United Nations, RIP? with the UN Preparing to Play a Key Role in Post-War Iraq, Rumors of the World Body's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated. (United Nations)

Article excerpt

"Get US out! of the United Nations--and get the United Nations out of the United States!" Such has been the war cry of the John Birch Society for more than 40 years. Now that the Bush administration has gone to war in Iraq despite the UN's apparent resistance, commentators on the Left and Right are suggesting that the once impossible dream of the JBS may soon come true.

"For the first time, Americans got to see what the United Nations truly is," wrote syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on March 2 1st. "The experience has been bracing. The result has been an enormous and salutary shift in American public opinion.... On Sept. 12, 2002, you [President Bush] gave the United Nations a fair test: Act like a real instrument for collective security or die like the League of Nations. The United Nations failed spectacularly. The American people saw it. And the American people are now with you in leaving the United Nations behind."

"The U.N., a collection of regimes of less than uniform legitimacy, has anointed itself the sole arbiter of what are legitimate military actions," observed columnist George E Will on March 16th of this year. "And it has claimed a duty to leash the only nation that has the power to enforce U.N. resolutions. How long will that nation's public be willing to pay one-quarter of the U.N.'s bills?" And former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes weighed in with a column in the April 14th issue of Forbes magazine, claiming that "the old Wilsonian notion of a governing world body has been laid to rest."

The radical Left's take on the Bush administration's view of the UN is captured in nearly identical illustrations appearing on the covers of In These Times and The Progressive, both of which featured a burning UN flag. As the invasion of Iraq approached, the liberal news site Buzzflash.com melodramatically published an obituary for the UN, supposedly slain by the Bush administration.

Put the Funeral on Hold

Regrettably, that obituary is premature. In fact, the "conservative" Bush administration has performed a singular service to the UN by redefining the right-wing critique of the world body: Where conservatives historically have condemned the UN for doing, or seeking to do, too much, President Bush and his supporters now condemn it for not doing enough.

Administration officials from the president down have explicitly and repeatedly claimed that the war on Iraq is intended to enforce Security Council resolutions, thereby enhancing the UN's power and credibility. They have likewise made it clear that the UN will play a key role in the post-war rebuilding of Iraq, and in the open-ended "war on terrorism."

"Let me say something about the UN," stated the president during the March 16th pre-war summit in the Azores. "It's a very important organization. That's why I went there on September the 12th, 2002, to give the speech, the speech that called the UN into account, that said if you're going to pass resolutions, let's make sure your words mean something ... I understand the wars of the 21st century are going to require incredible international cooperation.... And the UN must mean something. Remember Rwanda, or Kosovo [where the UN didn't act forcefully]. And we hope tomorrow the UN will do its job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the UN work better as we head into the 21st century."

It is possible that the UN could undergo significant restructuring. For instance, some neoconservative critics of the UN, such as Krauthammer and The Weekly Standard, suggest that the Security Council be reorganized without France as a member. The Standard suggested that the Security Council veto should be eliminated. The same reform has long been championed by world government advocates as a way of making Security Council decisions binding on the U.S.--something apparently ignored by neoconservatives eager to punish the French for their Security Council obstructionism. …