BUSH'S IRAQ SPEECH STIRS QUESTIONS ABOUT UN'S AUTHORITY

Bob Tippee

The Sept. 12 speech by US President George W. Bush to the United Nations left the futures of two regimes in doubt.

One of them, of course, is that of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The other is the UN itself.

Bush made the right move in calling on the UN Security Council to enforce resolutions Hussein has flouted for a decade.

And he made the right move in assuring the council that if it doesn't act, the US might do so anyway.

Bush properly has appealed to the international body that exists to deal with menaces such as the Iraqi president. His overture grows out of concern for the security of the US and its interests abroad, including the safety of allies within missile range of Baghdad.

Will that concern inspire the UN to act? Maybe not.

Two permanent members of the UN Security Council, France and Russia, resist military action against Iraq.

To France, Iraq is more of an investment opportunity than a security threat. To Russia, it's a longstanding ally and major debtor.

If only one of them hews to its economic interests and exercises its prerogative as a council member, the UN won't deploy anything other than words against Hussein.

That would be no tragedy. It would be standard procedure.

So what happens if the US and?probably?others strike against Hussein without the Security Council's blessing?

First there will be a messy power struggle in Iraq, over which the UN will be called upon to keep peace.

Then there will be messy questions about UN authority.

The humbling nature of those questions would be healthy for the UN and for international governance in general.

No one in the US had the chance to vote for or against the French and Russian officials keen to protect alliances and business interests in Iraq. No one in France or Russia had the chance to vote for US representatives motivated by perceptions of imminent peril.

Authority of multinational governments has inherent limits, renewed attention to which, however it comes about, will be good for the governed.

(Online Sept. 13, 2002; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

Related Articles

Report offers lens for viewing IPCC’s new climate reports

03/28/2014 As the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change takes shape, observers might crave a simple way to make sense of th...

Fighting ‘fracked gas,’ activists fracture facts

03/21/2014

Environmental activism has produced a new pearl of provocative meaninglessness: “fracked gas.”

US should avoid military motives for LNG exports

03/14/2014

The US natural gas industry should remind House Republicans that geopolitical power works best in silence, that bluster dissipates influence.

Industrial Europe dares Environmental Europe over climate

03/07/2014

Industrial Europe has challenged Environmental Europe over the price of reengineering energy use in deference to climate.

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected