“No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.”
– President Bush in his March 6 press conference.
Speaking from the Cross Hall of the White House yesterday, George W. Bush confirmed the rumor that had been circulating through the upper echelons of the White House: The United States will not go before the U.N. Security Council to make its case for war in Iraq. With yesterday’s CNN-Gallup poll showing that only 47 percent of Americans would support a war without U.N. sanction – compared to 78 percent if the U.N. were consulted – Bush’s decision to renege on his commitment to a U.N. vote will seriously compromise the administration’s credibility both at home and abroad.
Bush asserted that a “broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world.” But while this coalition may be broad, this support is certainly not deep. While nations like Australia and Poland have vocally supported the U.S. position, they are only willing to bear minimal costs related to an invasion. Poland will offer 200 troops while Australia has promised 2,000. Even more troubling for the president’s position is the overwhelming public opposition to the cause of war. Although the political elites of Great Britain, Spain and Portugal support Bush’s position, the publics of these states are solidly aligned against the United States.
Ignoring the U.N. Security Council’s role as the supreme arbiter of international conflict has placed the United States’ allies in an unnecessarily precarious position which will hinder the establishment of an adequate international coalition and, ultimately, the prospect of a democratic Iraq. Bringing a final resolution to the U.N. Security Council would have bolstered the legal, moral and pragmatic arguments – a truly rare confluence in the world of diplomacy – for invasion. Instead, Bush opted for expediency.
In a war that is uniquely reliant on world opinion and the cooperation of foreign nations, the Bush administration has made a serious mistake that will undercut its position and complicate the awesome task of rebuilding Iraq. The incredible financial costs of war and its aftermath, the burdens of ensuring security in post-war Iraq and the imperative of fostering democratic institutions would best be met with a dedicated coalition. This choice has set up the United States for failure and the Iraqi people for the devastating repercussions of that failure.