- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

According to a New York Times /CBS poll, Americans are growing increasingly impatient with the United Nations' paralysis on enforcing its own resolutions on Iraq. The poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe that the United Nations was doing a poor job in managing the Iraq crisis (up 10 points from a month ago) and that 55 percent of respondents support a U.S. invasion of Iraq, even if it means doing so without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.
Given the United Nations' failure to stop Saddam Hussein from amassing weapons of mass destruction or committing atrocities against his own people and the disgraceful intransigence of France in using its veto power in the Security Council to protect him the American public's growing doubts are well-warranted. From its inception 58 years ago, the few military successes that the United Nations has had occurred when Washington essentially used the Security Council as political cover for U.S.-led military action action to repel aggressors, as it did in 1950 to mobilize an international coalition to get North Korea out of South Korea, and again in 1990-91 to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. (Indeed, in the case of the first Gulf War, it's clear that, if a Security Council resolution had been unachievable, the first President Bush was prepared to go to war to liberate Kuwait without a U.N. mandate by invoking the right of collective defense recognized under the U.N. Charter.)
In other cases in which the United States has acted militarily ranging from the 1983 military action to reverse a Soviet coup in Grenada to the 1999 campaign to drive Serbia out of Kosovo the United States avoided seeking U.N. approval. Instead, Washington attained success either by acting unilaterally, as in Grenada, or through NATO, as it did in Kosovo.
When responsibility has been delegated to the United Nations, particularly in the past decade, the results have been largely disastrous. In 1993, then-President Clinton abruptly ended the U.S. military's humanitarian mission in Somalia, which had been operating under U.N. command, after 18 GIs were killed by an al Qaeda-trained militia. In Srebenica, Bosnia, two years later, U.N. peacekeepers stood by while Serb militiamen massacred Bosnian Muslim refugees who were supposed to be under U.N. protection. Serb militiamen took hapless peacekeepers hostage for use as "human shields" at strategic sites. In Rwanda, U.N. peacekeepers stood by as 800,000 people were massacred by government forces and local militias. In Sierra Leone, peacekeepers were taken hostage by insurgent militiamen seeking to topple the government.
None of this would have come as a surprise to Dean Acheson, Harry Truman's secretary of state (1949-53). Acheson thought that the United Nations, particularly its Arab-Asian bloc, behaved irresponsibly and contributed "little or nothing" to collective security, according to Robert Beisner, who is working on an Acheson biography. Acheson, Mr. Beisner writes in the Weekly Standard, frequently complained to associates about the "artificial power given to miniature states and diminutive duchies" by the United Nations to frustrate and complicate U.S. diplomacy (words that certainly apply to the bizarre spectacle today, where Washington is desperately courting tiny states like Guinea and Cameroon in an effort to build support for a "compromise" resolution on Iraq.) Acheson, one historian wrote, believed that U.N.-backers tended to be "people who could not face the truth about human nature" and preferred to keep their illusions intact.
Acheson's criticisms from 50 years ago aptly describe what the U.N. Security Council has degenerated into today. That's why, in the end, President Bush will likely need to follow his father's alternative plan: Ignore the council, form a "coalition of the willing" and take action to protect the world from Saddam Hussein.

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