The United States, Iraq, and International Relations; Part Two: A Pyrrhic Victory?

By Hamill, James | Contemporary Review, July 2003 | Go to article overview

The United States, Iraq, and International Relations; Part Two: A Pyrrhic Victory?


Hamill, James, Contemporary Review


LAST month's article sought to explore the historical context in which the Iraq crisis of 2002-3 developed and to consider the legality of the subsequent US-British military operation. The immediate consequences of that operation for Iraq itself are now very familiar and do not require further discussion here. However, military operations that take place outside the confines of the United Nations (UN) Charter will always carry a political price and 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' is likely to be no different. This article does not seek to provide an exhaustive survey of the geo-political fall-out from the Iraq war but confines itself to a discussion of the conflict's potential impact in three broad but crucial areas of contemporary international relations.

Lowering the Threshold for War

One of the more disturbing aspects of the resort to war in Iraq without proper legal authority was that it signalled a further lowering of the international threshold for armed action. A point made by several commentators in January-February 2003 bears repetition here: pre-emptive action, if it is to be launched at all, must be subject to the most rigorous tests and must meet very exacting criteria if it is to be considered acceptable. Diplomatic avenues should have been tried, exhausted, and found wanting and any military threat should be of a direct and immediate nature. As was suggested in the first article, that was manifestly not the case with Iraq. A declaration by the US that it reserved the right to attack Iraq pre-emptively, irrespective of the position of international institutions, global opinion and international law, did not amount to the construction of a formidable political case. Nor is it credible to suggest that the US fully explored the UN option. Washington appears to have viewed the UN pr ocess as little more than window dressing, an elaborate diplomatic choreography -- partly an indulgence of Prime Minister Blair, who urgently required a second Security Council resolution, and partly a device to allow most American forces time to deploy in the Gulf -- rather than a meaningful diplomatic exercise. A US commitment to attack Iraq in all conceivable circumstances, ideally with UN approval but if necessary without it, does not provide compelling evidence of Washington's acceptance of the UN Charter or of its willingness to work within the UN framework. Indeed, it looked more like an attempt to steamroller the Security Council into supporting the US on the assumption that other Security Council members, realising Washington was determined to proceed whatever their opinions, would reluctantly support a resolution authorising war, partly to help preserve the illusion of their own (and the UN's) continuing influence. This US bluff was called in early March when a clear majority on the Council (and thi s stance had the support of an overwhelming majority of the wider membership) refused to allow the UN to be reduced to the status of a rubber stamp for decisions which had effectively already been taken by the Bush Administration. The view, articulated by Prime Minister Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, that the passage of a second resolution authorising military action had been made impossible by French intransigence was a convenient fiction and an early attempt to rewrite the diplomatic history of this entire episode. Washington and London, it should be recalled, also failed in their bid to enlist the support of two other permanent members of the Security Council, Russia, and China, as well as eight non-permanent members -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Germany, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, and Syria -- thus the humiliating withdrawal of the resolution, something which would certainly not have occurred had France found itself isolated on the issue. The subsequent rather patronising rhetoric from British and A merican officials that the UN had 'failed' this test and had been unable to demonstrate its 'relevance' or the 'will' to resolve the situation is revealing in that it implies that the only way in which the Security Council could have demonstrated its 'relevance', 'effectiveness' and 'will' was by adhering to the precise position taken by Washington and London. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The United States, Iraq, and International Relations; Part Two: A Pyrrhic Victory?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.