- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) — The arguments for and against war with Iraq are fairly finely balanced, in my view, with the decision depending on information about Iraq's capabilities that we don't have but hopefully President George W. Bush does. Whether or not one supports war with Iraq, however, it is now clear that taking the Iraq problem to the United Nations was an unmitigated disaster.

Supra-national organizations such as the United Nations and before that the League of Nations exist in theory to deter the bad guys from malfeasance, and to provide legitimacy to the policing activities of the good guys. In practice, they impede rather than assist both functions.

In the 1930s, for example, the League of Nations failed to do anything effective against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, because the European powers that dominated it didn't care about Manchuria — most of them probably couldn't have found it on a map. It then decided to take a stand against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, current-day Ethiopia, goaded by the appearance at Geneva of "Emperor" Haile Selassie, looking noble and pathetic in a frock coat. Unfortunately, their chosen weapon, economic sanctions, proved wholly ineffective.

What is worse, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, who reasonably felt that he was doing in Abyssinia only what all European powers had done in Africa a generation before, decided that the unexpected sanctions proved that Britain and France were no longer reliable allies against what he correctly saw as the growing menace of Adolf Hitler's Germany. Accordingly, he changed sides, offered no resistance to Hitler's 1938 invasion of Austria (Hitler's previous 1934 attempt against Austria had been met with threats of Italian military intervention) created the Rome-Berlin Axis and started persecuting Italian Jews, against whom he had previously shown no animus.

NOT one of the successes of "collective security."

Towards the end of World War II, it was agreed that collective security needed another trial. Unfortunately, 1944 was a poor time to be designing new organizations. Just as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were largely the work of the U.S. Treasury's Soviet spy Harry Dexter White, so the U.N. charter was drafted by the U.S. State Department's Soviet spy Alger Hiss.

Like the IMF and World Bank, the United Nations was thus from its outset a seriously flawed institution. Because of the huge number of nations represented, and the fact that even the Security Council would be electorally dominated by the 10 "elected members" — randomly chosen small nations — the institution would in practice be governed by its permanent bureaucracy — people like Alger Hiss, in other words.

This domination by the bureaucracy is a little noticed characteristic of international institutions, which becomes more marked as the institutions gain more members. The first supra-national alliance, set up by Britain's Lord Castlereagh and Austria's Prince Metternich at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 had only four members (five after 1818, when France was admitted) and no permanent bureaucracy. It was accordingly highly effective in its objectives of preserving the peace and suppressing radicalism. Indeed, an informal arrangement whereby the world's major powers are able to settle their differences has always in practice proved both workable and effective.

The European Union, too, when it consisted of only six members (1957-73) or even nine members (1973-81) reflected fairly well the policy preferences of its member states and jealously guarded their rights of veto — the Luxembourg Compromise of 1966 was a substantial step back from federalism, allowing France or any other state to retain a veto when "very important interests" of a state were involved.

However, as the EU expanded to 10 (1981-86), 12 (1986-95), 15 (1995-2004), or 25 (2004-?) members, the ability of individual states to settle their differences through the EU mechanism was compromised, and disputes were increasingly settled by the EU bureaucracy itself. This tendency was first practiced heavily under the commissionership of France's Jacques Delors (1985-95) and noticed with alarm by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her famous Bruges speech of 1988.

NATO too, now with 19 members, has shown itself unreliable in this crisis. Indeed, as NATO enlarges further, the central bureaucracy will play a greater role in its operations, and its usefulness as an alliance will sharply decline. NATO's action in blocking assistance to its member Turkey at the instigation, initially of Belgium — needless to say, Castlereagh would never have contemplated consulting Belgium before sending aid to an ally — has been especially damaging.

Without the crisis of confidence created by NATO, there can be no doubt that the unexpected razor-thin loss of Saturday's vote in the Turkish parliament on U.S. troop deployment in Turkey would have gone the other way. In that context, it is instructive to note that the allegedly scary "Islamists" in the governing party voted 3-1 in favor of the United States, a bigger majority than in the British Labor party.

The opposition party, which voted almost unanimously against the United States, was of course led by ex-World Bank stooge and media darling Kermal Dervis, on whose feeble leftist stewardship of the Turkish economy in 2001-02 billions of dollars of Western taxpayer money were wasted.

The staffs of supra-national bodies have a great deal in common, generally including a policy agenda that is sharply independent of the agendas of their member countries. Naturally, working for government, they are committed to government domination of as much as possible — more so than national government officials because their isolation from political and economic inputs from outside is much greater. Cut off from normal economic considerations, they are at best social democrat, and very probably well left of that.

Generally, they are committed to some version of the Third World aid enhancement agenda, because of the dirty economic secret of international bureaucracy — it is much pleasanter and more ego-enhancing to earn $100,000 per annum while employed in the Third World than it is in the United States or Western Europe. For one thing, your salary is generally very largely tax-free. More important, in a Third World country $100,000 per annum makes you one of the economic elite, able to afford servants for your domestic needs, elegant, often subsidized housing, private schools for your children and interaction with the cream of local society on equal terms.

Of course, for Third World citizens themselves, the international agencies are nothing short of a gravy train, offering them a lifestyle almost unattainable in their home countries. With a bit of luck, they can make themselves financially independent in the agencies, then return home at the top level like Turkey's Dervis, obtaining funding from nave trusting Westerners for their corrupt state-enhancing schemes.

The fingerprints of the United Nations are of course already on the Iraq problem. In 1990, more justifiably than in 2002, because the Soviet Union was still in existence and he needed Soviet acquiescence, former President George H.W. Bush sought and obtained U.N. authorization to repel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Naturally, unwilling to cede authority, U.N. Res. 678 authorizing the use of force was limited to expelling Iran from Kuwait.

Legalistically following this resolution, Bush, with the strong support of Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, terminated the Gulf War prematurely, after only 100 hours, and left Saddam in power. The result was seven years of ineffective U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, followed by four years of even more ineffective hand-wringing.

To say that in 2002, George W. Bush should not have gone to the United Nations is not to say that he should have acted unilaterally. Of course, both physical resources and moral authority for a war against Iraq are increased if the United States has a broad range of allies — a "coalition of the willing" in Bush's own phrase.

However, far better than involving the United Nations would have been to assemble a coalition of the willing through bilateral negotiations, probably with additional consultations via NATO. That way, the unwilling — France and Germany — would not have been given a platform by which they could hamper U.S. and allied preparations, and the timetable of invasion could have been dictated by military desirability rather than by meaningless U.N. debates.

If on the other hand, Bush believed that an invasion of Iraq was not truly necessary, then a strategy of assembling a coalition would also have been appropriate, but in this case, a coalition to impose sanctions and conduct weapons inspections as forcefully as possible. In that event of course, action could have been taken at the same time as the invasion of Afghanistan, when European sympathy for the United States was at its peak, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and the inspections regime could have been beefed up at that time to become as effective as such a regime can possibly be, since success for the inspections regime (in terms of finding something) would not necessarily have led to war.

Either way, consulting the United Nations was a terrible error. It has poisoned U.S. relations with France and Germany. It has prevented Turkey from acting as the reliable U.S. ally it truly remains. Furthermore, it has led to a U.N. "inspection" regime that is dedicated to not finding serious Iraqi violations of U.N. Res. 1441, since finding such violations would lead to war.

Finally, it has delayed Allied military action dangerously late in the year, towards the blazing Iraqi summer, particularly since a two-pronged invasion of Iraq from north and south now appears impossible.

In its future dealings, the United States can be pacific or belligerent. It always needs allies, and it should seek to inform allies and to bolster its alliances by all available diplomatic, financial and military means. But it should never again trust its fate to the sinister bureaucrats of the United Nations.

If as a result of U.N.-imposed delays or U.N.-compelled military compromises thousands extra die, either in military action in Iraq or in terrorist activities elsewhere, their deaths will be at the United Nations' door.

They will not be by any means the first.

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