Monday, March 24, 2003
Richard Haass, the director of the State Department policy-planning staff, makes some interesting comments about the U.N. in this week's New Yorker:
'The long, gruelling effort at the U.N. now looked like a waste of time—or did Haass [Richard Haass, the director of the State Department policy-planning staff] disagree? “That’s too negative,” he said. “Resolution 1441”—which the Security Council passed unanimously, and which reopened the weapons inspections in Iraq—“was an extraordinary achievement. It got inspectors back in under far more demanding terms. And it didn’t tie our hands. We never committed ourselves to another resolution. So it was an extraordinary accomplishment. It gave tremendous legal and political and moral authority to anything that we would subsequently do. I don’t see how anyone could fault that. Indeed, any problems that we have today pale in comparison to the problems we would have had if we had not done 1441. Where we had problems was obviously in the aftermath, and the question is why. Well, to some extent, as we got closer to the reality of war, all the visceral antiwar feeling came out. The French and others who voted for 1441 are being disingenuous. When they voted for it, they knew damn well what serious consequences it would have. What they’re doing is listening to their public opinion, rather than leading it.”'
'Now people were saying that the United States, by deciding to abandon the Security Council negotiations, had done irreparable harm to the institutional stature of the United Nations. “We’ve not done irreparable harm to anything,” Haass said. “In the case of the U.N., we’ve just once again learned the lesson that the U.N. can only function as an institution when there’s consensus among the major powers. The U.N. was never meant to act with the independence of a nation-state. It was never meant to be the instrument of one great power against another. So, when the great powers can’t agree, that’s when they have to go outside the U.N. Otherwise they’ll destroy the institution to make it relevant. You want to preserve it for those times when the differences between the powers are modest, or they actually agree.”'
'Therefore, with the United States determined to go to war, it was imperative to avoid a vote on a second resolution, which might have failed and would have been vetoed even if it had passed. “This would have been a much more confrontational situation,” Haass said. “We would have been acting against the U.N. Now we can argue that we are acting pursuant to the U.N., in 1441. This is a way, I believe, quite honestly, of preserving the U.N.’s potential viability in the future. We’ve not destroyed it. We’ve just admitted, though, that it can’t do everything, when the great powers of the day disagree.”'
I quote this because he brings up several valid points. First, the United Nations works on consensus; when the powers that sit on the Security Council don't agree the U.N. can't act in the "collective security enforcement" role. This situation came up time and time again during the Cold War, but it's an important feature of the system -- essentially there has to be an agreement that a situation threatens the members of the Security Council or the world as a whole before the U.N. will act on it. The U.N. charter is only binding inasmuch as its member countries agree to implement its resolutions, there is no enforcement power which the U.N. inherently posesses and can wield at will. What this translates to is that when the U.N. Security Council _does_ agree, that means a situation is important enough to merit special attention, and on this point the U.S. did win in the U.N. as Haass argues above. Since the quite a large portion of the world doesn't agree that Iraq poses an immediate threat and thus needs to be dealt with militarily, we would never have had consensus and a second resolution would have failed miserably. On the point of France and other nation's foreknowledge of the possible consequences of 1441, I'd argue that they won that fight, since the language of 1441 can be read both in support of and against the current U.S. military action even though it may have been strongly implied that military action would result. That's a necessary feature of 1441, as it gives governments the ability to say "we don't support the current war" while doing just that. It also gives them a way to retreat from a pro-war position should that become necessary. Hopefully that flexibility will be exploited to force a neogtiated settlement, but the chances of that happening are fairly small.
There are scenarios under which the U.S. may be forced to negotiate. For instance, should Saddam Hussein and his top military commanders die then the U.S. would have a problem. What would then be the purpose of the war? As we're beginning to see, the Iraqi people are fighting for more than Saddam's survival and their will to fight may very well outlast him. If that's the case, then the war of liberation becomes a war of conquest and the U.S. looses that moral point. In that situation it would be wise to negotiate a quick pullout and subsequent U.N. aid to Iraq. Another scenario that could bring negotiations would be a very long and protracted conflict. If this were to go on for longer than two or three years, the U.S. would again lose the moral high ground (assuming that it has it) because at that point it would be clear that there is more support for Saddam than just a few Ba'ath party members. We're already seeing some reconsideration due to recent U.S. and British combat losses, and we've been preped in the U.S. for a war that may be longer than anticipated. In either case, having a strong international community would be beneficial to both sides -- it could mediate and enforce a negotiated settlement and it could provide support for the reconstruction of Iraq.
The question of WMDs and chem/bio weapons is a bit more tricky. If either scenario happens and there hasn't been confirmation that these weapons exist then it won't impede things. However, in the first case the existence of WMDs may be enough to support a mopping-up campaign where U.S. or international troops thoroughly searched the country and destroyed the weapons they found. In the second, it may be a moot point if three or four years from now the world is more concerned about the thousands of dead and injured on both sides.
Andrew 12:16 PM : |
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