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Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 / 13 Nisan, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Shape up or step aside | Six hundred journalists embedded with the coalition forces have helped to ensure that the first casualty of the war is not truth. The first casualty of the coalition's success must be the notion that the United Nations is the basis for a new world order. The U.N. not only failed but tried to prevent America and Britain from acting against the Iraqi threat. The United Nations proved effective 12 years ago in Desert Storm, but since then the whole concept of collective action has been eroded. The U.N. was unable to implement any of the 17 resolutions of the Security Council pertaining to Iraq. Those resolutions told Saddam Hussein to disarm "or else." The "or else" turned out to be "or nothing."

The U.N. debate over Iraq was not so much about Iraq as it was about constraining American power. Even after the rout of Saddam's forces, the U.N. looks more than ever like an arena in which future efforts to restrain American might will be played out. It's an old story at the U.N. During the Cold War, the Security Council was paralyzed by the ability of the Soviet Union and the Western powers to veto everything. The only decisive action it was able to take was to fight North Korea's invasion of the South, and then only because the Soviet Union walked out, a mistake it never repeated.

From the moment of its creation, the bright hope of the U.N. was that it would grow into the moral legitimizer in international affairs. This has not happened. Why? Because too many of the members don't even have the consent of their own citizenry. Syria is a member of both the Security Council and the State Department's list of terrorist states. Can it possibly confer legitimacy on American actions? Or China? And what of France and Russia, who have been moved so cravenly to protect their commercial interests in Iraq?

Sandbox. As former Security Council President Diego Arria wrote: For countries that are choosing to defend their own national economic interests, "the business of security becomes just plain business." A distinguished former defense minister from Europe put the matter more bluntly: "The U.N. is, frankly, a corrupt institution. Votes are bought and sold in the U.N.; they are bought and sold in the Security Council; they are bought and sold in the General Assembly at a much lower and rather more grubby level."

This, after all, is the same body that kept the United States off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, while including such paragons of human rights as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Adding insult to injury, in what can be described only as the most cynical of self-parodies, the committee members then voted to elect Libya as chairman, then spent nearly all their time trying to delegitimize the one democracy in the Middle East, Israel. Not to mention, mind you, that Iraq was to chair the U.N. Sanctions Committee. No wonder former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt reportedly described the U.N. as the "sandbox for the Third World."

The U.N. record on Iraq is, if anything, even more execrable. For a dozen years, France, Russia, and China sought to weaken inspections for banned Iraqi weapons. This pattern continued right up until the commencement of war. The three permanent Security Council members endorsed U.N. Resolution 1441, then refused to give it effect when Iraq breached its material obligations.

So the question arises: What role is there for the U.N. post-Saddam? It can coordinate humanitarian relief--something its agencies are very good at doing--and it should continue administering the Iraq oil-for-food program, at least for a time. In view of the caricature of American efforts in the Arab press, the U.N. could also endorse U.S. efforts to create an independent, free civil society in Iraq while sowing the seeds of a democracy there that might one day become an enduring model for the entire region.

It is beyond the capacity of the U.N. to take on these tasks itself. The challenges are simply too great. We must ensure that the chemical and biological weapons we find do not fall into rogue hands, while determining which countries and companies provided Saddam with the capability to produce his weapons of mass destruction. These efforts cannot be subject to vetoes from France and Russia.

Still, the larger issue remains. The U.N. must look to its own restructuring if it is to grow beyond the weakness and irrelevance that have characterized its conduct with regard to Iraq. The leadership here falls to the distinguished secretary general, Kofi Annan. He has the requisite moral stature, the international recognition, and the political skills. But he will need support. If he succeeds, it will be a legacy worthy of the original vision for the world body.

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/08/03: The latest in reality TV is
04/02/03: Chirac and Saddam's thugs are two of a kind
03/26/03: War by new rules
03/05/03: The high price of waiting
02/14/03: Needed: fast fiscal action
02/03/03: Clear and compelling proof
01/24/03: Midnight for Baghdad
01/14/03: They should have said...
12/24/02: Who finances the fanatics?
12/19/02: Put-up or shut-up time
12/09/02: Sheep, wolves, and reality
11/21/02: Curing the uncommon cold
11/12/02: Everybody has the right to be wrong but the Dems have been abusing the privilege
11/05/02: Force vs. fanaticism
10/30/02: Land of the sinking sun
10/22/02: No more cat and mouse
10/15/02: And pigs will fly
10/07/02: A shameful contagion
09/26/02: Calling a madman's number
09/23/02: Our rainbow underclass
09/13/02: Why America must act
09/04/02: After bubbles, a double dip?
08/20/02: No time for equivocation
08/06/02: No time for politics
07/30/02: Getting off the dime
07/17/02: What scandal cannot dim
06/18/02: Time to crack down: Where is the outrage?
06/05/02: The next new thing
04/30/02: Roller-coaster nation
04/25/02: A critical tipping point
04/15/02: Israel's endgame will impact the free world
03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
02/12/02: Speaking truth about energy
01/15/02: Putting our house in order
01/12/02: Talking points for 2002
12/24/01: The shape of things to come
12/11/01: Finally, a clarity of vision
12/04/01: Apocalypse now
11/26/01: The Big Apple's core
11/06/01: What it will take to win
10/22/01: Getting the mayor's message
10/08/01: A remedy for repair
10/01/01: A question of priorities
09/26/01: Our mission, our moment
09/11/01: Running the asylum
08/29/01: Hail, brave consumer
06/14/01: Blackouts --- or blackmail?
06/01/01: A time to reap --- and sow
05/25/01: A question of confidence
05/18/01: A question of confidence
05/04/01: Making the grade
04/26/01: The caribou conundrum
04/19/01: Chinese boomerang
03/27/01: The man of the moment
03/20/01: The Fed must be bold
03/15/01: Japan on the brink
03/01/01: Rethinking the next war
02/09/01: The education paradox
01/08/01: How the bottom fell out
01/03/01: Quipping in the new year
12/20/00: A time for healing
11/13/00: The need for legitimacy
10/30/00: Arafat's bloody cynicism
10/18/00: Arafat torches peace
10/03/00: A great step backward
09/08/00: The Perfect Storm
08/29/00: Don't blow the surplus
08/15/00: Voting for grown-ups
08/01/00: Arafat's lack of nerve
07/17/00: Can there be a new peace between old enemies? Or will new enemies regress to an old state of war?
07/11/00: A time to celebrate
06/19/00: A bit of straight talk
06/08/00: Using hate against Israel
05/26/00: Is the Federal Reserve trigger-happy?
04/18/00: Tensions on the 'Net
04/13/00: A paranoid power
03/10/00: Fuel prices in the red zone
02/25/00: Web wake-up call
02/18/00: Back to the future
01/21/00: Whistling while we work
01/11/00: Loose lips, fast quips
12/23/99: The times of our lives
12/14/99: Hey, big spender
11/18/99: Fountain of Youth
11/04/99: An impossible partner
10/14/99: A nation divided
10/05/99: India at center stage
09/21/99: Along with good cops, we need a better probation system
09/08/99: Though plundered and confused, Russia can solve its problems
08/31/99: The military should spend more on forces and less on facilities
08/05/99: Squandering the surplus
07/06/99: More than ever, America's unique promise is a reality
06/24/99: The time has come to hit the brakes on affirmative action
06/15/99: America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities
06/02/99: The Middle Kingdom shows its antagonistic side
05/11/99: Technology's transforming power is giving a lift to everything
05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman