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Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2002 / 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Why multilateralism doesn't work | The center-left consensus shaping up as a response to the Iraqi challenge holds that the United States should move against Baghdad alone if it must, but with the United Nations if it can. This implicit endorsement of the superiority of multilateral action flies in the face of the evidence of international peacekeeping missions over the past decade.

When the decisions governing air strikes in Bosnia to protect the Muslim population from Serbian invasion rested with the United Nations, military attacks were rare and largely ineffective. Time and again, the United Nations stayed the hand of American air power using every excuse known to mankind. Fearful of killing innocents, worried that its peacekeepers might be taken as hostages or used as human shields, the United Nations refused to pull the multilateral trigger that rested against its finger.

Frustrated with the U.N. failure to act, President Bill Clinton moved decisively in May and June of 1995 to negotiate with the British and French to take the decisions over Bosnia peacekeeping operations away from the United Nations and vest them in NATO instead. When the three agreed, they stripped the world body of the ability to make decisions and took the power unilaterally.

Within two months, the Bosnian Serbs tested the will of NATO by escalating their attacks. The U.S.-British-French response was swift, strong and immediate, and the Bosnian Serbs were forced from the battlefield into the talks that resolved the conflict and forced their withdrawal.

It was the multilateralists who clamored for deployment of U.S. ground troops in Kosovo and criticized America's bombing-only campaign as weak and unlikely to succeed. Impervious to their criticism, Clinton continued to bomb and the Serbs gave up once again.

When the multilateral approach prevails, as in the Gulf War of 1991, the results are often half-baked and inconclusive. It was multilateral pressure that led the previous President Bush to make the disastrous decision to leave Saddam Hussein alive and in power when a simple march on Baghdad would have toppled his regime.

The entire current crisis could have been avoided if Bush had remained impervious to international pressure and global opinion.

Indeed, the entire thrust of world public opinion during the Cold War counseled the importance of arms control deals and warned of the recklessness of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Yet history documents that it was precisely the economic challenge of the arms race in general and the SDI threat in particular that brought about the implosion of the communist system in the Soviet Union.

Why are multilateral initiatives less likely to succeed than unilateral action by one or two nations? It all goes back to the idea that a camel is a horse built by a committee. In alliances and international coalitions, it is usually the most timid voices that prevail. Let's remember that the very nations who oppose U.S. action are the ones whose own military investment is so limited that they are incapable of action on their own. If a nation accords so low a priority to military readiness, why should we hand over to its commanders and diplomats the veto over American and British military deployment?

In fact, one could go all the way back to the pre-World War II era to document how the nations now pushing for multilateralism and condemning the current American penchant for solitary action were precisely those who were either neutral, collaborationist or downright enemies during the war period. From the defeatist French to the Nazi-allied Soviets to Germany itself, the very nations now urging the United States to restrain its pursuit of self-defense and global security were those nations who let Adolph Hitler dominate Europe. Their counsel now is no better than it was then.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris