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Saturday, March 15, 2003

Stupid Platitudes Repeated by Stupid People or Gullible People or by Calculating Ideologues about the Iraqi Controversy

1) American Unilateralism.

The term, by now a full-of-beans cliche, is used reflexively, even by media reporters who should know better --- no hope for the rigidly never-say-die pc academic left and their adoring student automatons; might as well try teaching a paunchy, over-the-hill grey mare to be a champion steeple-chaser --- whenever the prospect arises that the US will go to war to destroy the mass-murdering, megalomaniacal Saddamite regime in Iraq without UN Security Council approval. Huh? Whenever I hear the tag invoked, I shake my head and slap my ears. Are these people serious?

Consider just three among many problems with the term.

     For one thing, any UN approval of a second resolution has been ruled out for weeks now once the Jacques Chirac and the French government decided to veto anything resembling an ultimatum to Iraq . . . which is exactly what Security Council Resolution 1441 stipulates: clearly, explicitly, and in repetitive teminology if the Saddamite regime didn't comply "totally," "immediately," and "unconditionally" to disarm and let the inspectors confirm this. The burden of proof here was laid on the Saddamites, not the inspectors. They were to show with convincing proof that they had disarmed, where, when, and how, or commit themselves immediately to doing so. At every turn, though, the French government since 1441 was passed last November has done its utmost to frustrate any revival of the resolution's thrust --- right down, according to British UN delegates, to a refusal even to "reaffirm" Security Council 1441, nothing more to achieve anyway now that Jacques Chirac has dug his heels in and says he will veto any resolution that justifies war.
No surprise to readers of the buggy prof's previous commentaries here.

French policy throughout the conflict over Iraq the last year has been primarily geared to stymie, frustrate, and reduce American influence and power, not to disarm Iraq's regime whose main trading partner is French, whose officials can boast of only one NATO country retaining an embassy in Baghdad, and whose favorite by far oil partner and beneficiary happens to be the French, especially TotalFiniElf. The turning point for Colin Powell, who thought he had persuaded the French to sign onto a compromise position --- embodied in 1441 --- was January 20th of this year. At a UN Security Council meeting of the foreign ministers of the member-states and Powell, he suddenly found that the French had reversed themselves, indicating that in their view the inspection process should be extended and extended and war avoided under almost any circumstances. That was before any inspectors' report had been given to the UN, please note . . . just as, recall, Paris rejected the latest British proposal last week with tests and a deadline for Iraq even before Baghdad had commented on it. In a flash, Powell --- the EU's favorite member of the Bush administration ---recognized he had been sandbagged by Paris. He returned to Washington, according to the latest LA Times report "furious" with the French foreign minister, Villepin and French duplicity. Relations have soured raidly ever since. Specifically, as French intransigence built up over, Villepin tried to mend fences personally with Powell. He asked for a meeting on March 6th, just 10 tens ago. According to the Times report, Powell was so put off by the man's unctuous behavior that he replied with a soldierly "expletive"

     For another thing, the US government has tried for six months now --- ever since President Bush agreed to take the Iraqi conflict to the UN --- to convince the Security Council (meaning France and Russia, China likely to abstain) to make the UN a meaningful institution for dealing with grave security and human rights problems, or otherwise be consigned like the League of Nations to a hot-air debating society, nothing more. For the US and its allies, this means in the Iraqi case an overriding existential definition of a clear and serious security threat posed by Iraq and its WMD programs and its support for terrorism. Observe: an existential issue. President Bush obtained overwhelming Congressional support for that definition. Right now, 55% of Americans --- weary of endless haggling at the UN about a government that has violated 17 UN resolutions for disarming over the last 12 years (17!) --- are willing to go to war without UN approval, a change in the last few weeks. As for Prime Ministers Blair and Aznar (Spain), they clearly share the same view as the Bush administration, even more convincingly in fact. Why? Public opinion in Britain and Spain is overwhelmingly opposed to going to war without UN support, yet neither Aznar nor Blair has wavered here in the least. Their entire political careers are at stake. An arrogant imperial power, acting unilaterally, would not spend six months in futile negotiations with a duplicitous ally, or convincing tiny countries fully removed from the conflict with no influence whatever beyond their happening to be rotating members of the Security Council out of their regions, when an existential security threat confronts it and its allies.

      For a third thing, the US, the UK, and Spain will rightly claim that Security Resolution 1441 that stipulated Iraq was in "material breach" for not disarming --- a fancy diplomatic euphemism for a casus belli, a cause for war --- is sufficient UN authority to disarm Saddam. The same resolution, moreover, doesn't require a second stage vote. If the Bush administration supported a second resolution the last two weeks or so, it was most likely to help out Tony Blair, little more. For that matter, Security Council resolution 687 --- adopted by the UN a little more than a month after the Gulf War in April 1991 --- clearly calls on Iraq to disarm fully and quickly, as well as pay Kuwait restitution for firing its oil wells and causing war damage, repatriate all prisoners of war, and clearly improve its human rights record. On all four scores, 12 years later, Iraq remains in "material breach."l

      As a final thing the US will not be going to war unilaterally in any meaning of the term. In Europe, It has the active military support of Great Britain, and the strong diplomatic support of 5 other EU NATO democratic countries that leave Germany and France and wavering Belgium a minority; to say nothing of the further support of 13 East European countries, all democratizing or seeking to, with 11 of them either in NATO now or slated to join this year. In the entire NATO area of Europe, to put this differently, there are 23 European member-states, and 20 have actively spoken out in support of the Bush policy or don't oppose it.

Nor is this all. Australia will be joining the fight: last the buggy prof heard, it was a solidly democratic country whose dead soldiers dot the cemeteries of France, like those of the other English-speaking countries, in fighting against militarism and fascism in two world wars there. Last week, to top it off, Japan --- conquered and liberated from its own militarism by the US --- has actively supported the US diplomatically and gone as far to reproach France for its rigid stance. As for the Middle East, the gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and (more quietly) Egypt have been supporting the US war effort.

Observe finally that the Bush administration has never used military force on any scale unilaterally in the two years it has been in office. The major use --- against Taliban Afghanistan --- was fully endorsed by NATO, and could draw on some UN authority too. All other US military personnel in operation are special forces operating on the soil of countries whose governments have invited them (with the exception of US and UK special forces in Iraq for months now). Period. All the chatter to the contrary is an urban myth, poll-parroted by silly shallow uninformed people, including most of those in the EU media and even by sillier ignoramuses in the so-called peace-movement's hard-core, when they have time from their other name-calling about Bush's Nazi tactics to refer to other alleged sins.


2) UN Authority as an Indispensable Pre-condition of Legitimacy for War

It's strange, this reptitively invoked authority . . . not least on the part of Paris and Berlin, no? Both countries actively went to war alongside the US and Britain and other NATO members 4 years ago this month against Yugoslavia over Kosovo; the German Green-Social Democratic government of the day, led by the same Fischer-Schroeder team in charge right now, went as far as to send German troops into battle for the first time since 1945. Whence comes this aburptly new and exquisite sensitivity to UN authority in Paris and Berlin these days? In a rapid conversion to collective security through the Security Council that would be the envy of religious missionaries seeking to save the souls of the heathen, the same French-German duo now assures us with lip-smacking piety as they invoke their magical moral principle of the moment--- aka, holier-than-thou, which plays well with the German electorate and the French public --- that UN authority is sacrosanct, the Be-in and End-all of diplomacy and security in the modern world. No, I take it back. Berlin's position is, if anything, more hypocritical still. As the Schroeder government tiresomely repeats --- to he applause of the German public, anxious to demonstrate the "New German Way" in foreign policy --- it won't support war whatever the Security Council does! Never mind that in the process as Paris and Berlin maneuver to block the US and its allies that they have badly split the EU --- alienating the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark --- and left themselves isolated in NATO. Principle, we're told, takes precedence!

Apparently, for those of us with a more surefooted knowledge of French foreign policy and its na´ve German convert, the logic of their postions reduces to the overlapping belief that Paris and Berlin will go to war without UN Security Council approval whenever they think their own security interests are at stake, but will stand-pat, like the modern-day Luthers of diplomacy --- "Here I stand; I can do no other" --- when their own allies see their security jeopardized gravely, in existential terms, and they don't.

As a general rule, no one expects solid allies to act this way. If Berlin and Paris don't see their security threatened by Saddam Hussein, as allies they would ordinarily just remain silent. But of course that isn't the name-of-the-game, high-stakes style, in Paris and now Berlin . . . the key issue at stake not the threat of Iraq's WMD programs in the hands of a malignant narcissist autocrat, who has defied 18 UN Security Council resolutions for 12 years, and its disarmament --- something France wrote off as unimportant in the mid-1990s in Iraq, and Berlin about the same time --- but stymieing and reducing US influence in Europe and elsewhere.


3) France remains a good ally: the dispute over Iraq only about a differing opinion on one issue, nothing more.

And the buggy prof is Paul Revere ready to ride out tonight and warn that the Redcoats are coming. The reality: French policy for two centuries has been to restore French power and influence and prestige, ever since the second and total defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Its main adversaries, save for the Germans between 1871 and 1945 --- and even then, not in the colonial struggles that brought France and Britain near to war in the Fashoda incident in East Africa in the late 1890s --- and off and on in the cold war, have been and remain the so-called Anglo-Saxon powers, the British and now the US. If, since 1871, French policy sees a common enemy that is greater in its estimate, it will ally with London or Washington or, if in alliance, act like an ally. That happened in the cold war starting in 1947 --- two years after the French were given a small occupation zone in conquered Germany by the US and the British (and a seat in the UN Security Council), when Paris joined the Anglo-Saxon democracies and helped support a new plan to democratize West Germany because it now saw the Soviet position in Eastern Europe as more threatening than a revived German militarism --- and since 1966 when President de Gaulle withdrew from the NATO integrated military structure and thrust NATO and US forces off French soil in the early 1980s during the controversy over US missiles in West Germany to offset Russian theater missiles (SS-17s), and . . . well, that's about it in the cold war period.

Oppositely, beginning with the Franco-German treaty in 1963, Paris has sought to use the EU --- called the European Economic Union in those days --- as a means of leveraging French power by grafting West Germany on as a junior partner (trammeled by memories of WWII, its total military integration into NATO, and its renunciation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons while Paris had its own nuclear force) . . . no, the buggy prof retracts this, in 1963 Paris revived an earlier scheme of the late 1940s to create a European third-force independent of the Soviets or the US. To that end, de Gaulle twice vetoed Britain's efforts to join the EEC in 1963 and 1967. He also announced that the French nuclear force was independently targeted in all directions, meaning as much against the US as against the Soviet bloc. In 1986, Paris refused overflight rights to US planes sent from Britain to bomb Colonel Quadaffi's Libya for terrorism. And in 1989, failing with London to find a way to stop German reunification, Paris sought to bind the new Germany further in EU integration by proposing the euro-system and a common Eurobank, depriving Bonn of its main financial power in Europe. In the late 1990s, French-German relations deteriorated rapidly as the Germans decided they were tired of being a junior partner and tired of lopsided payments to the EU budgetary system that benefited especially French farmers. As for French policy toward Iraq, we have said enough in our previous commentaries about its becoming Baghdad's main patron abroad in the late 1990s.

But doesn't France remain a member of NATO?

Of course, it does so by balancing within the alliance. The technical term is "binding," part and parcel of realist international relation theory: seeking, as Paris did with the Deutsche Mark and Germany in the EU after German reunification in 1989, to influence a more powerful country by joining an alliance or regional group while deciding what to do on its own and keeping the more powerful member stonewalled by procedural complexities if necessary . . . including, as happened last month, vetoing with Berlin and Brussels a NATO decision to send supplies to Turkey, a fellow NATO country threatened by the prospect of war. At least Berlin and Brussels relented, frightened at the prospect of outright NATO dissolution, a change of heart sealed when all the NATO countries met in the military committee and decided to help Turkey, a NATO agency the French aren't members of. France, it's only fair to add, did offer in 1995 to rejoin NATO's integrated military command, but only if it were given command of NATO's Mediterranean region, which meant putting it technically in charge of the US Fifth Fleet. A good idea, said one US wag. In turn, the US ought to urge the French to put their naval forces under Greek command.

In the process of all this, of course, Paris's clever opportunism over Iraq --- while scoring points with popular audiences maybe in Europe or the Arab world --- has badly divided the EU and NATO. The EU is further away than ever from a common foreign and security policy, itself never a likely prospect beyond hot-air proclamations out of Brussels anyway. And NATO has to find a way now to operate even as the semblance of a military alliance by isolating France effectively.

That, note right off, is exactly what NATO's other governments have done --- Germany's included. After the French, Germans, and Belgians buried a proposal to send military supplied to Turkey, something that caused an unprecedented crisis inside the alliance, the latter two states backed down, and all the other existing 17 members of the alliance met in the Defence Planning Committee . . . part of the integrated military command that France withdrew from in 1966. The result? NATO overturned the earlier decision and, even more important --- since it operates by consensus --- found a perfect alternative for circumventing Paris's veto power. The wider result? Clever French diplomacy has once again backfired, blowing up in Chirac's face and leaving the country isolated inside NATO itself.


4) France and the German left government's true aims: Stymieing the US.

A no-brainer as my undergrads would say: to undercut US influence in Europe and globally. Realignment of the major and second-tier powers --- some at least --- was only to be expected in general terms by anyone whose views of international relations aren't befogged by various liberal abstractions --- eg, institutional liberalism which argues in principle that concrete organizations and rules as of the NATO sort or the EU sort will facilitate cooperation, or something called constructivism that amounts to some vague ideas culled from radical epistemology known as the "social construction of reality" and even vaguer terms like changes in "state-identity" above and beyond a revolution as in Russia in 1918 or 1991. Hegel might have made sense of a state's identity: he reified the term, treating it as an organic reality. Heidegger might have too. Those of us who like to use words more carefully, especially concepts, can only be left in a mood of head-shaking wonder here.

To clarify these two theoretical approaches:

     FIrst constructivist theory: After more than a decade of academic work in the worst sense of the term, it remains a mishmash of vague sociological and cultural concepts, pious hopes, and strained reasoning. It has never been shown how it can make predictions in the security arena, nor how it adds anything to the long-standing, much more respectable decision-making framework that all along, ever since the pathbreaking work of Richard Snyder and his group back in the late 1950s, has emphasized that the distribution of power, the concrete behavior of other states, and specific actions are not going to impact all other states equally, through some imagined abstract rational calculus. Such concrete short- and mid-term influences external to a state's policymaking process have to be understood as stimuli streaming into the policy process and interpreted and made sense of by key political and military and diplomatic policymakers, usually working with shared mind-sets. What's more, those mind-sets will not easily change even if the stimuli in the short term run counter to their built-in assumptions. In short, shared ideas and ambitions and operational codes --- usually for great powers reflected in patterns of grand strategy but adapted to day-to-day adjustments --- do count in the short-term and long-term. They may even be decisive.

No realist, observe quickly, has ever said differently.

Realism deals with gross patterns of state behavior, exactly as economic theory does: the latter doesn't talk about General Motors as opposed to Toyota or Renault or Volkswagen, but rather the behavior of "the firm" in market structures that reflect "perfect competition", "monopolistic competition (duopoly, oligopoly), or "monopoly." Realism, simiilarly, talks about great power behavior or mid-power behavior, and why wars in general might occur, or arms races, or security dilemmas, and why these are built into an international system of self-help and power politics. Some realists, it's true, try to pin down a model of general motives for game-theoretical purposes, similar to what economists do with "the firm". Just as firms seek to maximize profits (or market stability), so states are said to want to maximize power or security or maximized power in order to maximize security, all depending. None of this is helpful in dealing with short-term state behavior.

As it happens, predictions based on such modeling may occasionally work, but in a sort of serendipity fashion . . . or ex-post facto, squeezing and refashioning key decision to fit a rational set of calculations, including strategic interaction involving all the state actors involved. At best, to put this tangibly, any version of realism can only predict one thing with certainty: just as firms in a competitive market that don't track and respond effectively to competitors will lose profits and eventually go bankrupt, so bad consequences in the long run will overtake states whose policymakers continue to mistake the realities of power and its distribution and relation to threats, and who don't adjust their goals and ambitions accordingly. They will be harmed significantly. Only, unlike with national firms that can be bailed out by governments through subsidies or trade protection, states that don't understand and meet effectively their serious rivals cannot rely necessarily on any overarching political authority in the international system to save them from their follies.

In particular, overreaching by greedy aggressive states is the most dangerous of policies in the long-run. anyway as a general thing: it is likely to lead to an overwhelmingly power counter-alliance and the loss of independence or the destruction of the state's independence or internal revolution: witness Napoleon in 1815, the Kaiser and his militarist advisers in 1918, Hitler and the other fascists and militarist Japan in 1945, and the Soviet Union in 1991. Underreaching --- call it unwise appeasement (as opposed to reasonably trying to solve concrete conflicts by give-and-take) --- can be dangerous too: witness WWII with its 50 million dead, as opposed to what would have happened had the British, French, and Americans joined together in the mid- and late-1930s to stop the aggressors before they were as powerful as they were. (Even then, note a problem with realism's chief prediction: these days, nobody can say with finality what "the long run" means, any more, by the way, than economists have ever been able to pin this down, and for a similar reason: Significant events, including war, trade, and flows of information, are profoundly influenced by ongoing revolutions in the technologies of information, communication, and transportation. In 1815, the battle of New Orelans was fought months after American and British negotiators signed a peace in London: it took that long for the news to reach New Orleans. Today, as war looms with Iraq, Bush and Blair can be in constant contact with any of their military heads half way around the world.)

Such is constructivism in IR, at least in shorthand form. For the time being, it amounts to little more than fancified Hegelian and sociological jargon for liberal or radical hopes to overcome power politics by stressing ideas and identities --- whose identity (exactly what is a change in state identity apart from a domestic revolution?, usually occurring after a loss in war), whose ideas, and why for that matter are ideas always compared favorable with power realities? Fascism. Nazism. Soviet Communism; Maoist Communist; Pol Pot Communism; North Korean Communism. Islamo-fascism; Radical fundamentalist Islamism. These are all powerful ideas at work in international relations for the last century or so, no?

On a wider historical plane, only one set of ideas seems to be consistently related to long-term success in international relations, at any rate in the modern world as opposed to the bygone days of the Roman, Chinese, Persian, Egyptian, and Aztec empires: democratic liberalism. By far, since the industrial and democratric revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the two most successful countries --- destroying all major challengers, including the domestic political systems that nurtures them (Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler, militarist Japan, Fascist Italy, and Soviet Communism) --- are Great Britain and the US, both of whom have, unlike other dominant powers or challengers, never inspired an overwhelmingly counter-alliance. They have also been the most successful in developing rule-based economic institutions on the global scene, just as Anglo-American liberalism inspired the more ambitious League of Nations and United Nations, the latter's more specific functional agencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, or even at times limited peace-keeping created by the Security Council) doing good if limited work.


Second, institutional liberalism: a theory that argues that if states want to cooperate with one another --- but fear that cooperative agreements will be cheated on or lopsidedly reached (questions of what are called "relative gains") --- then joining something like the ruled-based WTO or IMF or NAFTA or the EU will help overcome these problems that inhere in international anarchy, where no fully institutionalized and effective judicial, police, legislative, and executive power exists for monitoring and implementing contractual arrangements, such as arms control or trade agreements. Come to that, a badly defeated state --- Saddamite Iraq --- has managed for 12 years to thwart the repeated demands of the Security Council to disarm . . . not that it will be getting away with these evasions much longer, its life now counted in days.

Note though. Theoretically and in concrete studies, institutional liberalism has dealt almost exclusively with economic and social cooperation on the part of states that, to repeat, want to cooperate. That means mainly on economic and social issues, such as trade or investment flows or environmental matters. Little has been done of a concrete statistical or case-study analysis to show that institutions per se can overcome serious challenges to their members relations when, for whatever reason, they fall on and begin to conflict over perceived threats once the distribution of power, global or regional, itself shifts markedly, and the ranks of the great and mid-tier powers change accordingly. What's more, it seems doubtful institutions could ever do this.

In effect, the dynamic root-forces at work in international relations work against it; once serious differences over the desirability of a global or regional power-laden, security-driven status-quo arise, questions of security and power and prestige will almost always take on a logic of their own and push aside existing patterns of cooperation for some of the members in alliances or a regional grouping. In particular, when the global or regional distribution of power changes drastically --- usually after a major war (such as in 1815, 1918, 1945, or in the cold war case, 1990) --- and overriding threats to security are no longer interpreted the same by major and second-tier states' policymakers --- then a realignment of some states at least will occur.

Witness the changes unfolding rapidly now in both NATO and the EU.

For the US, NATO has largely lost its military significance because the main threats, once Washington used American military power decisively in the Balkans in 1995 and 1995 and the Balkans have stabilized ever since, come from other places in the world, especially Islamo-fascist fundamentalism, Islamo-fascist terrorist networks (all increasingly interacting), and rogue states with WMD that are anti-western and hostile to the US, at a time when the American home-front is vulnerable to future terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. NATO II, the alliance that has emerged since 1990 --- thanks to US initiatives that were, as usual, denounced as na´ve and calculated to backfire --- has become a loose collective security organization to stabilize East Europe and encourage democracy there while guaranteeing the security of the new democracies, all grateful to the US lead these days as in the cold war. Some peacekeeping forces can come out of East Europe, and NATO II seems important to the US for diplomatic support and peacekeeping by whatever West European and East European allies are willing to send peacekeepers to places like Kosovo, Bosnia, or Afghanistan --- to say nothing of post-Saddamite Iraq. Otherwise, the US finds bilateral or small-group alliances with Britain and Australia far more important militarily, or increasingly with states like Musharraf's Pakistan, post-Taliban Afghanistan, Putin's Russia (on issues of joint concern), or India, or Japan. If, oppositely, the US and its NATO allies find reason for a common cause, then French obstruction will be circumvented in the future as it just was over Turkey: by convening the Defense Planning Committee that France has boycotted for 37 years now.


How these general observations apply to French behavior.

There is no reason to expect Paris's efforts at realignment to alter. No one less than the Foreign Minister today, Villepin, has said that his main objective daily is to increase French prestige globally. Berlin is different. For all the balmy castle-chasing adored by the German public, suddenly enthralled with the New German Way in foreign policy that looks even weirder than Don Quixote's attacks on windmills --- and about as effective --- there is major opposition to the Green-Social Democratic line, and not just from Christian Democrats alarmed at the implications for the American role in Europe, but in the SPD itself.

Is France a hostile country? No, but not a solid ally either. It is France, seeking to maximize French prestige, power, and influence as it has for two centuries and toward the US for decades now. When a common interest arises between Washington and Paris --- as it has in the war on terrorism --- there will be cooperation. Otherwise, the most predictable thing in the diplomatic orbit is that whatever government is in power in Paris, its main aim will be to thwart US initiatives and undercut American power where it can. The second most predictable thing: almost all cagy French efforts to that end will, as they've done in the past, leave France isolated or antagonizing not just the US but other EU and NATO countries.

As for the current upsurge of tweaking French noses and boycotting French products, this will past. There is nothing equivalent in the US to the systematically purveyed anti-Americanism that has become second-nature to most of the French intellectual, administrative, and policymaking class --- as the two recent books by Frenchmen on the subject effectively dissected (see the buggy commentary on this in late February, 2003). The reason there is no equivalent here: French anti-Americanism is essentially a continuation of anti-British and anti-Anglo-Saxon resentments centuries old; simultaneously, Americans are top-dog victors in IR and the French on a slope of decline in power and influence for two centuries; and there is nothing whatever equivalent to the daily powerful impact, for good or bad, of US culture in French life. The French elites feel besieged. They have for decades. There is little likelihood their views will change. By contrast, the French hardly cause a ripple in American life, and once the Iraqi war is over, French influence diplomatically will most probably recede to the ineffectual levels it has enjoyed in the past.


5) Collective Security Can Work If Only . . . If Only . . . If Only

And the buggy prof's Paul Revere ride tonight --- one lantern by land, two if by sea --- will bring the Minutemen out to the ultra-tony restaurants lining the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara tomorrow morning if only . . .

The efforts to apply collective security during the interwar period by the League of Nations were a total failure, and the illusions it generated among the left in Britain and other democracies only aided appeasement, making an eventual showdown with the fascist, Nazi, and Japanese militarists all the bloodier and destructive. The UN system was less ambitiously founded on collective security: hence the veto power lodged in the Security Council. Even so, collective action to go to war to defeat an aggressor or serious human-rights violator --- spelled out in article 1 of the UN Charter --- has occurred only twice in the last 58 years of its life: once in Korea in 1950, once in the Gulf war of 1991; and each time it was because the US, a superpower, took the lead and supplied the bulk of the firepower. Otherwise, the UN was irrelevant to the cold war, and UN peace-keeping efforts --- a much less ambitious undertaking, which is intended not to fight anybody, but to preserve a peace that is in place (or an armistice) --- have been abysmal failures in Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, and Bosnia in 1995. NATO went to war to avoid Russian and Chinese vetoes over Kosovo in 1999 --- no French or German hesitation then --- and the Security Council was irrelevant to destroying Taliban Afghanistan in late 2001.

Similarly, the UN has been essentially irrelevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not least because the Israelis do not regard the UN as a detached objective body, but one where 57 Muslim states and 22 Arab states --- including those with the largest oil resources in the world --- have lopsided influence. Only one country can influence the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that happens to be the US.


6) Why Pick on Iraq If Israel Is Also in Violation of the UN Security Council?

Odd how even professors teaching the Middle East parrot this line, not that most of them these days seem to be well-trained, rather partisans of the Arab world, its despotic governments, or alternatively radical fundamentalist movements as harbingers --- believe it or not --- of democratic civil society. In fact, with two exceptions, all the lopsided resolutions voted on by the UN Security Council are under chapter 6 of the UN Charter: not strictly binding, only recommendations. By contrast, all the resolutions regarding Iraq since 687 was adopted in April 1991 --- calling for full and rapid disarmament, restitution to Kuwait, the return of prisoners, and marked improvement in human rights --- are under chapter 7: strictly and legally binding.

The two exceptions in the Israeli case --- resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) --- find the Arabs in violation, not the Israelis. 338 simply repeats 242, which calls for 1) Israel trading land for peace (note: not THE land, but land), 2) recognition and peace with the Arab neighbors, and secure boundaries for Israel, and 3) settlement of the refugee problem. Note: refugee, no reference whatever in 242 or 338 to Palestinian refugees. Or any to the Palestinians period, it being assumed in 1967 that Syria or Jordan would speak for the Palestinians, the PLO not even recognized for several years more by the Arab states. Immediately after 242 was passed, the Arab states and the PLO met and rejected 242: no talks, no recognition, no peace with Israel. Period.

Since then, only Egypt (1977) and Jordan (1993) have done what 242 and 338 require: negotiate with Israel, recognize it, and sign a peace accord.


7) But Israel Is a Nuclear Power and So Why Not Syria, Iraq, and Iran?

Israel has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is in violation of no other treaty regarding its weapons, nor has it ever publicly acknowledge their existence. It has had them, however, for more than 40 years and never used them. Syria, Iraq, and Iran have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and are all in violation of it, and Iraq is obligated by 17 UN resolutions to disarm them and chemical and biological weapons too. None of these governments is remotely democratic: Syria is run by a gangster Mafioso Baathist party (inspired by Hitler), the clique in charge a tiny Alawite Muslim offshoot from the same tribal-clan; Iraq is led by a gangster megalomaniac Baathist Party (inspired by Hitler and under Saddam by Stalin), the clique in charge a tribal-clan group of Sunnis, themselves a 20% minority in Iraq, from Tikrit; and Iran's clerical-fascist hardliners have killed off, intimidated, or forced out of politics the more moderate political forces in the electoral system, while vetoing any legislation they don't want in the Council of Elders, or repressing and jailing any opponents thanks to their control of the courts, the police, the secret police, and the special military forces. And the Iranian constitution, like Nazi Germany, puts the supreme leader --- the chief Aytollah --- above all law: whatever he says or does is automatically the gospel truth. The big difference in Iran: the markedly pro-American nature of the population. Last October, the elected government ran a survey: 91% were severely critical of the mullah's theocratic fascism and 45% --- after 23 years of systematic propaganda --- supported the American hardline toward the Teheran government.

Besides pursuing WMD programs energetically, all three of these cruel gangster governments actively support terrorism, actively seek to sabotage a US-mediated peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and actively maintain good relations with France, Germany, and other EU governments who have had no impact whatsoever in modifying any of their policies, whether in matters of weaponry or human rights. All three remain horrendously repressive, with Saddam's Iraq in a category of its own --- rivaled only by North Korea's Stalinist system. In Israel, by contrast, the 1 million Arab citizens are the only Arabs to live in a democratic society. Two months ago, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Sharon government to let an Arab party run its candidates that the government said was terrorist. Last April, the same Israeli Supreme Court agreed with Arab Israeli legislators who petitioned it and ordered the military command in the midst of a major battle in Jenin to stop removing any bodies from that besieged city.

The idea that an Arab state anywhere, in the midst of a battle, would have a court tell its military command to do this or that is calculated to send the resulting bellylaugh breaking right through the top of any laugh-meter and go rocketing right into interstellar space.


Replies: 2 comments

Dr. Buggy:

So far, the commentary on this page seems to be concerned with objective facts. For example, the difference between UN resolutions regarding Israel and Iraq, that one is legally binding and another is not. But I submit that these facts are not very important to most people. What I am trying to say is that people are going to make their decisions based on what they think rather than what really is going on. Why not some commentary about how the United States has to overcome the PERCEPTION that it is a bully, that we only take Israel's side, etc. Specifically, some commentary about how we can deal with an Arab population that has been programmed to think the worst of the United States....this will be important in any postwar occupation of Iraq.

Posted by Michael Jabbra @ 03/17/2003 03:06 PM PST

There aren't a lot of articles talking about the fall out from all this: only that the UN, EU and Nato have been fractured in response to Iraq. So far, there has been little indication that we will abandon our support for each of these insitutions entirely. So I'd be very interested to know how you think US policy should change in response to the UN, the EU and Nato, if at all, based upon what we've learned about our allies in response to Iraq. And what do you believe would be the most reaonable and effective steps the US can take to weaken France's ability to stymie the US in the future-- or is it, as you suggest, doing a fine job shooting itself in the foot without US assistance? It would seem from the rhetoric of the administration and Congress that there is some desire to punish France for its efforts to stymie the US. What form might such punishment take? Your answers to any of the foregoing would fill in some gaps in the news coverage on these issues and would be most appreciated by this avid reader-- and I hope others as well.

Posted by John @ 03/17/2003 01:20 AM PST