Go to war or the UN is history


Germany and France have dealt a severe blow to international law. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441 to ensure that Iraq has complied with its disarmament obligations under 12-year-old Resolution 687. Now, the twin powers of the European Union are telling petty thugs around the world that international condemnation is not to be taken seriously.

Iraq obfuscated its non-compliance with the initial resolution through a variety of creative and brutal means. The Security Council finally decided that enough was enough, and that Iraq’s weapons program must be dismantled. When the international community issues a powerful statement like Resolution 1441, it must stand by it or lose all credibility.

The Franco-German alliance has decided that credibility is overrated and that the United Nations should be the supine Milquetoast it has been mocked as since its inception. Inspections thus far have been a charade. The burden under 1441 is on Iraq to prove that it has complied with its disarmament obligations, yet so far Iraq’s cooperation is best analyzed by contrasting the “open hands” policy Iraq claims to follow and the preliminary issuance of death certificates for Iraqi scientists and their families.

Despite the utter failure of all efforts to confirm compliance in the face of Iraqi intransigence, both France and Germany, as well as several other European states, insist that further inspections are the appropriate response. They dismiss the past 12 years of impotent inspections as a “rush to war.” By refusing to take any effective action to stop Iraq’s weapons program, the Continental obstructionists have cut the legs out from under any future institutional international intervention.

America’s commitment to internationalism is remarkable. Other states cooperate out of necessity. They lack the individual capacity, and often even the collective capacity when the U.S. declines to participate, to solve international problems (recall the debacle in the former Yugoslavia). Only through international fora can these states have a substantial effect on the course of world events.

The United States, on the other hand, could go it alone with no practical problems. America has substantially more international support than it needs right now. We can and may have to depose Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq without any European assistance. At the least sign of Continental interference, we could send a squadron of B-2 bombers over to retract the Marshall Plan and nobody could stop us. But we choose to constrain our actions and work through the laborious procedures of the United Nations.

By undermining the duly adopted resolutions of the United Nations, European leaders signal to America that working through international institutions is a fruitless endeavour. In so doing, those countries go a long way toward removing themselves from the world stage. If the United Nations ceases to matter, so do Germany, France and the rest of Europe.

European appeasers do not view themselves as undermining the international order. They cast themselves as defenders of international law against the imperialist ambitions of an America gone mad. Given the legal history leading up to the current threats of force against Iraq, this interpretation is flatly wrong. It is Germany and France, not the United States, that are defying international law and undermining its foundations.

Germany has a history of dishonoring international agreements. Significantly, Poland and the Czech Republic are among the many European states standing alongside America against Saddam’s brutal dictatorship and naked aggression. While Germans claim that they have put their past behind them, Chancellor Schroeder and Fischer are uncomfortably supportive of a totalitarian dictator who enjoys gassing his own people. Germany’s current anti-American stance stems, however, not from Hitlerian aspirations but rather from domestic political necessity and a desire to assert a European authority independent of the United States.

Gaullist resistance has similar roots. The only leverage France exercises internationally is its veto on the Security Council. France’s only means of appearing powerful and, perhaps more importantly, feeling powerful, is to flex what little muscle it has. In addition, France’s economic and energy interests in Iraq may color its approach.

Should Franco-German opposition to effective action in Iraq continue, the United States will no longer operate in the context of the United Nations. Instead, future American actions will feature multilateral agreements with regional powers and Western countries who want to be part of the solution. The U.N. will collapse further into insignificance. Its peacekeeping and security missions will lie fallow, and the rump United Nations will be a hollow carcass of Marxism and anti-Semitism.

International institutions such as the United Nations provide weaker states opportunities to influence world affairs in a hegemonic world. The leaders of France and Germany may render themselves irrelevant through their short-sighted recalcitrance. Their failure to take international law seriously harms their own countries far more than it does the United States. Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac must rethink their priorities and act in the best interest of both the world and themselves.

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