Bush Address To Un Disappointing Us

Bush address to UN Disappointing

The US needs three things from the United Nations desperately with regard to Iraq. The first is legitimacy. It needs a UN mantle for its activities in that country, which will make those activities more acceptable to Iraqis and to the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as to France and Germany. Second, it needs money. In an ideal world it should be able to get several billion from the wealthy capitalist states of Western Europe for rebuilding Iraq. Third, it needs troops. It needs at least a division (15,000 or so men) as soon as possible, to allow it to rotate a US division out. It needs two or three divisions by next spring, about 40,000 men altogether.

Bush appears not to think that the US needs these three things very badly, since his speech on Tuesday mended no fences with the UN and reached out in no way to the body. So, the US is not going to get much money for Iraqi reconstruction, perhaps as little as a paltry billion dollars all told. Whether it gets more legitimacy and troops depends on the precise wording of the new UN resolution sought by Britain and the US. The latest reports have the Indians again deciding against sending troops, the Musharraf government of Pakistan being very nervous about such a move because of domestic opposition, and even skittishness in Turkey. It is possible that the US will not get its division, and only great good luck would guarantee it 40,000 men. In large part all this is because the US still is acting unilaterally, and refuses to play nicely with the other children.

The one interesting thing Bush said was that the UN should have a hand in writing the new Iraqi constitution and in supervising elections. I don’t think Iraqis will accept an internationalization of the constitution writing process, however. Supervising elections is a possible role for the UN. But it is not the sort of concession that would have been needed to get the Security Council on the side of the US. The Bush administration could end up stuck in Iraq in a very bad way. Where is it going to get three divisions next spring if the Turks, Pakistanis and Koreans don’t show up? Who is going to pay for them even if they do? If the US, where would the money come from, with a $600 bn. deficit?