Saddam Hussein has proved, once again, how easy it is to make fools of the American leadership. Five years ago President Bush, after bombing much of Iraq into the Stone Age, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and pulled our troops out before they had accomplished the only objective that would have justified our invasion. Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, still nursing a grudge, wants to send in a hit squad to terminate this standing affront to our dignity, but that is not the sort of thing the State Department or the CIA can discuss in public.

What they also cannot discuss in public is their plot to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The plot—or at least this phase of it—was foiled by the entry of the Iraqi army into Erbil. All the busy little scorpions, beetles, and slugs—once their protective rock was lifted up—scuttled across the border into Turkey.

The Turks have their own quarrels with the Kurds, and while we responded to Saddam’s attempt to recover control over one of his own cities by launching Cruise missiles, we gave the Turks a green light to cross the Iraqi border and kill Kurds. In case you missed the logic, let me repeat: if Saddam tries to put down a Kurdish rebellion in his own country, we rain death upon Iraq, but if the Turks actually invade Iraq to kill more or less the same Kurds, we applaud their contribution to world peace.

The Turks are key players in this game. If it were not for them, the United States might support the creation of an independent Kurdistan—a development the Turks would never permit. As a result, we have reiterated our commitment to maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq. Territorial integrity, apparently, does not exclude an air attack.

Partly because of the inherent absurdity of America’s position, and partly because of the ineptitude of the ham-handed Warren Christopher and the Clinton State Department, our allies have refused to follow the Wonderland logic used to justify what would have been described in years past as unprovoked aggression. The fact that most Americans have expressed approval for these missile attacks is one more bit of proof that the American people are worse than stupid: Americans combine the moral toughness of the jellyfish with the sturdy individualism of the sheep. Our national bird should not be the eagle (or even the turkey, as Franklin advised) but the goose: noisy, self-important, subservient.