Critics of George Bush’s Iraq policy have bemused themselves with anti-war demonstrations and public opinion overseas, plus the pronouncements of France, Germany and Russia. They conclude that America has suffered diplomatic rejection by “the whole world.” The war is about to recruit new waves of terrorists, they say, and at last precipitate the downfall of the American “empire.”
But while critics predict American domestic support will fade, instead it has grown. Two U.S. TV anchors also predicted a close call for Tony Blair in a House of Commons vote Tuesday. Instead, Blair won handily.
What Blair said shows that, he, not the cynics, has the strategic view of what is at stake beyond Iraq: “The Iraq crisis will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century (terrorism); the development of the United Nations; the relationship between Europe and the United States; the relations with the European Union; and the way that the United States engages with the rest of the world.”
Bush and Blair turn out to be the true multi-lateralists. Already public opinion in Britain is moving closer to Blair. In Europe, the collusion of France and Germany ultimately resulted in more support for the U.S./U.K. position from other European nations. Leaders of such countries as Denmark and Poland know that national interest, not fickle opinions, must determine foreign policy.
The majority of European leaders discerned that aligning themselves with France and Germany is less likely to assure their independence and less likely to halt terrorism than is backing up the United States and United Kingdom. They also figured out that when the allies reach Baghdad and open the intelligence coffers of the fascistic Saddam regime, the case for the U.S.-led war only will grow. And the United Nations’ recent laxity will seem even more reprehensible.
The damage the United Nations has done to itself is not short-term. Historically, it is a rarity for nations to come to the United Nations before they engage in military actions. France itself has intervened to change regimes in Africa 37 times since 1960, reports UPI analyst Arnaud de Borchgrave, and was never disposed to ask Security Council permission. President Clinton attacked Iraq three times in the ’90s without Security Council approval. When Iraq attempted to assassinate former President Bush in 1993, Clinton fired 24 cruise missiles into Baghdad. In 1998, when Saddam stopped inspectors from doing their work, Clinton got Sen. Tom Daschle, S.D., to pass a war resolution through Congress and then dispatched a massive air campaign against Saddam.
You don’t remember an outcry against these unilateral actions from the peace camp because there isn’t much to remember.
Nor was there much interest in the U.N.’s failures to support peace and security in Kosovo or Rwanda. Peace advocates ignored hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Balkans and Africa, but are stirred to predict hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq. Likewise, the far left deplored U.N. sanctions against Iraq, but will not support resumption of hostilities to end the need for sanctions.
Ironically, it was Bush the Elder in 1991 — to eject Saddam from Kuwait — who put together the first successful Security Council military effort since the Korean War. And it was Bush the Younger who went to the United Nations, successfully, to support the Taliban’s ouster in Afghanistan. It was Bush who tried to cajole the Security Council into enforcing its 12 years of resolutions demanding Iraqi compliance with the provisions of the Gulf War truce.
Bush the Elder forged a coalition of 34 nations. But, for Gulf War, Phase II, Bush the Younger has forged a coalition nearly as large, not including the quiet but crucial Gulf States that are staging grounds for the war. France is getting most of the blame as Security Council spoiler, but the greatest damage to the United Nations’ role as peacemaker has come, unwittingly, from the inspectors.
I once served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. organizations in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency is located. The head of the IAEA was Hans Blix, now chief U.N. weapons inspector. Back then Blix argued persuasively for the safeguards and inspections regime designed to prevent nuclear proliferation. It is a system echoed in U.N. efforts on chemical and biological weapons.
In the end, Blix would intone, there still must be a credible threat of force against recalcitrant countries (the “political will” in U.N. talk) to use military might. And who should provide that might? Why, “member states.” “In other words, the U.S.,” I would say. “Who else?” he would reply, and we’d laugh.
Well, I am not laughing any more. Blix’s IAEA inspectors subsequently were cheated and fooled by Iraq, but Blix apparently learned little from that experience. His recent actions as head weapons inspector in Iraq have proved far less prepossessing than the old Blix rhetoric. His determination to protract inspections beyond their purpose of verifying “immediate” compliance with Resolution 1441 ultimately fueled Security Council disunity and made war more likely. It now leaves the U.N. security system in a shambles.
And, post-war, who will have to invent a reformed international security system? Why the United States and United Kingdom, of course. “Who else?”