Senator Levinâ€™s amendment called for United Nations approval before force could be authorized. It was unambiguous and compatible with international law. Acutely cognizant of the dangers of the time, and the reality that diplomatic options could at some point be exhausted, Senator Levin wrote an amendment that was nimble: it affirmed that Congress would stand at the ready to reconsider the use of force if, in the judgment of the president, a United Nations resolution was not â€œpromptly adoptedâ€ or enforced. Ceding no rights or sovereignty to an international body, the amendment explicitly avowed Americaâ€™s right to defend itself if threatened.
Those of us who supported the Levin amendment argued against a rush to war. We asserted that the Iraqi regime, though undeniably heinous, did not constitute an imminent threat to United States security, and that our campaign to renew weapons inspections in Iraq â€” whether by force or diplomacy â€” would succeed only if we enlisted a broad coalition that included Arab states.
We also urged our colleagues to take seriously the admonitions of our allies in the region â€” Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. As King Abdullah of Jordan warned, â€œA miscalculation in Iraq would throw the whole area into turmoil.â€
The Senate had the opportunity to support a more deliberate, multilateral approach, one that still would have empowered the United States to respond to any imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. We must not sidestep the fact that a sensible alternative did exist, but it was rejected. Candidates â€” Democrat and Republican â€” should be called to account for their vote on the Levin amendment.
Lincoln D. Chafee, a Republican senator from Rhode Island from 1999 to 2006