My titles

Trading Places
Conduct Unbecoming America

Their title

Threat Likely Not Contained in Persian Gulf

Whew! I've gotten my hat back from Paige and another mid-East crisis has been averted. The mother of all crises is still to come but for now, Clinton can relax and concentrate on the lawsuits while the inspection teams prepare for more work and TV viewers prepare for the Seinfeld finale.

Problems continue in Iraq as malnourished babies die in hospitals staffed by starving doctors, all victims of the oil embargo. But I don't know any personally and they won't get on Oprah's show or Starr's list of witnesses so they can be quickly forgotten. We can lump 23 million citizens of a country together under the pejorative "Iraqi" which brings up visions of brooding eyes over a thick mustache. That's as valid as the individual TV viewers in Iraq or Iran or Israel assuming all Americans are either virile, underdressed Baywatch lifeguards or scheming Dallas oil millionaires.

The theory behind the economic sanctions against Iraq is that Saddam will capitulate. Feeling sorry for his emaciated populace, he will give up their only effective weapons. I doubt it, and not because he's heartless. Do you think Clinton should destroy all our nuclear weapons or turn them over to the UN and let some commission be in charge of using them to protect America? We haven't even been bombed relentlessly by another nation, yet I suspect most Americans would rather starve than capitulate to a foreign power. The sanctions don't seem to account for the basic tenet: What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Another hope is that the sanctions will encourage a popular uprising against Saddam, but again, how many people are going to rebel against their own heavily-armed government so they can surrender sovereignty to an even more heavily-armed coalition of foreigners? We Americans are far too comfortable in our nuclear guarded, conspicuously rich society if we believe other citizens will fight and die just to sell us oil. Many of us don't even vote. How can we expect other humans to be any less complacent or fatalistic just because they happen to live elsewhere?

But there have been a few rays of hope in this past crisis. The UN helped defuse this standoff. The US blustered a bit about obeying UN resolutions (until realizing that would require enforcing the UN resolutions about Israel abandoning land stolen during their last war). Our Senators said they probably wouldn't vote for an attack, but they might. My personal representative in Congress, Bob Schafer, said he didn't like it but would support Clinton to help our men in uniform. That's probably the only way a vote would pass, but it's a nasty tradition. The President is Commander-in-Chief. He can send forces anywhere at any time, stand them against a line of tanks or poisoned missiles, and then call Congress to say, "American soldiers need your support." It's very hard to explain a No vote in a five-second sound bite.

On a related tack taking a gander at the latest scandal, many people have dithered over what sorts of moral standards our politicians should obey. Perhaps we can't expect mayors and senators to be better than ordinary citizens, but due to the President's special position, he shouldn't be allowed to set a worse example than any soldier who could die obeying his command. We can't assume a candidate for the position will follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice before getting elected nor after serving the country, but during the term in office, I think a president should not display "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."