Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2003 / 11 Elul, 5763

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mobray
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A misguided plea for U.N. help in Iraq | After five months of brutal press coverage, the Bush administration is calling on the United Nations to "save the day" in Iraq - news that is most unwelcome for anyone who wants to see improvement in the country, particularly Iraqis themselves.

To hear the "mainstream" media tell it, the land liberated from Saddam's tyranny is in shambles and the U.S. effort is a devastating failure. As usually happens on cable television debate segments, the question posed - "Should the U.S. pull out of Iraq?" - helped frame the debate. But since completely pulling out of Iraq is simply not an option, the next "best" thing is bringing in the United Nations.

As much as the United Nations is bound to screw things up, the sad fact is that the bar has already been set quite low by the United States. Mistakes have been piling up since almost day one - some benign, some scandalous - as the United States seems not entirely up to the task of rebuilding a devastated nation.

In the center of the country - including Baghdad and surrounding areas - the electricity is still three hours on, three hours off. Checkpoints are causing massive frustrations and annoyances, such as when a young Iraqi man was shot in the back after a soldier's gun accidentally went off. (The young man survived, though he is badly injured.) And the U.S. forces have been slow - sometimes exorbitantly so - in responding to tips from Iraqis about Saddam's regime or current threats.

Donate to JWR

Although fixed months ago by civilian administrator Paul Bremer, the State Department's habit of naming Baathists and Saddam loyalists to key positions in the transitional government still rankles ordinary Iraqis. "They have not forgotten," explains someone in Iraq who has worked with the U.S. efforts there.

But of all the problems with the U.S. "occupation" of Iraq, far down the list is the size of the military presence. Critics - including almost the entirety of the "mainstream" media - have group-thinked their way to the conclusion that most of the difficulties stem from the lack of soldiers on the ground.

The 160,000 American and British soldiers had little to do with the electrical problems and the slow response time to tips from local Iraqis. And the troops certainly had nothing to do with placing into positions of power Saddam loyalists.

It's entirely possible that an influx of new U.N. military forces under U.S. command will improve the situation. But it's also at least as likely that the number of Baathist- and al-Qaeda-led attacks may increase. Notes an administration official, "Arabs will see this as a sign of fear - and the terrorists will pounce."

Like any smart criminal enterprise, Baathists and al-Qaeda are going to apply the most energy to attacking when the enemy is weakest. Bringing in the United Nations is tantamount to the United States partly pulling out, creating the perception - if not the actual reality - of retreat. Just as past U.S. non-responsiveness to pre-9/11 attacks only emboldened al-Qaeda, the U.N. move could encourage even more attacks against ground forces in Iraq.

With increased risk usually comes increased reward, but not so with the United Nations. Its management of the oil-for-food program after the end of the Gulf War allowed Saddam to skim billions while his people starved. And contrary to current finger-in-the-wind opinion, it does not have a spotless track record in peacekeeping operations. Asks one administration official rhetorically, "When did the U.N. pull out of Kosovo?" (The answer, several years later, is still "not yet.")

To top it all off, the United States will manage to further anger the already-annoyed Iraqi people. Notes an administration official, "Iraqis hate the U.N. Where was the U.N. for them (when Saddam was still dictator)?" This is the international body, after all, that saw fit to have Saddam's henchmen head up its arms control commission. You can forgive Iraqis if bitterness still lingers.

The mastermind of this genius stroke, of course, is the State Department. Just as they trusted Baathists more than ordinary Iraqis for top spots in the transitional government, they now are turning to the United Nations. The operative question, posited by an administration official, is: "If there are going to be mistakes in Iraq, why not just let them be made by the Iraqi people?"

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of the forthcoming book "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

Joel Mowbray Archives

© 2003, Joel Mowbray.