U.S. needs U.N. OK to make war credible | VailDaily.com

U.S. needs U.N. OK to make war credible

Alan Braunholtz

Going to war shouldn’t be easy. While the nature of Saddam Hussein looks to make the decision all but assured, we are not playing the diplomatic game too well at the moment.

Though we don’t think we need the U.N., we are strong enough to turn our backs and go it alone, most of the world feels the U.N. is important. The U.N. stands as a symbol for global order and international law, both reassuring to small, weak countries. Large countries making up their own rules sets a scary precedent (ask Taiwan).

My feeling is that most of our allies’ objections are attempts to lever a more multilateral world view from our government. Our foreign policy is coming off as insular and imperialistic. We’ve rejected the Kyoto treaty on global warming (some Pacific island nations will disappear because of this and poor nations will suffer disproportionately); obstructed a bio-weapons treaty (we don’t want inspectors here, though the use of our own anthrax here suggests our labs aren’t perfect); and scuppered small arms and land mines talks – to name a few international concerns.

Add to this the new national security manifesto quietly released last September. This states 1) that our armed forces will be strong enough to dissuade any nation from even attempting to rival us. 2) We will act to advance U.S. interests anywhere in the world. And 3) we’ll reserve the right to make preventative strikes (including the use of nuclear weapons) against anyone seen as a threat or potential threat to U.S. interests. The document also makes free trade a “moral principle” and pushes lower tax rates globally.

The scope and ambiguity of this doctrine probably worries the world.

Are we going to use our superpower status to improve the world or merely for our own selfish interests? Ironically, some of our greatest critics have a history of abusing their own economic and military power for selfish interests whenever they could.

Getting rid of Saddam would improve the world, but even clear cases of “good” versus “evil” aren’t really. Invading Iraq without clear provocation is wrong. To do nothing – allowing Saddam to obtain weapons of mass destruction and threaten his own people, neighboring countries and ourselves – is also wrong. Sanctions and inspections may prevent him from doing this, but they also condemn the Iraqi people to continuing starvation, disease and terror.

Removing a dangerous tyrant with a proven desire to use weapons of mass destruction and disregard for international law is a good thing. It becomes even better if we also commit to rebuilding Iraq with the chance of creating a real democracy there.

The continuing problems in Afghanistan illustrate how large a

task this is. So what if such a democracy disturbs our autocratic friends in Saudi Arabia? A good thing is a good thing.

Commitment to democracy applies to all countries. We shouldn’t pick and choose.

I hope that when the war comes, the U.N. sanctions it and that it is an international act of law and not only a U.S. one. Europe and the U.S. need to be closer in thought and action. The U.S. needs to learn European diplomacy, but Europe also needs to improve and use their military power.

The fact that Europe could do nothing in Bosnia and Kosovo is shameful. For the world’s rich nations to complacently sit behind their diplomatic walls and expect the U.S. to be the world’s enforcer whenever diplomacy fails is not only wrong but also encourages the U.S. toward a unilateralist view. You have to pay to play. Multilateralism works both ways. The fight against Al Qaeda illustrates this. No democracy has any common ground with Al Qaeda. There is nothing to negotiate. No one country can succeed in this fight. Multilateral force is the only solution here.

Regardless of how the U.N. acts, the U.S. will have several staunch allies in Iraq. One of them, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, strongly believes in an ethical view that the rich democracies have a duty to try to make the world a better place.

The real test for this comes after any war. Battling “evil” is the easy part. Making sure we do “good” afterward is much more challenging. I hope our foreign policy is up to it.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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