Fri, 14 Oct 1994

Iraq, Clinton and U.S. politics

Whatever its outcome, the new showdown with Saddam Hussein seems bound to work to the advantage of President Bill Clinton, casting his foreign policy in a more resolute light and perhaps bolstering his and his party's popularity before next month's mid-term elections.

Unlike Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia, Iraq is an issue on which American politicians are virtually united. Thus far, even usually unrelenting critics of the President's indecisive style, such as the Senate's Republican leader Bob Dole, have thrown their weight behind the White House. The lone dissenting voice has been that of Ross Perot.

As George Bush knows better than anyone, popularity boosts from besting Saddam Hussein can be shortlived -- but a president so often accused of wavering, has acted without hesitation. If the climbdown is genuine, he will be given much of the credit.

-- The Independent, London

Seeing President Bill Clinton's rapid deployment of 36,000 soldiers in the Gulf region in response to a possibly exaggerated Iraqi threat, one cannot help but regret that the United States failed to show the same determination sooner in Haiti.

Is it because Saddam Hussein is a much more fearsome adversary than General Raoul Cedras, or a Somalian warlord, that the American president took the risk of exposing GI's lives to danger in the Gulf? There, Bill Clinton didn't hesitate for a moment to use all available means. He gave the impression that he was leaping at the opportunity offered by the Baghdad dictator. It is true that some of America's allies were ready to vote for an easing of the oil embargo imposed on Iraq, a step firmly opposed by Washington. It is also undeniable that in the Gulf, the stakes were far more important.

Did his waning popularity and not predictions of the Democrats' rout in the legislative elections next month, dictate his actions as president, in this case?

-- Le Monde, Paris