What next?

Jim Fain

January 21, 1991|By Jim Fain

ALL THAT malarkey about Saddam Hussein being reincarnated from whatever whipping we inflict on him as an Arab messiah, a la Nasser of Egypt, is based on myth. We'll have plenty of problems when this mess is over but that's not one of them. Nasser was a born loser. He raised the decibel level of the coffee shops but never was able to exploit the passion he roused. He kept going after his JimFainarmy was clobbered at Suez in '56 and humiliated in the Six-Day War of '67 only because he had a superpower, the Soviet Union, to bind his wounds, refill his purse and fit him out with new weaponry.

Death rescued him from being tossed out for having made his country a Soviet satellite, its people humiliated by occupying legions.

The notion of Arab unity then or now is farcical anyway. Warring sects still are at each others' throats in Lebanon. The two Ba'athist thug dictators, Saddam and Assad of Syria, remain blood enemies. Egypt resists each new potentate who sticks up his head. Then there's Iran, Muslim though not Arab and anything but Miss Congeniality.

We wouldn't have half of our army in the gulf today had not one Arab country raped another and scared the pants off a third.

The euphoria over our early air successes there may be overdone. If Saddam elects to wait us out, digging all those tanks from their bunkers will be slow, messy and possibly costly. Still the outcome is beyond doubt. Iraq's a second-rate power, lacking the technology to fight on anywhere near even terms.

If we finish off Saddam without unduly blasting civilians, deal fairly and generously with the losers and then take the lead in sponsoring an international conference to resolve regional problems, including the Palestinian issue, we can come out of this with a lot of Arab good will. Possibly with some kind of Mideast peace. At least an easing of tensions.

Our real problem lies beyond all that in President Bush's fixation on setting up a Pax Americana in which we manage and police his New World Order. Our partners, especially Japan and Germany, would love that. It would swallow our energies, to say nothing of all the resources we could borrow.

If the books weren't cooked, we'd show a deficit this recession year of close to $500 billion. Even with the war and part of the S&L mess off budget and $100 million of Social Security and other trust fund surpluses on, it'll reach $350 billion.

Unless the Soviet Union regresses to a full-fledged security threat, we can afford to turn peace-keeping over to a world body we would support but not dominate. We're overdue for a swords-vs.-plowshares debate about whether the badge of high sheriff is worth schools that can't teach, rotting bridges and highways, multitudes of homeless, kids in poverty and being a permanent debtor.

Then there are such new problems as environmental degradation and restoring productivity to meet industrial competition. The myopic Bush prefers the imperial thing. It's more tractable and lends itself to his limited-horizon crisis-management style. But it's the old world order, not the new. Soon it will be as irrelevant as horse cavalry.

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