Saddam Hussein's readiness to stoop to any means, ranging from Scud attacks on civilian populations to unleashing an ecological catastrophe in the Persian Gulf, justifies more fully than ever the allied effort to stop him while there is still time. While there is still time, that is, to prevent his getting his hands on nuclear weapons and perfecting his biological warfare capability.
Were it not for the Israeli attack that took out Iraq's main nuclear-weapons complex in 1981, the tyrant undoubtedly would have such instruments of mass destruction in his possession right now. And who can doubt he would have used them to obtain regional hegemony by intimidation if possible, by devastating attack if necessary?
That being the case, Operation Desert Storm has achieved even in these early days one paramount objective: U.S. air strikes have eliminated any likelihood that Iraq will join the nuclear club in the foreseeable future.
The lifting of this terrible threat, however, still leaves Saddam with the dread options of unleashing chemical, biological and ecological warfare as well as terrorism on a wide scale. And who can doubt he will use them if given the opportunity?
His rape of Kuwait, his defiance of the United Nations, his violations of Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of civilians, diplomats and prisoners-of-wars, his flinging of Scud missiles against civilian targets without military significance, his readiness to befoul his own region with oil spills and fires -- these and other actions are those of someone who will stop at nothing.
The menace of Saddamism, in all its ramifications, militates in favor of a redefinition of war objectives. Events have demonstrated that his withdrawal from Kuwait would have been insufficient for either side.
For Mr. Hussein, defeat in war appears to be more desirable than diplomatic humiliation. His ambition to be the new Nasser did not permit withdrawal, even when France offered a Middle East conference on the Arab-Israeli question.
On the allied side, any pretense that the world could live with an Iraq regime under its present leadership and with its military establishment intact has always been suspect. Iraq then would dominate the region with the world's largest oil reserves, ready to pounce when opportunity knocks. It is better to acknowledge up front that Saddam Hussein himself must go and his country's power to threaten its neighbors must end.
The Iraqi people themselves deserve a government worthy of their good qualities, strong enough to play its rightful role in the regional power balance and dedicated to peace rather than perennial war. The Middle East as a whole deserves an end to the ethnic and religious struggles that make it a tinderbox. The United States must be fully involved in the attainment of these goals. Such a refinement of our war aims would make the sacrifices that lie ahead more bearable.