Sooner or later a letdown will come, but at the moment King Euphoria reigns. George Bush is enjoying the popularity of a rock star. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf has gained heroic status. Some of the troops will soon be coming home. On Capitol Hill nobody is audibly mad at anybody.
It is a good time for sorting things out, to think about where we are and where we want to be. Certain decisions have to be made at once: What reparations must be demanded of Iraq? What fate should be sought for Saddam Hussein? Other decisions will take time: The question of a Palestinian homeland has to be linked to a binding, unequivocal recognition on the part of Arab nations of Israel's sovereign, legitimate presence.Reports from Kuwait during the past 10 days have carried a consistent strain of disbelief and shock. Seasoned officers and experienced correspondents describe the devastation as "vicious, savage, appalling, pointless."
Iraq must be made to pay in full. Its revenues from oil have been estimated at $17 billion a year. A great part of this will have to be dedicated to the rebuilding of Kuwait. The only club the allied coalition possesses is the club of a continued tight embargo. It would be unthinkable to relax the embargo beyond an exception for genuinely humanitarian needs.
Other settlements have to be made. The Japanese emerge from this brief hurricane wearing the wall-to-wall smiles of happy merchants whose shops have not been blown away. They depend heavily upon Mideastern oil. That supply once more is assured, and the war has cost them nothing but a few billion dollars. West Germany also must be told to pay its dues, and both Germany and the Soviet Union - not to mention defense suppliers in the United States - must be persuaded to restrain their sales of arms to customers in the area.
What of Saddam Hussein? He has taken his place in a pantheon of monsters with Attila the Hun, who looted Roman cities, and Genghis Khan, the sacker of Samarkand. It is sobering to reflect upon the damage one man can cause. Saddam Hussein spent eight years waging war against Iraq and wound up with nothing to show for it. Now he has spent seven months in his conquest of Kuwait and nothing to show for that either - nothing but his cities ruined and his young men dead.
For the moment, the best thing to do with Saddam is to ignore him.
An opportunity is at hand, at long last, for a serious multinational conference on settlement of Arab-Israeli antagonisms. At the risk of sprinkling on the euphoric parade, I have to express skepticism that any satisfactory resolution can be found. These Semitic animosities are rooted in 10,000 years of turbulence. But it is worth a try.
Some decisions must be reached swiftly, but our nation will benefit from an hour of pride and satisfaction. A long winter of discontent has yielded to the sun of well-earned success. Savor it while we may.