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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Not as Smart as the Arms

I was recently aboard the American destroyer Caron, which during "Desert Storm" fired cruise missiles against Iraq. I asked the ship's commander his opinion of the accuracy of the weaponry.


"Cruise missiles are extremely effective", he answered. "You can launch hundreds of kilometers from the target. The chances of a hit are extremely high. and you can knock out small targets at will. I think this weapon will find a use in the near future".


The captain was right. Little more than a month later, ships of the same class launched a new strike on Baghdad. It is hard not to admit that cruise missiles, which are capable of finding and destroying a target independently, are the ideal weapon for low-intensity conflicts. The tough guys from the special forces can just retire, along with the Hollywood directors who made movies about them.


It is no longer necessary to send in troops in order to destroy an important target deep inside enemy territory. Tomahawk cruise missiles can successfully do this without any risk at all. Tomahawks are certainly in the category of "smart" weapons.


But are those who give the orders for the use of such weapons always as smart? The latest American attack on Baghdad gives cause to doubt this.


First of all, the legality of the attack is in question. I, in contrast to many Russian legislators, have absolutely no liking for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But it seems to me that in a civilized society suspicion alone is not sufficient to carry out a sentence on the accused. Even evidence, no matter how persuasive, is not enough. What is needed is a court, and a trial, where the accused has a chance to defend himself.


I am sure the chief resident of the White House in Washington would not be flattered by a comparison to those who meet in the Moscow White House. But today, such a comparison just begs to be made.


The Russian legislators, with only the preliminary data from the prosecutor's office, are pronouncing a guilty verdict on the members of their own government. President Bill Clinton, using only the data of his special services, rushed to punish another state. It is not difficult to extend the comparison. Disregard of normal procedure was caused by the internal political situation in each country.


It is no secret that for the past two months, Clinton has been totally unable to cope with the storm of problems his country is facing. The president, accused of inconsistency and indecisiveness, is seeing his authority go into a free fall, and not only in the United States. It looks like the leaders of the major industrialized nations, who are meeting next week in Tokyo, are not inclined to follow America's recommendations in global politics and economics. Faced with these conditions the U. S. president decided to use Winston Churchill's famous method. They say that in the margins of one of his speeches is the note: "The reasoning here is weak. Raise your voice! "


Clinton's voice was heard in explosions in Baghdad. It is time to talk about the results.


Judging by public opinion surveys in the United States, Clinton's popularity did not increase by much. Americans, although they approve of the president's decisiveness, are still more concerned with economic troubles.


As for America's partners, their open support for the U. S. action in the face of disapproval by their populations will probably be the only evidence of their loyalty to Clinton. No one has much sympathy for Saddam, but America's partners look out for their own interests and will continue to do so.


This was demonstrated by the vote in the Security Council on the resolution to lift the embargo on weapons shipments to Bosnia's Moslems. In spite of active support by the United States, the resolution was successfully blocked by Britain, France and Russia. In the current situation the American president should be grateful to his partners for their support of his anti-Iraq action.


Finally, the main question: Did the attack on Baghdad have a sobering effect on Saddam and other dictators accused of involvement in terrorist acts? Did it affect their position in their home countries? The demonstrations now taking place in Baghdad testify to the fact that this did not happen. On the contrary, when American rockets fell on the capital, Iraq's leader received the unique opportunity to further inflame war hysteria, and to consolidate his own position.


It is even more doubtful that a similar action would have any restraining influence on states that use terrorism as part of their foreign policy. In fact, the reverse is probably true: Acting on the principle of "an eye for an eye", Washington put itself in the same category as these nations. If a great country reacts instinctively, using force and bypassing international institutions, this can only serve to convince smaller nations that the choice of weapons is the only real issue. Their capitals may be defenseless against cruise missiles, but New York and San Francisco are just as defenseless against plastic explosives or ampules of disease-causing germs.


The cycle of violence has not been broken. The United States gained nothing by its lynching party against Iraq.


Alexander Golz is a political observer for Krasnaya Zvezda.