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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | September 04, 2003

"Freedom Fries" will haunt administration

Colin Powell has the toughest job in Washington. He's been asked to go back to the UN the Chickenhawk Cabal gleefully wrote off as irrelevant, and beg for assistance.

But the kicker, of course, is that Bush is not willing to offer any concessions in exchange for international treasure and blood. This isn't going over well anywhere. Just a tiny sampling of what's being said.

From Salon:

Let me make sure I've got this right. After being insulted, belittled and called irrelevant by the swaggering machos in the Bush administration, the United Nations is now supposed to step forward to supply cannon fodder for America's disastrous Iraq occupation -- while the U.S. continues to run the show?

In other words, the rest of the world is to send its troops to get killed so that a U.S. president it fears and despises can take the credit for an invasion it bitterly opposed.

The rest of the world may be crazy, but it ain't stupid.

The Bush administration's humiliating announcement that it wants the U.N. to bail it out officially confers the title of "debacle" upon the grand Cheney-Rove-Wolfowitz adventure.

From Reuters:
Diplomats said tough talks could lie ahead because France, Germany and other opponents of the U.S.-British invasion have no wish to rubber-stamp the occupation of Iraq [...]

"Germany didn't start the war and didn't participate in it so we must be very cautious about what we do," Scholz said, adding that Germany would limit its role to humanitarian aid.

Another Reuters piece:
Bush had said the world body would condemn itself to "irrelevance" unless it endorsed military action.

It did not.

Dana Allin, a senior fellow for transatlantic relations at the IISS, said returning to the United Nations represented "a defeat for the idea that the US can do this more or less on its own, without seeking a compromise on the Security Council on defining the legitimacy of the US occupation of Iraq".

Syndicated columnist William Pfaff:
The question about any UN solution is this: Why should countries that were opposed to the war assume responsibility for its painful consequences? Washington may be misreading the support the French, Germans, and other Europeans have given to the notion that the UN can solve the Iraq problem. The Europeans do not have in mind the same solution as Richard Armitage [...]

The United States invaded Iraq because it chose to describe it as a threat to the United States and to the region. It turned out to be neither. The Bush administration, like the Iraqis, now confronts the consequences of what it has done. It does not like them. Neither does anyone else.

From the Pakistan Daily Times:
For many countries, the difficult decision of sending peacekeepers to Iraq has become all the more risky. A UN mandate would still help, but it no longer seems sufficient. The US needs to understand that nobody would voluntarily jump onto a sinking ship [...]

The Bush administration seems to be finally realising that it is time to shift from unilateralist hubris to multilateralist realism. The events in Najaf will only speed up this process. In practice, this should mean going back to the United Nations, expanding international forces in Iraq and bringing some desperately needed international legitimacy to the US-led occupation of Iraq. Things may not go so smoothly, however.

The considerable deterioration of the security situation in Iraq brings entirely new dynamics to the chess game between the United States and the international community. Washington may now be willing to swallow its pride, but will the international community cooperate? Will Washington receive the financial and military support it is hoping for by multilateralising Iraq’s occupation?

No doubt many countries will be tempted to say, ‘you broke it, you fix it’. After all, the rationale for US unilateralism in the lead-up to war in Iraq was grounded in simple logic: if we lead, they will follow. Although it could not secure UN or NATO support for the war in Iraq, the Bush administration appeared confident that military victory on the ground would convince other nations to pragmatically follow the winner.

Oh, and for kicks let's go back to that pre-invasion piece by Richard Perle declaring the end of the U.N.

Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions [...]

The chronic failure of the security council to enforce its own resolutions is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task. We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognise that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the UN.

So Richard, where is that "coalition of the willing" now? If the UN Security Council represents abject failure, does turning to it for help mean the US handling of Iraq is beyond abject failure?

Posted September 04, 2003 08:58 AM | Comments (161)


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