daily abuse.
We may even have lost sight of the reason Mr. Bush sent all those men and all that materiel to the Gulf in the first place. They were dispatched under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, he explained. The article provides that all states have the right to defend themselves against aggression and to seek help from others in that defense. Kuwait sought American help and U.S. forces were sent in response to that request.
It is simply a fact that no progress has been yet made toward achievement of the goal to which Mr. Bush committed the United States - even though great progress has been made in the accumulation of forces required to restore Kuwait's independence and Saddam Hussein has been given ample notice of the seriousness with which the U.S. and others regard his aggression.
He has made no use of the generous opportunity provided to withdraw his troops from Kuwait, as he once disengaged from war against Iran. Now, senior U.S. diplomats have conveyed through intermediaries solemn warnings to Mr. Hussein that the remaining time to withdraw from Kuwait is very short -- perhaps only two weeks.
Thus far, his belligerence and tenacity have been unaffected by the accumulation of force against him. His assertions of sovereignty over Kuwait have grown louder and, if possible, more intransigent.
By his policy of invasion, devastation and annexation, Mr. Hussein has identified himself as an implacable enemy of Kuwait's independence. For this reason, it is clear that any "solution" which leaves his military capacities intact will be no solution. Otherwise, he will simply wait until international forces have gone home to continue his plans for regional dominance. To be deterred, Saddam Hussein must be effectively disarmed.
What then must the United States do?
"If we desire to defeat the enemy." Wrote Karl von Clausewitz. "we must proportion our efforts to his powers of resistance. This is expressed by the product of two factors which cannot be separated; namely, the sum of available means and the strength of the will."
George Bush must demonstrate wi1l equal to Saddam Hussein's. He must also use force to compel Mr. Hussein to abandon the use of force. Iraq is no superpower, so, if the wills are equal, there is no doubt that the U.S. and the associated coalition will prevail.
No law of war compels the president to choose between a strategy of appeasement and a Vietnam-style ground war. Viable alternatives exist between the two extremes.
There are good reasons for not using American ground troops against Iraq. If such forces are required, there are Egyptians, Saudis and other Arab troops from the region who can and should ensure the departure of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
The U.S. could make its contribution by highly selective aerial bombing designed to disarm Mr. Hussein. Should he make the mistake of striking a counterblow against Israel, that government will know how to respond.
The goal must be to disarm the megaiomanic who has used force and the threat of force against all his neighbors.
Presumably, the entire coalition could later oversee the emergence of a new Iraqi government committed to respecting the rights of states in the region to live within secure borders.
As Eliot Cohen noted in his probing analysis in the current issue of Commentary magazine. "The longer (Mr. Hussein) has to fortify Kuwait, to prepare his armies and people for war and to lay the groundwork for a campaign of terror and subversion overseas, the harder he will make it for us."
Obviously, it is time to begin the defense of Kuwait.