War advocates are loudly complaining about the United Nations, which they allege stands in the way of a justified American attack on Iraq. Some say the U.S. should ignore the U.N. and act unilaterally. And yet, much of their case for war against Iraq hinges on Saddam Hussein’s violations of United Nation resolutions. So while they holler about Hussein’s disregard for the UN, they would like to see the United States itself disregard the UN – all with the ironic goal of upholding UN compliance and legitimacy.
These hawks also seem to ignore the times the United States has defied the U.N., such as failing even to pay its dues. This double standard is clearer when we consider that some hawks don’t think the United States should even be in the U.N. – though the U.S. should presumably enforce its resolutions.
And then we have the doves. Many of them – the exceptions mainly being America-First-conservatives and libertarian non-interventionists – argue that the United States should "let the UN inspections work," and that if the U.S. acts unilaterally against Iraq it will in itself be in contempt of international law.
And yet, many of these same pro-United Nations doves have for years protested the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, which they claim have killed over one million innocent Iraqis. Such an atrocity would disrupt their belief in the righteousness of international law, one would think.
So we have pro-war individuals who now denounce the UN for not allowing the United States to enforce its resolutions – they hate the UN but selectively embrace its decrees. And we have anti-war folks who applaud the UN for slowing down the war effort – even as they mourn the hundreds of thousands of casualties they attribute to its sanctions.
Soon the UN Security Council may give into the hawks’ agenda. If this happens the war advocates will again hail the UN as an international community on the side of justice – and the doves who relied on the UN to prevent military action will quietly swallow their disappointment.
The United Nations is no flawless organization, no paragon of truth, no exemplary model for foreign policies. It is an international coalition of governments – each with its own priorities and politically motivated agendas. It’s hypocritical and foolish for those who once decried the UN to use its resolutions to justify war with Iraq – or for antiwar activists to rely on the UN to bring about peace and justice in a region they believe has suffered the worst of UN policy.
Instead, we should support or oppose the war on the basis of national security and global stability – or else resign ourselves to countless arguments over the U.N.’s opinion of the day.
For the doves, this means Bush’s disregard for the UN ceases to hold any merit as an argument against war. For the hawks, it means that Saddam’s disregard for the UN fails as an argument for it.