From Capitol Hill Blue
The Bush Leagues:
Triple veto threat caught White House by surprise
By CHB Staff
Mar 6, 2003, 00:21
The loud and vocal "no" from France, Germany and Russia on immediate war with Iraq caught the Bush administration by surprise Wednesday, sending the White House into a flurry of late-night meetings with aides drafting new strategies to deal with this latest diplomatic setback.
Although the administration remains publicly adamant that it can invade Iraq without support from the UN or a majority of allies, pressure is increasing behind the scenes to convince the President that he needs to slow his headlong rush to war.
Some White House strategists worry launching an attack now could lead to the dismantling of the UN, NATO and other alliances involving the United States.
"The administration is at a crossroads with an increasingly risky strategy," says political scientist George Harleigh. "The president has a lot riding on what happens over the next two-to-three weeks."
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served under President Nixon, is worried about how the U.S. is handling the situation.
"Allies do not act like this," Kissinger said. "This is a very grave situation."
With most of the troops in place, the administration could launch an attack as early as next week but some senior aides are now urging the President to keep the troops where they are while agreeing to let the UN weapons inspections run their course.
"The troops are deployed and ready," says a senior Pentagon planner. "We can leave them where they are for however long it takes."
Administration strategists point out that Russia, France and Germany are not opposed to an eventual war with Iraq, just an attack at this point. With troops in place, the administration could agree to give inspectors more time and still be ready to attack when the inspections eventually fail, as most feel they surely will.
But Bush, White House sources say, is adamant about attacking sooner than later, saying he doesn't need UN support and doesn't care what other allies think.
"George W. Bush is a very stubborn man," says Texas political watcher John Keeling. "Once he makes up his mind, no force on heaven or earth can change it."
Indeed, a special envoy from Pope John Paul II tried Wednesday to persuade Bush to give the UN more time but the President said "no thanks."
Recent polls also show that while 60 percent of Americans support toppling Saddam Hussein from power, most think the US should give the UN inspectors more time before proceeding to war.
"At this rate, George Bush has the potential of becoming the most unpopular war time President since Lyndon Johnson," says Harleigh. "That's not the situation a first term President wants to be in with an election looming next year."
White House strategists, however, are convinced that a quick war and victory over Hussein would turn opinion polls to Bush's advantage and bring with it a postwar economic boom that would sweep the President into a second term.
"It's a big gamble that could provide a big payoff," says Harleigh. "But we must remember that big gambles also can cause you to lose big as well."