IRAQ HAS found yet another issue on which to isolate itself from the opinion of people who respect law and decency. In illegally ordering out the foreign embassies in occupied Kuwait, in the threatening squeeze it has applied to embassies that stayed and in its harassment of the diplomats and dependents who departed, it has performed wantonly and drawn upon itself fresh opprobrium.
Those diplomats who are now trying to keep the Kuwait embassies functioning are among the first heroes of the Iraq crisis; at personal risk, they are not merely showing the flag but remaining in position to perform the essential consular function of aiding the thousands of foreign nationals who Saddam Hussein has taken hostage. France, for rejecting Iraq's cynical offer of privilege for its nationals in return for breaking ranks with its Western friends, deserves here a special bow.
The united international reaction to President Hussein's violations of diplomatic immunity is of a piece with the unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council authorizing member nations to use force as necessary to enforce the already agreed (and already effective) embargo of Iraq. This marks major progress in the U.N.'s passage from debating society to action forum. It also marks an unprecedented accord across American-European, East-West, North-South and Arab-non-Arab lines.
The nations of the world are not merely reacting to a crude and dangerous shock to the international system. They are acting in awareness that their response is setting a crucial model for maintaining order in the post-Cold War world. In the light of the astonishing degree of international consensus that Saddam Hussein and George Bush, in their separate ways, have mustered, it is almost amusing to hear a few people complaining that the United States is looking too much like it is going it alone.
In fact, in the fourth week of the Iraq crisis, allied unity is getting stronger rather than fraying. It is a unity organized on principle as well as on economic and political interest, and it supports the consensus missions -- protecting Saudi Arabia and dislodging Iraq from Kuwait -- which are also the stated purposes of American policy. Any more ambitious goals, such as toppling Saddam Hussein or destroying Iraq's arsenal, so far lack the same international consensus, but meanwhile the pressure on the Iraqi dictator mounts. The pressure consists not just of international actions but of the continuing American military buildup in and around Saudi Arabia.
President Hussein's responses so far have included taking hostages (and making a contemptible television appearance with some of the prisoners), closing the Kuwait embassies, attempting to rally the Arab in the street on a populist, nationalist and anti-Zionist platform and proposing an immediate start on a diplomatic settlement. Diplomacy? Yes. Suitably armed now with successive unamimous resolutions upholding the side of law, the secretary general of the United Nations is in a good position to summon Saddam Hussein to the issue that this crisis was first about and is still most about -- his unprovoked, indefensible, illegal seizure of Kuwait.