TO THE NEW U.N. resolution endorsing force after Jan. 15 if Iraq does not quit Kuwait, President Bush has now added the offer of earlydirect high-level talks with Iraq. By this thoughtfully conceived, skillfully executed one-two sequence, he has put in place a coherent strategy, strengthened military and diplomatic options alike and, we believe, substantially improved chances that the crisis will be resolved peacefully and on United Nations terms. He has also, we think, gone a good way to allay the anxieties of those who had feared his policy was spinning out of control.
Until last Friday Mr. Bush had rejected Baghdad's repeated calls for high-level dialogue, demanding prior Iraqi respect for U.N. resolutions. He had relied on others to explore (unavailingly) the diplomatic terrain. Even many of those who accepted the logic of his military buildup wondered if he was fulfilling his obligation to exhaust all diplomatic possibilities before sending American forces into battle.
Friday, a day after the U.N. had acted, Mr. Bush filled this gap. The price is cheap, the timing deft. He changed course, Mr. Bush said, to make sure that an isolated Saddam understands what he's up against. Saddam Hussein is no doubt isolated, and he comes out of a political tradition where eye-to-eye discourse at the top is what counts. For Secretary of State James A. Baker to go to Baghdad and for his Iraqi counterpart to come to Washington enables the requisite full exchange as the clock ticks down to Jan. 15.
Full Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions is the core American demand that the Bush administration will take into the talks. Mr. Bush sees no reason to compromise, and there is none. President Hussein, who yesterday accepted the talks, could not have failed to notice that the call for his removal is not on the short list of U.N. objectives President Bush pledges the United States to achieve and that Mr. Bush's openness to eventually discussing "all aspects of the Gulf crisis" points toward a broader regional agenda.
Without stepping back, as we read it, the president has moved to solidify both foreign and domestic support at a moment when the question of war and peace hangs in the balance. Mr. Bush has, as he claims, "gone the extra mile." He has earned broad domestic support, to match the international support he already has, for his effort to win Iraqi respect without conditions or contingencies for the resolutions undertaken at the United Nations.