An editorial in last Thursday’s (November 13, 2003) New York Times offered President Bush some advice: “Transfer political authority to a newly created United Nations administration.” This, argued the Times, would be a “much better way to manage the process” of transferring governing authority to Iraqi officials; but it warned that “a rushed American withdrawal without an orderly handoff to the UN would leave Iraq open to just the kind of mixture of misgovernment and terrorism that the White House waged this war to prevent.”
For many, the Times' prescription makes sense. Not only does it appeal to the visceral isolationism (that is, selfishness) that dwells within every human being, but most significantly, it provides an ostensibly tolerable solution to the attacks on American soldiers and the situation in Iraq writ large: Bring in the UN and have it take on this awesome responsibility; it should not be America’s job alone.
But this “remedy” ignores the hard realities of the international system. For one, the UN does not exist as an independent, sovereign entity to which the United States can “hand off” anything. This may come as a surprise, however, to those who counsel that the UN should play a greater role in Iraq. Simply put, the UN is a collection of states – the United States being the most powerful economically and militarily – organized by rules that are laid out on a piece of paper; nothing more. The Times could just as easily have said that the U.S. should let Russia, China, France, or any combination of foreign nations assume more responsibility (as if they would!).
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich typifies this sentiment with his twin mantras: “the United Nations in and the U.S. out of Iraq” and “bring our troops home.” I am unsure how Mr. Kucinich and his ilk square the former demand with the latter. How long does he think a UN operation would last in Iraq without the participation of the United States? Is there any situation imaginable where the United Nations could play a significant global security role without the participation of American troops? The answer is not one, from Europe to the Korean peninsula. In fact, it took U.S. military action to impose numerous United Nations resolutions in Iraq.
As an organization of states, the United Nations cannot possibly handle the situation in Iraq more effectively than its most powerful member due to the consensus decision-making process that underpins this “world body.”
For example, when the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 in November 2002, it granted Saddam Hussein’s regime “one final opportunity” to comply with its disarmament obligations. When it became clear, and it did, that Iraq had “not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure, as required by resolution 687 (1991), of all aspects of its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles,” the collective membership of the United Nations was incapable and unwilling to act. Instead, the focus shifted to procedure once the consensus had evaporated.
The consensus problem is surfacing again on another matter. Iran’s nuclear programs have come under the scrutiny of the United Nations system. In this respect, the U.S. wants Iran to be reported to the Security Council for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Sanctions against the Islamic Republic could then be considered. But other members of the United Nations – principally France, Germany and Britain – want to pass a “strongly worded resolution that sends [Iran] a very strong message,” according to Reuters. The reason, says one unidentified diplomat, “It would be extremely difficult, or simply impossible to reach a consensus on non-compliance (with the NPT).” Of course, none of this makes the world any safer from the threat posed by a nuclear Iran; it serves only to postpone the hard decisions and guarantee in the short term that France, Russia and others can continue to trade with this state-sponsor of terrorism.
These two examples are a strong indication that problems would only increase if the United States were to turn over the management of Iraq to the UN mobocracy. Let’s remember, UN personnel have almost completely withdrawn from Iraq as a result of the security situation. One cannot reasonably think that the terror problem now facing U.S. forces will be mitigated under a UN mantle when its members have announced quite demonstrably to the perpetrators of these attacks that they – excluding the U.S. – are willing to cut and run when attacked. Couple this fact with what I have already pointed out concerning the UN decision-making process and it becomes obvious that the loss of American control in Iraq will do nothing to decrease its responsibilities nor will mollify the risks to American lives.
In the real world, the terrorists who are carrying out these attacks in Iraq are equal opportunity killers. So far they have targeted and killed – in addition to American forces – Italian and Polish soldiers and members of the Red Cross and United Nations relief organizations. These killers realize that the United States is the only country with the capability and the will to defeat them. Therefore, the strategy seems to be one which aims to force U.S. allies out of Iraq one by one so that the United States is ultimately alone, and surrounded by domestic pressures from the Left to “bring the troops home.” There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this approach would have been different had Operation Iraqi Freedom been given a UN imprimatur. Everyone knows – including terrorists around the globe -- that once the U.S. abandons a UN operation, its failure is not far behind. (Remember Somalia?)
Despite this fact, the Left will continue to insist that operations in Iraq be “internationalized” (even though more countries are participating in Iraq than are active on the Security Council). This stems not from the Left’s belief that “diversity” and “multilateralism” are, in and of themselves, inherently good, but from its natural antipathy toward the United States.
The bottom line, however, is that “internationalizing” or diversifying the forces in Iraq will not defeat those who are currently targeting and killing U.S. and allied forces. It will only add to the number of “cooks in the kitchen” at a time when decisive action is required over consensus politics.
Moreover, it is imperative that the blue helmets not be entrusted with any meaningful authority in Iraq until Saddam Hussein is captured or killed. UN members France, Russia, Germany and others may acquiesce to his return to power, particularly those parties tempted to recoup their financial debts or embarrass the Bush Administration. Can we expect anything less from an organization that did everything it could to prevent the removal of Saddam Hussein from power? However remote a possibility, it is not worth the risk.
President Bush had it correct months ago when he said, “Our coalition has one goal for the future of Iraq: to return that great country to its own people.” If this goal is to be achieved, then he must continue to ignore the Left’s call for a greater UN role in Iraq. The fate of the Iraqi people depends on it.