Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2002 / 20 Kislev, 5763
The U.N. over a barrel
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | As the United States begins its diplomatic dance with Saddam Hussein on the one hand and the French-Russian axis in the U.N. Security Council on the other, it's important to realize the strength of the American political position.
Some people may want to be overly respectful of the French interpretation of the U.N. resolution on Iraq and overlook minor transgressions by Iraq, preferring to wait until we have a smoking gun before initiating military action. They will worry that too aggressive an interpretation of the latitude granted by the Security Council action may antagonize global support.
But we must not underestimate the power the United States wields to command Russian and French support if Iraq steps over the line delineated in the U.N. action two weeks ago. Neither Paris nor Moscow supported the United States out of the goodness of their heart. Both were motivated by two key considerations that will continue to command their attention in the months ahead.
First, it is no coincidence that the Security Council unanimously passed the U.S-.British resolution after - not before - the Republican victory in the congressional elections of 2002. Indeed, 72 hours after the polls closed, the resolution giving Iraq a "last chance" breezed through the United Nations after months of delicate negotiations. Obviously, both Russia and France were hoping that the American voter did not share the president's enthusiasm for disarming Iraq and preventing Saddam Hussein from acquiring the bomb. But when the election returns indicated a solid phalanx of backing from the American electorate, both countries had to sit up and take notice.
Bush had thought that a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force would send a sufficient signal of popular backing to the United Nations to motivate them to take American determination seriously. But as soon as the resolution was passed, Democrats began to make an issue of it, voicing their qualms about unilateral American action. The politicians who run French and Russian foreign policy undoubtedly were counting on an electoral reversal - normal in midterm elections - to disempower Bush and lend strength to their diplomatic demand that the United States be required to seek U.N. approval before launching military action. But when the votes were counted in the United States, they soon lined up in the United Nations for the Bush position.
Second, France has no global power whatsoever except for its seat on the U.N. Security Council. Who would pay any attention to her position otherwise? Her exalted position in the United Nations is an anachronism, left from the pre-World War II days when she was considered a great power. Russia, while still a power, has less and less leverage in the real world as its military decays and its economy stagnates. Neither nation could speak up to stop the United States without its seat on the U.N. Security Council. Notice how Germany, certainly more of a power than France, has had to remain relatively mute on the sidelines (after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made an issue of Iraq in his elections) because it doesn't have a seat.
But what is the worth of the French or Russian seats on the Security Council if the United Nations itself is a mere spectator on the sidelines as international events unfold? If the United States attacks Iraq without U.N. backing, it is the United Nations which suffers, relegated to a back seat in global policymaking.
Just as the failure of the League of Nations to halt Italian aggression in Ethiopia doomed it to impotence in the 1930s, so a refusal by the United Nations to back U.S. action against Iraq would make it a worthless organization, without power or prestige.
Both France and Russia know how dependant on the United Nations they are. It is only through the institutional power of that body that they can make their national goals and views felt. If the United Nations cannot control the United States, why do we need a United Nations?
If Iraq steps over the line, the United States should aggressively react … and the United Nations will follow, if only to preserve its relevance.
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