Along the Tracks

Monday, October 20, 2003

United Nations declares itself irrelevant

Since there is broad agreement that the Senate’s decision to make part of the $20 billion in Iraq reconstruction a loan may rank as one of the dumbest moves by that body in the post-Civil War era, I’ll merely concur with those opinions (from liberal to conservative) and let you peruse some excellent posts on the subject.

On another, related, subject, I’d like to be the contrary one and point out that we neither need to fear nor praise the 15-0 passage of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq.

It is meaningless.

Not meaningless for the reasons many of the anti-war voices in the media claim - they are on the right track, actually, but would be loath to admit the implications. It is meaningless because, just as predicted by George W. Bush and a myriad of others last year in the run-up to conflict in Iraq, the United Nations has become irrelevant. Security Council resolutions carry no force of authority. The diplomats are just members of a debating society.

Does the U.N. have “a role to play” in the world? No - at least, not a role it defines for itself. It now will merely lick up the scraps tossed its way by the real players in the 21st century world: The United States, the European Union and China.

The U.N. continued to act like it was an independent force even after it had destroyed its own authority last winter. It held its nose high through the summer, refusing to treat with the Bush administration on any new resolution that didn’t hand Iraq over to the bureaucrats. It seemed to reach its zenith shortly after the U.N. mission in Baghdad was bombed in August, and sympathy for the U.N. was widespread. Senators and congressmen and commentators and world leaders all were demanding the U.N. be “given a role” - i.e., given control.

So, the Bush administration seemed to cave a little, going back to the Security Council one more time. Remember, GWB even called it a “plea,” which caused cringes across the conservative landscape. As negotiations intensified, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan popped up at his podium to say the U.S.-U.K. draft was unacceptable, and would need extensive revision. Many commentators saw this as Annan and U.N. laying its trump card. In fact, it was a bluff, which U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte proceeded to call. Not only did the Security Council basically approve the coalition’s original draft, with minor changes - it accepted the resolution 15-0. No vetoes, no “nays,” no abstentions. 15-0.

Many who sought to congratulate Bush administration diplomacy noted this vote was nearly a year after another “victory” in the Security Council - the unanimous passage of Res. 1441 calling for detailed Iraqi accountability or else. Yet that much-touted resolution proved as cynical as the other 17 since the first Gulf War dealing with Iraq. You can excuse Bush, Powell and the Department of State for trusting Security Council members - particularly “allies” France and Germany - to back up their strong words with action last winter, but once the Axis of Weasels pulled their double-cross, the U.N.’s authority in international affairs was critically, perhaps permanently, undermined.

Thus, we get to this latest resolution, No. 1511. It was a joke, a farce, wallpaper with little flowers and quaint hand-pump wells. It took approximately 15 minutes for the German-French connection to come out and say they didn’t really mean it. Syria voted for it, for crying out loud - and they have more to gain from failure in Iraq than anyone else on the council, save the Weasels. Nobody around that table believed for a second they were doing anything important, and none of them had any intention to follow through on the resolution in any but the most salutary ways. Any countries which planned on contributing to the coalition cause in the first place would have done so without the resolution; those that never had any intention (despite pronouncements of interest, should a resolution pass) were quick to declare they would remain on the sidelines anyway. Perhaps most shocking, Annan’s was neutered as a negotiator in international relations. The council put Annan in his place, which is apparently somewhere between marketing representative and weekend janitor.

You might have noticed the Russians were praised by quite a few analysts for their efforts, bridging the coalition and Weasel positions. Big deal. I can guess what the Russians told Germance: “Just vote for it. Nobody expects you to do anything.” Is Russia the “new France,” playing broker between America and her opponents? It’s a little early to say, but is it not telling that our “opponents” are now quite clearly identified - France and Germany, and through their dominance, the European Union?

If the U.N. still had value - beyond occasional debates and the sprawling bureaucracy which manages this or that “international” relief or development effort - Resolution 1511 would not have passed in any form, for the following reasons: A) A majority of Security Council members would have voted “no”; B) Even if nine “yes” votes could have been cajoled out of allies and Third World stragglers, the French would have vetoed; C) Points A & B are academic - the U.S. would have never sought a meaningful resolution in the first place. Iraq is too important to the Bush administration’s foreign policy to allow others to control its fate. And minus control, a potent U.N. and its Security Council would have no interest in taking any direct steps to aid what some of its most powerful members felt was an unnecessary war.

Thus, by unanimous consent, the U.N. Security Council has declared its complete irrelevance.

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