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PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE DAY THE WAR BEGAN: JANUARY 16, 1991 : THE BUSINESSMAN

<i> Howard R. Teicher, a staff member of the National Security Council directing Middle East affairs from 1982-87, is chief executive officer of Translation Technologies International</i>

On Jan. 16, the Middle East and the international community were transformed in ways that just might lead to stability and to a more peaceful future.

Let us be clear: America and its coalition partners did not go to war with Iraq over oil alone. We went to war to defeat the unbridled ambitions of a ruthless gangster masquerading as a head of state who is bent on absolute hegemony in the Middle East, control over the supply and price of oil, and leadership of the Arab world.

Although the coalition’s stated objectives are the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait and the restoration of the legitimate Kuwaiti government, the status quo ante bellum, in the largest sense, cannot and will not be restored. Consider:

--The myth of Arab “unity” has been shattered forever. Regardless of the rhetoric and street violence that will ensue, it has been decisively demonstrated that the vital interests of individual Arab states are more important than the notions of Arab unity and common purpose.

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Arab leaders have engaged in extensive political-military cooperation with the United States, notwithstanding America’s “special relationship” with Israel. Although many Arabists, experts and pundits will deny this transformation, it is a fact that cannot be ignored.

--Arab leaders will no longer be threatened by blackmail, forced to “pay protection money” to the likes of Saddam Hussein or be able to avoid difficult international issues by hiding behind the veto of the Arab League.

--Should there remain any illusions about the reliability of the Palestinian leadership or the vulnerability of the Palestinians to internecine Arab feuds, witness the assassination of Abu Iyad, considered the second-ranking man in the Palestine Liberation Organization, by terrorist Abu Nidal at Hussein’s behest. Nonetheless, in the end, the Palestinian betrayal of Kuwait was surpassed only by that of Iraq.

--World leaders cannot realistically expect Israel to make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians to move the Mideast peace process forward without Arab recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and rights to live in peace and security. Arab timidity must end if there is to be stability and peace in the region.

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Today’s facts are clear: The Arab world “owes” the United States and the international coalition, not vice versa. While Washington should resume its role as a full partner in the peace process, movement toward accommodation and peace must now be undertaken by the Arabs if they desire a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

When that occurs, it will be possible for the United States to use its influence with Israel to help negotiate compromises that both Arabs and Israelis need for peace.

--The deadly serious message of Jan. 16 for radicals--be they religious fundamentalists or nationalist extremists--in the Middle East and elsewhere is: Those who attack the interests of civilized societies, through terrorism or otherwise, will be held accountable and punished.

The leaders of Libya, Syria and Iran or other countries that might still believe that terrorism can succeed must now know that, unlike in Lebanon in 1983, neither we nor other democracies are “short of breath.”

The international response to Hussein’s bloody, lawless behavior in Kuwait has laid the groundwork for a post-Cold War order firmly rooted in the rule of law backed by appropriate measures of collective action under the auspices of an invigorated Untied Nations. Washington and Moscow have demonstrated that their will to cooperate provides the United Nations with tangible influence and a role in world affairs.

The United Nation’s leadership role is not limited to the situation in the gulf. President Bush did not turn to the United Nations simply to provide the United States with a legitimizing authority to act with force. On the contrary, he asserted the moral responsibility of an increasingly free and democratic world to stop the threat of radical violence.

The opportunities to establish long-term security arrangements that reduce, and in some instances eliminate, the threat of missile attacks and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons must not be squandered. An international coalition, working through the United Nations, must make these arms-control arrangements its top priority.

Decisive success in the gulf is unlikely to be quick or easy. America and the international coalition seem sure to bear a heavy burden in blood and treasure to secure these fundamental changes. But the security, freedom and hope for peace that can be achieved as a result of the battle that began on Jan. 16 are goals worth fighting for.

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