- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

By pushing for a war resolution vote he might lose, President Bush has issued an ultimatum not just to Saddam Hussein, but to the United Nations. The president has made it clear to the Chiles and Cameroons that their votes won't determine whether Saddam will be disarmed. They will determine only if the Security Council will insist that its resolutions be taken seriously.
If the Security Council does not so insist, then the U.N. likely will join the League of Nations in the dustbin of history. The United Nations was created by the United States, and cannot survive without our active participation.
And if the United Nations will not oppose aggression, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or encourage democracy and human rights, there is no reason why we should continue to participate in it.
America's foremost opponent in the United Nations has been France, which long ago ceased to be either a "friend" or an "ally." Four understandable, if ignoble, reasons have been advanced to explain French opposition to war with Iraq:
France has a large Islamic population and fears terror attacks. "European investigators have evidence that over the past six months, Islamic militants have been recruiting hundreds of fellow Muslims to carry out attacks in the event of war," a French anti-terrorism expert told the New York Times Jan. 29.
France has lucrative business deals with Iraq and fears losing them if Saddam is ousted. In 2001, the last year for which statistics are available, France did $650 million worth of business with Iraq, more than any other European country. The telephone system in Baghdad is French, as are most of the cars on the streets. The state-owned oil company, TotalFina ELF, has sweetheart deals to develop two huge oil fields in western Iraq. It is likely those deals would be renegotiated, or abrogated altogether, if there were a change in regime.
French politicians fear embarrassment for their country and for themselves if the extent of their dealings with Saddam's regime are made public. French journalists Claude Angeli and Stephanie Mesnier interviewed Saddam for their 1992 book, "Our Ally Saddam." They quote Saddam as saying: "As for financiers, industrialists, and above all those responsible for military industry, the question must be put to French politicians: Who did not benefit from these business contracts and relationships with Iraq?" Saddam goes on the describe French participation in Gulf war I as a "betrayal," and adds "if the trickery continues, we will be forced to unmask them, all of them, before the French public."
France wants to establish a global coalition to serve as a counterweight to U.S. influence in the world, with France at its head. The vehicle for reclaiming France's lost glory was to have been the European Union, which, the French hoped, would become a superstate dominated by France and Germany. But the expansion of the EU to include most of the formerly communist nations of Eastern Europe who do not share French hostility to the United States, and who are not especially fond of the French themselves seems to have doomed this ambition. Still, the French enjoy poking a stick in America's eye whenever the opportunity arises.
These are all reasons we in America can understand, even if we do not like them. What makes no sense is why France would pursue its opposition to the United States to the extent of pushing itself off the world stage. We think of the French as arrogant, immoral, cunning and cowardly, but not as stupid or suicidal.
France has a middling economy that is perpetually sputtering and stalling because of its socialist economic policies. The French military is nothing to write home about, and hasn't been since the time of Napoleon. Gen. George Patton is reported to have said: "I'd rather have a German division in front of me than a French division behind me."
So France can strut on the world stage only by virtue of its status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. If the Council becomes irrelevant, than France will fall into a well-deserved obscurity.

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration and is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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