- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

U.N.’s role in Iraq

As usual, Frank J. Gaffney Jr. makes a number of good points in his column, “Not the time to wobble” (Commentary, Tuesday), including the broad argument that the Iraq mission might go much worse if we internationalize it the wrong way.

That said, I believe there are ways to internationalize the mission without harming its prospects for success — and getting more help for U.S. troops in the process.

In particular, we should promote a U.N. Security Council resolution that would give the United Nations the same kind of control in Iraq that it has had in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. However, we should insist simultaneously that NATO run the military mission. We should further insist that U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer be U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s first special representative in Iraq.

Chances are very high that the world body would accept this package proposal. First, everyone knows that U.N. peacekeepers or “blue helmets” cannot handle a military job as tough as Iraq. They floundered in difficult missions in places such as Bosnia and Somalia in the early 1990s; no one is interested in repeating those sagas. That is why NATO has taken on the missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. No alternative body is available for Iraq; only NATO is credibly up to the job, and this point is beyond serious debate in most of the international community.

That is good news for the United States, because NATO’s top officer is American Gen. James L. Jones. It is further likely that Gen. Jones could designate Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq today, as his field commander for the military mission. Gen. Sanchez might have to work with an Italian, Norwegian or Polish deputy, but we can live with that. Other countries would recognize that it is only reasonable that given the preponderance of American forces in Iraq, an American be the top commander on the ground.

American troops would always be under the overall command of U.S. leaders with this approach. They might someday come under the tactical command of another NATO officer if we agreed to it in a specific situation or two. But NATO is a highly professional organization, and it works well even when NATO politicians squabble — witness what has been going on in the Balkans and Afghanistan over the past year. This is not a threat to American troops in any way.

Second, precedent also suggests that the party providing the most troops and funding, and with the greatest interests at stake, is accorded special civilian and administrative influence in any U.N. mission. Retired U.S. Adm. Jonathan Howe was Boutros Boutros Ghali’s special representative in Somalia; Europeans from NATO countries usually have held the top administrative jobs in Bosnia and Kosovo.

At some point in the future, we might have to see Mr. Bremer replaced, given how these missions typically work. However, we can stipulate that his first successor, at least, must be British, in keeping with the United Kingdom’s special contribution to the war and peacekeeping effort to date. Again, precedent is firmly on our side.


Senior fellow

Brookings Institution


Don’t forget the District

On Monday in the Inside Politics column, Greg Pierce said Iowa and New Hampshire are “where the first contests of the 2004 presidential election season will be held in January.” The statement is inaccurate.

The first contest of the presidential election season will be held on Jan. 13 in the District — six days ahead of Iowa and two full weeks ahead of New Hampshire.

D.C. officials rescheduled the primary in an effort to bring nationwide attention to the lack of congressional representation and limited self-government suffered in the District, plus the plight of the 575,000 disenfranchised Americans who live in the city, pay taxes, fight (and die) in wars and perform all other duties of citizenship, yet lack equal rights.

The Washington Times has reported on the District’s first-in-the nation primary in the past. I sincerely hope The Times will issue a correction, advise its writers and editors to update their notebooks and assign a reporter to cover developments in respect to the D.C. primary and candidates’ pursuit of that prize.


Political director

DC Democracy Fund


The people’s space

In promoting a Mall site for the African American History and Culture Museum, Deborah Simmons misrepresents the views of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall (“History is no accident,” Friday).

In our testimony in July before the Committee on House Administration, we enthusiastically endorsed the concept of the museum. We support one of the proposed sites on the National Mall — the Arts and Industries Building — because it would entail reuse of an existing historic structure. We have not promoted the “Liberty Loan site” near the Holocaust Museum because we, like Mrs. Simmons, feel it is not sufficiently prominent or accessible.

We agree with Mrs. Simmons about the Mall’s significance — it is “the people’s space,” and it “embodies America’s cultural, democratic ideals and achievement.” That is why we speak out against any new man-made structure that would pave over its dwindling open public space.

Where does it stop? What group is not deserving of a place on the Mall? Almost 20 years ago, then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Commemorative Works Act of 1986 to protect the Mall’s open public spaces. Congress, however, has not shown the political will to uphold it. Those who commemorated the March on Washington last weekend could witness the result: Another deserving group’s memorial — the World War II Memorial — fills the space at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, where in 1963, tens of thousands of people streamed unimpeded between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

African American history is not absent from the Mall. Last Friday, Coretta Scott King and other civil rights leaders dedicated a new inscription marking the spot on the Lincoln Memorial steps where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 — a commemoration that the coalition publicly supported. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is planned for a 4-acre site at the Tidal Basin — on the Mall — and will commemorate, as its sponsors state, “the man, the movement, and the message.”

We are short-sighted, however, if we believe monuments and museums to our individual ethnic or group identities can keep American culture and ideals alive and healthy. In 1791, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, working with Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant, envisioned the Mall as “public walks,” a place where citizens and elected leaders could meet and engage in cultural activities in the shadow of the symbols of the new republic. Civil rights leaders accepted that vision and transformed the Lincoln Memorial and the entire Mall into a living monument to civil rights and freedom. The Mall’s core ideals and symbolic spaces didn’t change; the people gave it new, fuller expression. Instead of filling it with monuments to ourselves, we should honor and protect its symbolic and special simplicity as a touchstone to the past and a political ideal for the future.

That’s the beauty of the Mall. So long as the founding principles remain the ones we choose to share as a people and a nation, the Mall can live and grow as we seek to attain the lofty goals of our Founding Fathers.

Are there other ways to think about the African-American Museum that give it the primacy it requires in telling the American story? We believe there are. We believe there are additional, alternative sites to the five originally studied in the Preferred Site Analysis Report.

Our testimony before Congress included mention of a potential six-acre site, identified by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, midway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center, with views toward the Potomac and down Constitution Avenue. That site will become available in just a few years, as the city and the federal government undertake major renovations at the Kennedy Center. The new urban centerpiece around the Kennedy Center will become a major draw for tourism, business and new museums. Is that a “back door” site? Hidden? Does anyone believe the Kennedy Center — originally intended for L’Enfant Plaza and then moved to a seemingly out-of-the-way site in Foggy Bottom — lacks prominence?

A location off the Mall would allow greater freedom of architectural design, with an opportunity to do an important iconic building as the sponsors desire that would not be possible on the Mall.

Many commentators lament the lack of social cohesion in American life, a loss of historical memory and the lack of understanding of founding principles. The National Mall should be — and was intended to be — an antidote to that malaise, an exhilarating work of art celebrating the people, ideals, hopes and the goals we share as a nation. Everyone belongs there, but in person, not in stone.



National Coalition to Save Our Mall

Rockville, Md.

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