Those words were spoken by President George Bush following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Ironically, we face the same question today as the world debates whether to authorize force against Iraq.
Bush can already make a compelling case for attacking Iraq under resolution 1441. Though some may feign ignorance now, the security council members knew what “serious consequences” meant when they voted unanimously for the resolution, just as members of both houses of congress knew what “all necessary and appropriate force” meant when they passed their own resolution.
Truth be told, Bush is prodding the U.N. for another resolution simply because the British need one to save Tony Blair’s political future.
But the overarching issue here is really the U.N.’s own legitimacy. We live in a different world now, with new challenges, namely terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction from outlaw states. And if the United Nations refuses to act in this most egregious case, after clear Iraqi defiance of 17 resolutions (the last of which being its “final chance”), then it will in fact become irrelevent regardless of whether or not the United States acts.
Indeed, its words have already become meaningless. The previous 16 resolutions demanded disarmament, not containment, and they have all been defied. The 17th resolution, 1441, is clear and unambiguous. And if it does not act, the U.N. will have become a debating society, a mere side act in the defining struggle of our generation.
The U.N. has a terrible record at preventing massacres and removing the despots who cause them, except in cases where its members have prodded it to act. It can no longer afford such willful intransigence. And a nation that has become the target of such actions will not (and should not) be paralyzed by the inaction of the rest of the world.
Ideally I must agree with you. Iraq is a situation that demands attention for a number of reasons (many of which you correctly point out). However, the issue of going or not going to war with Iraq is more complicated than you’re letting on. The UN essentially represents a collective agreement to international stability. It took us two world wars and 30,000 years of human evolution to get to the point of having a UN.
France and Germany have essentially tied the continued existence of the UN (and to a lesser degree, NATO) to the Iraq issue. In other words, you can no longer talk objectively about only Iraq. France and Germany have a valid point, that they are not receiving their due power in making decisions. The UN purports to be a democratic organization.
Is the US correct in its stance on Iraq? I’d like to think so. But the US is pursuing its plans in a way that have pissed off EU pillars France and Germany and brought more facets into the Iraq issue. Don’t ignore the realities of politics. Politics are ugly, but they’re a fact of life.
It’s true that the president’s disastrous diplomatic strategy has greatly increased opposition to the U.S., even by countries that have traditionally been our strongest allies.
However, we must not allow that to obfuscate the main issue, because no matter what France’s and Germany’s motivations, the result of their inaction will be the same:
When any governmental body refuses to enforce its own orders, and becomes paralyzed to the extent that its members must resort to vigilantism, then that body has become irrelevent, at least insofar as said activity (disarmament) goes.
So while it’s understandable that France and Germany now feel they must oppose the U.S. in order to gain some strategic influence in the world, they should realize that, by refusing to hold Iraq accountable for its noncompliance, they will wield their new power in a body that is henceforth irrelevent and impotent. And Saddam will fall anyway.
Yes, Bush has done a terrible job at making the case for war, and he has damaged the country’s credibility in the process. But since we happen to be right on the principle of disarmament, it would be prudent for our allies to come back into the fold on this issue, and save voicing their disdain for Bush for some other battle.
That’s a resonably strong argument why France and Germany should find it in their best long-term interests to back down from this issue, or at least decouple it from the immediate issue of Iraq.
Unfortunately, I’m guessing neither Chirac or Schroeder has the personal capacity to back down at this point after having taken such strong stances against war. Schroeder made campaign promises never to join any movement for war against Iraq. Chirac, it has been written, is more concerned with his legacy in the history books and France’s future rule in international politics. Both leaders have attacked newspapers (at the expense of Freedom of Press) for making dispariging remarks about the leaders. Furthermore, both countries have populations that are quite opposed to war (or rather, opposed to whatever America wants to do, but that’s perhaps another issue in and of itself).
I see mostly eye-to-eye with you on the Iraq issue (perhaps for different reasons), and I agree with you that it is in France’s and Germany’s best interests to stand AGAINST Iraq on this issue. But I think that it’s terribly unrealistic to expect France and Germany to “see the light” and pull an about-face to stand with us on this issue. If we (you, me, America) want to get anything done in regards to Iraq, we need to acknowledge this, and do some delicate politicing in the EU to try to smooth things over. The only person with ANY credibility abroad is Colin Powell, and even he has become rather hawkish over the last month or two. All I’m saying is I agree with you, but let’s be realistic and consider the odds of France and Germany coming around on their own..
No, they won’t do an about-face, but they could abstain from this next vote. That way they could oppose war without making the absurd statement that Iraq has in fact complied with 1441. This action would be consistent with opposing war, but they wouldn’t be standing in our way, either.
Alright.. I’ll buy that