Much is already being said about the latest U.S. attempt, still in its infancy, to try to get some U.N. involvement in the building of a new country that would still go by the old name of Iraq. The Washington Post goes so far--and probably correctly--as to join the U.N. story with the Administration’s attempt to add about $60 billion to the costs of Iraq’s reconstruction. The Administration’s critics are saying that this proves that the President’s policy "to go it alone in Iraq" (as if the participation of 29 countries is the same as alone) has failed, and that they are attempting something that they failed at some months ago. They pretend that troops troops from India, Bangladesh, and Norway, will be able to do what U.S. have not yet been able to do. Some also assume that countries like Pakistan and Egypt really do want to send troops to Iraq, and that they will eagerly do so once the U.N. umbrella is put in place. That is poppycock, of course.
What the Administration is trying to do, as far as I can tell, is no different than what they tried to do from the start: try to get U.N. backing for our policy. This could allow some countries a bit of political cover to either send some troops, some aid, or even money, because it would lend some "authority" to our policies that we currently don’t have in some parts of the world. And it would waylay some of the current and upcoming domestic arguments against the Administration’s handling of the war. Also, it would allow some countries to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that will exists both in the reconstitution of Iraq, and after. They want their bankers on the ground. And that’s fine, we should understand their interest and work with it as best as we can.
I don’t really have a problem with this latest attempt at trying to get the U.N.’s blessing. As long, of course, as we don’t give up anything fundamental; compromise on everything but the one big thing: the creation of a new and moderate regime in Iraq and making sure that our hands our free for the anti-terror war, within and without Iraq (inlcuding the Middle East, of course). That the President’s domestic opponents will use this to try to prove that their scepticism about Iraq was correct, is, for now, irrelevant. Of course they will do that. But, it also must be said, that just because Bush’s policy in Iraq is being criticized by those whose judgement we are given no reason to trust, it does not mean that the policy cannot justly be criticized. Clearly, in some ways it has not been as successful as it could have been. But we’ll get to that criticism (which to my mind is relatively minor, by the way) on another day.
And I want to add one more thing on this latest U.N. effort: it is not predestined to work! It may not work. It is possible that many countries--or just France or Russia would be sufficient--will oppose it. Indeed, if I have been reading France’s foreign minister
correctly, he willwant to oppose it. And, if de Villepin, decides to oppose it, it will be a heavy blow less to our policy in Iraq, than to our so-called alliance. Because if the French continue to oppose America’s power in the world, it will be clear even to those who have been blind that these two U.N. exercises have been understood by the French to be exercises in strategy--in the highest form of geopolitical strategy--and they will have decided to be in opposition to us. And the same could be said of Russia, who, it goes almost without saying, is the great power who has lost the most through our victory in Iraq. They have lost a client state in whom they invested much; their last bastion in the Middle East. The opposition of either country would be a very big deal. And, this "indelicate topic," as an old teacher of mine once called it, of the strategic overtones at play here will become a very big deal indeed. So, keep your eye on the diplomatic activity in the vicinity of the U.N. over the next few weeks.
Here is the full text of Secretary of State Powell’s speech and press conference on this issue.