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Dubya's hawks

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If you think the hit delivered to Iraqi radars last week looked tough, stay tuned. There may be more to come. Three years ago, a group of hawkish national-security mavens publicly called on President Clinton to launch an all-out U.S. air war and a proxy ground war to topple Saddam Hussein. Several of those experts are now on the Bush team, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his designated deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and the nominee for No. 2 at the State Department, Richard Armitage.

The recommendations, presented in an open letter from the ad hoc Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, called for the U.S. to recognize the exiled Iraqi National Congress as the rightful leader of Iraq. The committee further called for the U.S. to assist the I.N.C. by launching "a systematic air campaign against the pillars of [Saddam's] power," and, as a last resort, by positioning "U.S. ground-force equipment in the region" to back the I.N.C. up. Funding for the project would come by tapping oil revenues in parts of Iraq that would fall under I.N.C. control.

Of course, things look different from behind the helm. Several crucial Administration leaders are less keen to intervene abroad. And a major military campaign against Iraq would be an expensive political move that would require a full-court press by U.S. diplomats to keep America's allies in line. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell could try that, but they seem plenty busy attempting to convince other powers of the merits of a national missile-defense system. Adding a stepped-up campaign against Saddam to the list of things to sell abroad seems unlikely. Still, there is frustration in Washington and an eagerness to define a new policy: "What we've got now is a kind of tit-for-tat arrangement," says a senior White House official. "We have to ask ourselves, 'What's the purpose of that policy?'" If it's Saddam's ouster, there are those close to the President who may think a new war would work better.



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Cover Date: February 26, 2001

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