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One would hardly think that former President Jimmy Carter and President Fidel Castro of Cuba would be likely partners in peacemaking. However, if they were to undertake a peace mission to Baghdad, they might be able to avert a war on Iraq that could cause thousands of deaths and unleash terrorism worldwide.
At the recent three-day conference in Havana commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, McNamara and Castro, two of the principal antagonists, asked what can be learned to avert the risk of nuclear war in the future. Reflecting on how close the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to starting a nuclear war, McNamara concluded that the Cuban missile crisis was “the best-managed foreign policy crisis of the last 50 years.”
The current conflict over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has brought us to the brink of a potential global crisis, especially if he defies the U.N. inspectors’ efforts to eliminate his weapons of mass destruction. Carter, the indefatigable peacemaker and newly-minted Nobel Peace Laureate has the experience, the temperament, and the will to grapple with this grave crisis. Castro, the President of Cuba for over four decades, has shown an uncanny ability to withstand years of political and economic sanctions by the U.S. In addition, he may be able to fathom the mind of Saddam Hussein. Together, Carter and Castro would make an exceptionally powerful peacemaking team.
The overwhelming vote in Congress authorizing war on Iraq has empowered President Bush to press his case for a new resolution by the Security Council to compel Iraq to disarm. The U.S. is expected to introduce a tough single resolution requesting Security Council authorization for a military attack if Iraq obstructs the efforts of U.N. inspectors. France ? with the support of Russia and possibly also China ? has continued to argue for two resolutions. If the U.N. inspectors fail, they would not automatically trigger a war on Iraq. The security Council would have to debate and pass a second resolution authorizing the use of force.
Given Saddam Hussein’s record of violating 16 previous Security Council resolutions, a grim scenario is likely to unfold. He is again likely to thwart the efforts of U.N. inspectors to disarm him; and the Security Council would have to eventually vote a final resolution clearing the way for Persian Gulf War II-this time with disastrous consequences.
Can such a disaster be averted? Possibly, if Carter and Castro can arrange a meeting with Saddam Hussein. To work their magic, they would have to convince Hussein that “the writing is on the wall”: The U.S., Britain, and other allies do indeed have the capability and the determination to destroy his war-making capacities and, in turn, his regime. What is more, they would have to convince Hussein that a new war would cause untold destruction of Baghdad and even Tikrit, where Hussein’s family and clansmen live.
They would also seek to appeal to his self-interest-his desire for survival, his self-image of invincibility, and his dream of becoming a second Saladin. After three decades of rule in Baghdad and after reaching the age of 65, shouldn’t Hussein think of a better way of finishing his remaining years on Earth than by causing utter destruction to his country and his countrymen? If, at long last, Hussein decides to provide the U.N. inspection team with all the necessary information so that they could achieve the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction, Castro would offer him a safe passage to Cuba and a safe haven for himself, his three wives, his two sons, along with an entourage of favorite relatives from Tikrit.
In addition, Castro would offer to provide Hussein with a complex of “palaces” in Havana, protected by Swiss guards, to ensure his safety and that of his family and relatives.
Instead of meeting an ignominious end in one of his countless underground bunkers in Baghdad-not unlike Hitler in his bunker in Berlin–Saddam Hussein would go down in history as a ruthless and brutal dictator who, at the eleventh hour, sought redemption for himself and his country by abdicating his rule.
Achieving this coup of preventing a war on Iraq would add further glory to Carter’s illustrious career and to the Carter Center on conflict resolution in Atlanta. As for Castro, by helping to rescue the world from the torments of a possible lethal Gulf War II, he would have an opportunity to eventually end his rule in Cuba in a spirit of magnanimity. WILLIAM M. EVAN is professor emeritus of sociology and management at the University of Pennsylvania. Author of several books on organization theory and the sociology of law, his most recent book (with Mark Manion) is Minding the Machines: Preventing Technological Disasters. He can be reached at: EvanW@wharton.upenn.edu
(Copyright 2002 WILLIAM M. EVAN. All rights Reserved.)