George Ball, the late, learned, omnipurpose diplomat, scolded Mr. Bush. He said that the president had gone from "a resolution" to "an ultimatum" and that ultimatums historically served as preludes to war. Moreover, "ultimatums are a decidedly 'non-Arab' procedure. The Arab peoples do not like irrevocable decisions that may lead to violence. There is an old Middle Eastern saying that if an Arab should ever cross the Rubicon, he would pick up the Rubicon and take it so that he could cross and recross it, as events evolved."
Well, of course the ultimatum was issued. Saddam did not abide by it; we went to war, defeated him, and liberated Kuwait. But lo! Saddam Hussein indeed succeeded in picking up the Rubicon and stuffing it, together with handbooks on atomic, biological and chemical warfare, in his pocket. And now we are approaching a fresh ultimatum-time, the first installment of which, of course, is Jan. 27, the date a wobbly U.N. Security Council has set. That threatened ultimatum, when activated, would accost the Iraqi problem by force of arms.
What is now apparently being considered as an alternative to war is an ultimatum of a different order. This one would call for Saddam to relinquish his power.
In January of 2002, the following lines were published in this space: An ultimatum should be made and "must specify that Saddam Hussein be removed from any cockpit from which he could give military or political directions that would obstruct our purpose. In short, the ultimatum should require Saddam Hussein to remove himself from office. To where? That is a matter of detail. St. Helena (looms) as an appropriate cloister. And arrangements could reasonably provide for a corps of aides of whatever reasonable number he wished, excluding only access by them to electronic communications."
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