There Is a Third Way


It is the eleventh hour, and the world is poised on the edge of war. Church leaders have warned of the unpredictable and potentially disastrous consequences of war against Iraq -- massive civilian casualties, a precedent for preemptive war, further destabilization of the Middle East and the fueling of more terrorism.

Yet the failure to effectively disarm Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime could also have catastrophic consequences. The potential nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is the leading security issue in the world today.

This is the moral dilemma: a decision between the terrible nature of that threat and the terrible nature of war as a solution.

The world is desperate for a "third way" between war and ineffectual responses -- and it must be strong enough to be a serious alternative to war. The threat of military force has been decisive in building an international consensus for the disarming of Iraq, for the return of inspectors and for pressuring Hussein to comply. The "serious consequences" threatened by the Security Council need not mean war. They should mean further and more decisive actions against Hussein and his regime, rather than a devastating attack on the people of Iraq.

On Feb. 18 a group of U.S. church leaders, accompanied by colleagues from the United Kingdom and the Anglican communion, met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, to discuss alternatives to war. The following elements of a "third way" -- an alternative to war -- were developed from those discussions and subsequent conversations within our U.S. delegation:

• Remove Hussein and the Baath Party from power. The Bush administration and the antiwar movement are agreed on one thing -- Hussein is a brutal and dangerous dictator. Virtually nobody has any sympathy for him, either in the West or in the Arab world, but everybody has great sympathy for the Iraqi people, who have already suffered greatly from war, a decade of sanctions and the corrupt and violent regime of Hussein. So let's separate Hussein from the Iraqi people. Target him, but protect them.

As urged by Human Rights Watch and others, the Security Council should establish an international tribunal to indict Hussein and his top officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This would send a clear signal to the world that he has no future. It would set into motion both internal and external forces that might remove him from power. It would make clear that no solution to this conflict will include Hussein or his supporters staying in power. Morton Halperin has pointed out: "As we have seen in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, such tribunals can discredit and even destroy criminal regimes."

• Pursue coercive disarmament. Removing Hussein must be coupled with greatly intensified inspections. This would mean not just more inspectors but inspections conducted more aggressively and on a much broader scale. The existing U.S. military deployment should be restructured as a multinational force with a U.N. mandate to support and enforce inspections. The force would accompany inspectors to conduct extremely intrusive inspections, retaliate against any interference and destroy any weapons of mass destruction it found. There should be unrestricted use of spy planes and expanded no-fly and no-drive zones.

• Foster a democratic Iraq. The United Nations should begin immediately to plan for a post-Hussein Iraq, administered temporarily by the United Nations and backed by an international armed force, rather than a U.S. military occupation. An American viceroy in an occupied Iraq is the wrong solution. An internationally directed post-Hussein administration could assist Iraqis in initiating a constitutional process leading to democratic elections.

• Organize a massive humanitarian effort for the people of Iraq now. Rather than waiting until after a war, U.N. and nongovernmental relief agencies should significantly expand efforts to provide food, medical supplies and other humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people now. Focusing on the suffering of the Iraqi people, and immediately trying to relieve it, will further help to protect them from being the unintended targets of war. It would also help to further isolate Hussein from the Iraqi public by contrasting the world's humanitarian concern with his indifference to his own people.

Finally, to ensure a lasting peace in that troubled region, two other points are necessary.

First, we should recommit to a "road map" to peace in the Middle East. The United States, Britain and other European Union nations must address a root cause of Mideast conflict with a peace plan resulting in a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by 2005, structured to include meaningful deadlines enforced by the international community.

Second, we should refocus the world's energies on the greatest threat it faces -- networks of suicidal terrorists. The international campaign against terrorism has succeeded in identifying and apprehending suspects, freezing financial assets and isolating terror networks. But it is in danger of being disrupted, both by acrimony and by lack of attention, as the world focuses on the impending conflict with Iraq.

Unless an alternative to war is found, a military conflagration will soon be unleashed. A morally rooted and pragmatically minded initiative, broadly supported by people of faith and goodwill, might help to achieve a historic breakthrough and set a precedent for effective international action in the many crises we face in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Jim Wallis is editor and executive director of Sojourners and convener of Call to Renewal. John Bryson Chane is Episcopal bishop of Washington.