OUTSIDE OF THE WORLD CUP, Americans don’t much hear about countries like Guinea, Cameroon, and Angola—and for good reason. Other than their ability to field competitive soccer teams, they are known for little more than human-rights abuses and political corruption. Between them, the three have an average life expectancy of 46 years and a literacy rate of 47 percent. On Freedom House’s most recent annual ratings of political rights and civil liberties, all three received the "not free" designation.
Yet upon these three nations—and, of course, Mexico and Chile—the fate of international order and the security of 300 million Americans now rests. It’s these five remaining "undecided" states (Pakistan has boldly announced that it plans to abstain from any vote) that hold up American foreign policy as the absurd disarm-Iraq-by-consensus charade continues in the UN Security Council.
Secretary of State Colin Powell now finds himself placing phone calls to places like Yaounde, Luanda, and Conakry, begging and bribing foreign leaders for their support. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin flits from one capital to another, appealing to his continent’s former African colonies to keep doing their European master’s bidding. Various Third World bureaucrats have suddenly been thrust into the most unexpected 15 minutes of fame, deciding how to protect the world when their own regimes can’t even protect their own people.
Amazingly, "UN approval" has become the standard by which the intellectually lazy judge the morality of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. If Third World tyrants support toppling Saddam Hussein, then it’s just. But if this Axis of Wannabes decides instead to join the ranks of moral heavyweights Syria, Russia, China, and France—well, then, Hussein must be allowed to carry on his nefarious deeds indefinitely.
It’s the ultimate abdication of moral responsibility.
Consider the countries that are now charged with deciding the fate of the U.S.-British-Spanish resolution on Iraq—assuming, of course, that neither France, China, nor Russia thwarts international consensus with a "unilateral" veto. Mexico has its first genuinely democratically elected president, one who nonetheless presides over massive corruption. Chile has only recently emerged from decades of dictatorship. Cameroon and Guinea are nascent pseudo-democracies, Angola a pitiful mess of a nation that’s suffered through a quarter-century of brutal civil war.
How did these states ever become the minders of international security?
Chalk it up to the good intentions and false hopes of the Bush Administration, which like, many others (myself included), woefully underestimated the pettiness of America’s nominal allies.
Last fall, seeking the UN’s support made sense when that support seemed like a foregone conclusion—why not assemble as large a coalition as possible, if doing so requires no major sacrifices in policy? When the Germans and the French initially griped about the prospect of war, it seemed certain that such posturing would eventually give way to common sense and a broader sense of national interest. When the Security Council unanimously backed Resolution 1441—warning Iraq of the "serious consequences" it would face "as a result of its continued violations of its obligations"—the deal looked all but done. Iraq would invariably fail to comply, and America’s allies would be honor-bound to stick by their word and support military action.
Unfortunately, when Iraq behaved as expected, America’s allies didn’t. Honor-bound commitments, it turns out, mean very little coming from governments without honor.
So now the Bush Administration finds itself desperate to get out of its own pickle, pleading with the Third World for the support that America’s insincere allies have shamefully failed to provide. Great Britain’s Tony Blair—far and away the nation’s most loyal and trustworthy friend—needs some sort of UN imprimatur to maintain the slim support he still has at home. The US, wanting neither to be embarrassed nor needlessly isolated, still hopes that somehow nine Security Council votes can be hobbled together.
But no concession seems to be enough to win the appeasers over. Originally, the latest proposed UN resolution contained no deadline for Iraqi compliance—a provision the Axis of Appeasement protested for fear that it would allow the US to proceed at whim. So Washington and London relented and offered a drop-dead date of March17, which the Axis now protests for putting undue burdens on poor Saddam. Appeasers likewise oppose spelling out specific criteria by which Iraq must abide—after all, failure to comply would result in war—while decrying the absence of such criteria as unjustly vague.
The one saving grace is that, ultimately, none of the UN’s hand-wringing really matters. President Bush has made it clear that he was elected to serve the people of the United States, not the oligarchs and dictators of the Third World or the aging and socialist regimes of Old Europe. They had their chance to get on the right side of history, and they’ve just about squandered it. Their loss.
Good riddance to bad friends; it’s time to roll.