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Monday, August 26, 2002

Resolution on Iraq

I have two bold predictions regarding Iraq. First, Jim Baker argues that the US should seek a new UN resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam, as discussed below. The Bush administration will only seek such a resolution if it believes it has the votes. My guess is that the votes are not there.

Secondly, the WaPo has a piece today about whether the administration must, or should, seek Congressional authorization for a war with Iraq. This is an administration that committed political hara-kiri clinging to Cheney's energy task force minutes, claiming Constitutional separation of powers and Executive Branch prerogatives. My belief, seemingly borne out by this story, is that a similar mind-set will guide the decision to seek Congressional authorization now. However, as the article explains, this does not mean that Congress will not vote; it means that Bush will not formally seek a vote.

One administration argument runs thusly:

"Administration officials said their position was bolstered by a Sept. 14 resolution -- passed 98 to 0 in the Senate and 420 to 1 in the House -- endorsing a military response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That argument would depend on linking Iraq and al Qaeda.

Although the administration has not publicly made this case in detail, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a July 30 news conference, "Are there al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes." Last week, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that a number of high-ranking al Qaeda members have taken refuge in Iraq."

US intelligence officials were evidently speaking with William Safire, too.

For background, here is an interesting review of the run-up to Desert Storm. Apparently, having a UN resolution in hand put pressure on the Senate, which ultimately supported the use of force by 52-47. A very close vote, since we already had over 400,000 troops dangling at the end of a long supply chain. OTOH, a close vote can be deceptive. A Senator may agree to be the 51st vote, meaning he or she will support the legislation only if that will be the deciding vote. Still, I don't see this Bush risking this sort of uncertainty.

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