Who are we kidding that war is not already at hand? This has been a certainty for quite some time now, becoming probable at the time of Bush’s election, made virtually certain after Sept. 11, 2001, and finally cemented into reality by Iraq’s noncompliance with the latest U.N. resolution. Even without the State of the Union address, the developments of the past week have served as a clear indication of what will come.
The inspections are not working. In the words of Chief Inspector Hans Blix (whose selection, I might add, was approved by the Russians and Iraqis precisely because he would not be as stringent as his predecessor, Richard Butler), the current system is fraught with Iraqi intransigence and superficial, half-hearted compliance. The inspectors haven’t even found the many thousands of biological and chemical weapons we know Saddam has, much less any covert W.M.D. programs that may be hidden deep underground or in mobile labs.
And who said they were supposed to “find” anything, anyway? The point was never to keep Saddam Hussein in a box, but rather, for him to come clean, disarm himself, and then submit to rigorous inspections like other states who undertook the process and were serious about disarming.
This is not disarmament. This is cat-and-mouse child’s play, a mere distraction that leaves Saddam free to feign cooperation and subsequently coax an end to the sanctions while still maintaining his current weapons and developing new ones.
The question is no longer whether Iraq will voluntarily disarm. Even as the country is surrounded by American forces, Iraq has made it clear that it will not. The question is whether the United Nations will enforce its own resolutions and thereby affirm its continued legitimacy, or shrink from the challenge yet again and become a modern day League of Nations.
I suspect that some who oppose war would prefer the latter. By arguing the Bush administration is acting unilaterally, they conveniently ignore 12 years of U.N. resolutions demanding Iraq disarm and finding it in material breach of its cease-fire agreement. And what if, in the most likely scenario, a veto-holding power blocks a new resolution and the United States proceeds anyway with a coalition of willing nations? Is this unilateralism? To argue this is to be either disingenuous or downright ignorant of the facts.
By insisting that the United Nations either enforce these resolutions or fade into irrelevance, the Bush administration is actually showing more regard for the organization than the apologists and doves who push for the status quo. Indeed, every line of liberal, peacemongering logic leads us to the same scenario: a toothless world body, paralyzed superpowers and tyrants all over the world who are free to amass weapons of terror. The current crisis we find ourselves in with North Korea underscores precisely why we must not stand by and wait for this to happen.