- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

Is last week's unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq the victory the State Department claims it is? In the days leading up to the vote Secretary of State Colin Powell stressed, "There is nothing that we would propose in this resolution or we would find acceptable in a resolution that would handcuff the president of the United States in doing what he feels he must do." Yet, to get the unanimous outcome Mr. Powell wanted, the U.S. had to at least pretend its hands were tied by the U.N. process.

A joint declaration by France, Russia, and China issued immediately after the vote laid out what these three veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council think the resolution mandated. "In case of failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations. Such failure will be reported to the Security Council by the executive chairman of UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] or by the director general of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. It will be then for the council to take a position on the basis of that report."

When President Bush took the issue to the U.N., he did so from a position of strength. He made it clear that other Security Council members were only being asked if they agreed with the U.S. assessment that Iraq "has been and remains in material breach" of its disarmament obligations. After eight weeks of negotiations, during which the initial U.S.-British resolution was revised at least twice to meet French and Russian objections, the end result is that no assessment of Iraqi actions has yet been made. And it cannot be made unless first, the U.N. arms inspection bureaucracy reports problems, and then the Security Council takes a position on the inspection report.

The U.N. bureaucracy is by nature predisposed against making reports that would justify American military action. And France, Russia and China are still aligned against ratifying any negative report even if made. This means Saddam Hussein is free to play the old game of hide and seek with the arms inspectors, confident of political support within the U.N.

By appearing before the Security Council as a supplicant, the U.S. has allowed its critics to cloak their base motives in the mantle of international law. France and Russia have economic ties with Saddam Hussein which they feel would be jeopardized by a regime change. It's not just the debts Iraq owes, which the U.S. could guarantee a post-Saddam government would settle. Paris and Moscow fear a liberated Baghdad would be more favorable to American and British firms (particularly oil companies) than to their firms that had helped sustain the tyrant.

China joins Russia and France in fearing an increase in U.S. "hegemony" from the successful use of American military power in the Gulf. These are the concerns of Realpolitik, not morality. Mr. Bush called on the U.N. to fulfill its role of blocking Iraqi aggression, but its three rivals on the Security Council (with the French representing a substantial body of European intellectual opinion) see the U.S. as the power that needs to be contained.

When the tripartite joint resolution concluded by saying "this resolution fully respects the competences of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security, in conformity with the charter of the United Nations," they meant they intend to use the U.N. as a counterweight to American power.

President Bush's speech the day of the U.N. vote ignored the French-Russian-Chinese interpretation. "America will be making only one determination: Is Iraq meeting the terms of the Security Council resolution or not? The United States has agreed to discuss any material breach with the Security Council, but without jeopardizing our freedom of action to defend our country. If Iraq fails to fully comply, the United States and other nations will disarm Saddam Hussein." If President Bush holds to this view, as he should, then the United Nations faces a crisis just as potentially fatal to its future as to Saddam's regime. It is teetering on the same brink as the League of Nations.

According to the French Foreign Ministry, "Since 1990, the Security Council has never failed, when the situation so required, firmly to remind Iraq of her obligations, condemn any noncompliance with them and, where necessary, to confirm that this would lay Iraq open to the most serious consequences." Paris goes on to praise Hans Blix, the new head of UNMOVIC, for having "demonstrated his determination and firmness as director-general of the IAEA in the 1990s, in Iraq as on other issues [North Korea]." That the French government could mention North Korea, after Pyongyang's open admission that it has continued developing nuclear weapons despite promising not to in 1994, indicates just how far Paris will go to excuse failure in order to maintain the myth of international "competences" against U.S. claims.

In 1936, the well-regarded diplomatic observer William L. Langer praised the success of the League of Nations in condemning Benito Mussolini as the aggressor in Ethiopia and imposing sanctions. He wrote, "Not only France, but France's allies prefer the League system over any other, and that alliances are only a second string." This is the same crisis that historians now cite as a major failure of the League.

It was not League pronouncements but Allied military power that finally imposed regime change on the Axis (and which liberated a conquered France). By the same token, it wasn't the U.N. but NATO that waged the Cold War.

And it won't be the U.N. Security Council that topples Saddam's Iraqi regime. It will be an Anglo-American coalition designed by real diplomacy married to superior military strength. After the dust settles, a liberated Iraq can be rebuilt; but a United Nations stripped of its pretensions as a legitimizing authority will be beyond recovery.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for National Security Studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

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