I am glad to see the United States still making an effort to get UN backing before using force to disarm Iraq. I believe that if the United States abandons the effort and goes to war leading a “coalition of the willing” significant damage will be done to the reputation and prestige of the United States and the effectiveness of the United Nations.
While I agree with the current administration that Saddam Hussein’s time has run out and he needs to yield to the authority of the UN or be removed from power, I think that it is in the best interests of the United States to press on for United Nations backing before initiating military action. That poses a difficult problem at this point however. With some 200+ thousand troops in place and awaiting orders, procrastination is costly. One might be tempted to say that the United State positioned those troops of its own accord and should be willing to bear the cost which is true. However, Iraqi compliance to date is due in large part to the present of those forces as acknowledged in Hans Blix’s report to the UN, however veiled that acknowledgement may be.
The United Nations, in my opinion, has the more significant problem. In 1991 the UN passed resolutions that dictated a number of terms that Iraq was to adhere to as a condition of a cease fire. Subsequent resolutions have been passed primarily as a reaction to Iraq’s failure to abide by those terms. The sum affects of the UN’s actions on Iraq to date have been to make it difficult but not impossible for Mr. Hussein to gather and build new weapons and to drastically deteriorate the quality of life for the average Iraqi. Mind you, the average Iraqi didn’t have it all that good to start with. A number of groups throughout the world have expressed deep concern over the number children who die each month as a result of UN sanctions that prevent medical supplies from entrying Iraq. Many groups have expressed deep concern over the steady rise in illness and death as a result of the deterioration of Iraq’s infrastructure. Water supply systems, waste removal and treatment systems, etc. require chemicals that are not allowed into Iraq because they can be used to make chemical and/or biological weapons. Yet there is no evidence that these sanctions have had any significant affect on Saddam Hussein or his power base. Saddam Hussein would have us believe that the Iraq people support him 100%. In short, UN efforts and actions have been completely ineffective in achieving their stated objective.
The United Nations has, or at the very least is developing, a crediblity problem. The UN’s resolutions have had little affect on Saddam Hussein and his power base to date. Save American military might, Saddam Hussein has, at this point, little reason to pay much attention to the UN at all. If the United States acts on its own and without the backing of the United Nations the precedent will be set to ignore the United Nations and pay attention to the United States. For the United Nations has only its resolutions while the United States brings to the party its resolve and one hell of a big stick.