So Saddam wins again. One must give him credit: He plays his hand brilliantly. Once again the United States has spent money, time and attention to get right up to the brink, only to - once again - be outmaneuvered diplomatically.
Then-President George Bush gave Saddam enormous privileges when he stopped the Gulf War short, just short, of forcing Saddam to flee Iraq. Saddam had been beaten, quickly and overwhelmingly. But, he had not been defeated. As has since been made clearly plain.
There is a difference between being beaten and being defeated. Saddam Hussein knows the difference. Once President Bush pulled up short and called off the war before at least forcing Saddam to leave, Saddam began to wheel and deal.
He was allowed to negotiate a peace arrangement that insured he could stay in power.
Once George Bush left office, he began to wheel and deal, chain-yank, then pull back, cheat and retreat with the new American president, Bill Clinton.
And so he has done successfully again. Saddam has a lot of help. The Russians, the French, the Chinese and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He also has help from what is to all appearances a vague, fuzzy, undefined U.S. policy.
Now. Pause. This all is a harsh analysis. There are those who disagree. Certainly there are those who will think it is too harsh. Perhaps they are right.
But this much Americans should not kid themselves about: Much of the world sees what has happened these past few days as a case of: Saddam wins again. And certainly he sees it that way.