“Has ‘oderint dum metuant’ really become our motto?” Career diplomat John Brady Kiesling chose to invoke the Roman statesman Cicero in his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell last month. Expressing disgust with the haphazard manner President Bush has pursued war with Iraq, Kiesling decided to resign rather than continue to represent the administration’s policies and violate his own conscience; he could not be a part of a foreign policy that he sees as being based more and more on the Caesar-era premise “let them hate as long as they fear.”
Has American foreign policy really retrenched into the fear-based objectives of the ancient Roman empire? While it may not be the actual intent of the administration, it is rapidly becoming the result. In their Javert-esque pursuit of Saddam Hussein, Bush and those who advise him appear to have threatened the international system in a way that would have been unfathomable in days after Sept. 11, when newspapers, dignitaries and common citizens around the globe made statements similar to headline of the French newspaper Le Monde on Sept. 12: “We are all Americans now!” The attitude of the United States toward Iraq has taken on the twin auras of inevitability and self-blinding righteousness. We are letting our power and our ego, and not much else, guide our actions.
At the moment, it appears the Bush administration is ignorant of the irony it is creating with regards to the United Nations. The Bush administration has proclaimed the United Nations is approaching irrelevance, but rather than to trying to cure the ailment, the administration has been instead hastening the United Nations’ demise. Administration officials are correct in their charges that the United Nations has become a swamp of ineffectiveness; the ghosts of Bosnia and Rwanda can testify to this. U.N.-led soldiers literally stood by silently during the biggest European massacre since the Holocaust at Srebrenica, a U.N.-declared “safe haven” for Bosnian Muslims. Similarly, the U.N. peacekeeping director in 1994 ignored a report from his field commander in Rwanda that a massive campaign of genocide was about to commence. Then U.N. Peacekeeping Director Kofi Annan has since moved on to bigger and better things, while hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were murdered with machetes.
The United States is now discovering first hand why the United Nations has turned a blind eye to genocide and why Saddam Hussein has been permitted to violate or ignore 17 different U.N. resolutions, including Resolution 1441, passed in November. The United Nations is as weak as its members, and particularly the five nations with veto power, want it to be. With deadlock characterizing the status quo, it takes tremendous effort on everyone’s part to realize concrete action. Rather than approaching the crisis at hand in such a sophisticated manner, though, the administration is taking the opposite path. It may be true that France, Germany and Russia have motives rooted in self-interest as well as ones rooted in peace, but regardless of their objectives, the United States still ultimately needs to work with them if it wants to strengthen and repair the United Nations, or at least prevent it from becoming anymore insignificant.
Simultaneously, Bush is ironically threatening our national security as he exhorts that he is trying to protect it. By pushing his country to the brink of war, Bush has eliminated all other options. Should the United States now back down and not remove Hussein, American prestige and influence will take a precipitous hit that will encourage current threats like North Korea, as well as spawn new ones as third world despots and terror organizations take solace in our inaction
That said, will force ultimately be needed to disarm Saddam? The answer is very likely yes. Not once has Saddam followed universally-recognized mores of both humanity and the international system, and he shows no likelihood of ever doing so; however, the administration is mistaking a long term necessity for an immediate threat. Saddam is not such a clear and present danger to justify our rash and perilous course of action. If the United States goes ahead into Iraq without fiat from the international community, at best the impertinence of the United Nations and the enmity of much of the world looms. If an unsanctioned invasion of Iraq turns into bloody house-to-house fighting, the damage done will reach far, far beyond the United States and may be impossible to repair. While it is true the potential for the administration’s best case scenario of a lightning victory and inspiring democracy throughout Middle East does exist, the lurking nightmare scenario demands we have the United Nations sanction an invasion to help rebut bin Laden-type extremists, rebuild Iraq and preserve the current international order. Bush’s actions have created a situation where the potential costs of going to war outweigh the gains.
For all of the reasons above, the Bush administration must delay the impending war until the U.N. Security Council can come to an agreement that will unify the international community.
Miller is an LSA senior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.