Predictably foolish article in today’s Opinionjournal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
The Charter of the United Nations is categorical. "In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations," it confers on the Security Council "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security." That responsibility can seldom have weighed more heavily on the members of the council than it does this week. Within the next day or two, they have to make a momentous choice.
The reason this question rarely weighed heavily on the UN is that for most of its history the members who are now swearing allegiance to the notion of Security Council primacy have been running around the world doing as they please.
The context of that choice is an issue whose importance is by no means confined to Iraq: the threat posed to all humanity by weapons of mass destruction. The whole international community needs to act together to curb the proliferation of these terrible weapons, wherever it may be happening.
He continues by noting the particularly serious threat Iraq’s WMD pose. But then (you knew there had to be a but):
All over the world, people want to see this crisis resolved peacefully. They are alarmed about the great human suffering that war always causes, whether it is long or short. And they are apprehensive about the longer-term consequences that this particular war might have.
No Mr. Secretary General, the peaceniks don’t want this situation resolved
peacefully because reasonable people understand that it cannot be resolved peacefully. The French and other anti-war groups want it ended
peacefully, a critical distinction.
Then he brings up the Palestinians. I’m surprised it took him this long.
They fear that it will lead to regional instability and economic crises; and that it may--as war so often does--have unintended consequences that produce new dangers. Will it make the fight against terrorism, or the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, even harder? Will it sow deep divisions between nations and peoples of different faiths? Will it compromise our ability to work together in addressing other common concerns in the future?
Those are serious questions, and the answers must be carefully considered.
Yes, those are (mostly) serious considerations. Yet no one that I’ve seen is actually attempting to answer these questions. Instead, like Annan today, they are throwing out their “deep concerns.” War often does have unintended consequences, but simply stating this truism is not a legitimate argument against war.
He goes on to demand that “war must always be a last resort” and asks:
Has that moment arrived? That is the decision that the members of the Security Council now face. It is a grave decision indeed. If they fail to agree on a common position, and some of them then take action without the council's authority, the legitimacy of that action will be widely questioned, and it will not gain the political support needed to ensure its long-term success, after its military phase.
If, on the other hand, the members of the council can come together, even at this late hour, and ensure compliance with their earlier resolutions by agreeing on a common course of action, then the council's authority will be enhanced, and the world will be a safer place.
Of course if the council can “come together . . . and ensure compliance” the council’s prestige will be enhanced, but how do they do that? Note that he, like the rest of the anti-war crowd, doesn’t actually propose a workable solution. A “common course of action”? Wasn’t that 1441? 1441 didn’t seem to work great in compelling Iraqi disarmament.
Time for Obligatory Palestinian Reference #2:
Let's remember that the crisis in Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. What happens there will have a profound impact on other issues of great importance. The broader our consensus on how to deal with Iraq, the better the chance that we can come together again and deal effectively with other burning conflicts in the world, starting with the one between Israelis and Palestinians. We all know that only a just resolution of that conflict can bring any real hope of lasting stability in the region.
No, only by getting rid of the region's barbaric dictators can their be lasting stability.
But then finally:
Beyond the Middle East, the success or failure of the international community in dealing with Iraq will crucially affect its ability to deal with the no less worrying developments on the Korean peninsula. And it will affect our work to resolve the conflicts that are causing so much suffering in Africa, setting back the prospects for stability and development that that continent so badly needs.
And on this point I totally agree. If we back down and allow Saddam to weasel his way out of his commitment to fully disarm of WMD, what chance do we have of forcing North Korea to do the same? Ah, but I see Mr. Annan, there still is a chance that we can get Saddam to disarm peacefully if we really, really mean it this time, right?