UN Resolution on Iraq a Sign of Bush Administration Desperation
The widespread interpretation of Thursday’s successful US-backed UN Security Resolution on Iraq, that it was a victory for the Bush administration, is all wrong. The Bush administration showed nothing but contempt for the UN last spring when it went to war unilaterally (or bilaterally if you count Tony as one of the laterals). There was no expectation that the US would come back to the UN at all on the Iraq issue. Certainly one had not expected the Bush administration actually to hammer out difficult compromises for 6 weeks in order to get a resolution.
Why do they care all of a sudden? Because contrary to the theory of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others that the UN doesn’t matter, it still has the ability to bestow legitimacy on an international enterprise in a way that the US acting alone does not. Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf explained to the Americans patiently that if he sent Pakistani troops to Iraq in support of the United States as a unilateral actor, the Pakistani people would lynch him. He felt much more comfortable being able to tell his public that he was sending troops in support of an international, UNSC resolution, supported by Germany and France and Syria, etc. It is not important whether he is right that this UN resolution will play better with the Pakistanis. What is important is that rulers like Musharraf believe that it will. And almost all of them do believe it.
And, the US military is desperate for a few international divisions. It is all the more desperate since the idea of Turks coming is so controversial. The US is already calling up a reserve division of 15,000 for the spring, right now. It will have to call up several more. It has no spare troops, and things could get dire if it needs to keep 130,000 troops in Iraq for two years, as seems likely. It doesn’t have that many to spare, unless it is going to keep them out there a year and a half at a time. A recent Stars and Stripes opinion poll suggests that about half of US troops in Iraq feel the morale of their unit is low, and nearly half now say they will not reenlist. The second sentiment may not be reliable, since they are angry and suffering right now, but clearly no one wants to have to spend more time in Iraq than they have to.
So, for Rummy to come crawling back to the French asking them pretty please not to veto the resolution is a humiliating defeat for American jingoism. Just a few months ago Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were saying France would “pay” for its opposition to the Iraq war. All that petty vindictive talk has evaporated, given how horribly Rummy handled the post-war mess.
The UN SC resolution is thus a major admission of defeat by the US in Iraq, and may signal a moderating of the administration’s unilateralist propensities. Certainly, it will be a while before the US public or any coalition of the willing is going to let the Bushies drag them into yet another unilateral war. But, there are 5 to go. (Well, maybe 4; Sudan seems to be on good behavior).