(Washington, D.C.): Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer once again today displayed the strategic acumen, moral clarity and articulateness that on 5 September earned him the Center for Security Policy’s 2002 “Mightier Pen” Award. In an essay published in the Washington Post, Mr. Krauthammer illuminated the mendacity of the premise relied upon by many who argue that the United States must not act to counter the growing threat posed by Iraq unless the United Nations’ approves: There is no such thing as an “international community.”
Mr. Krauthammer starts by stripping away the preposterous notion that the UN General Assembly actually matters, let alone that its lynch-mob majorities reflect anything remotely akin to a higher moral authority. He makes a similar, and no less correct, assessment of the mostly tiny countries and in some cases (notably, Syria) downright problematic governments that currently cast votes in the Security Council as non-permanent members of that body.
What one is left with then, after counting Great Britain as with us, are three veto- wielding states who, Mr. Krauthammer correctly observes, will act in the UN as elsewhere to advance their own national interests. Nothing more, nothing less. To the extent that those interests diverge from Saddam Hussein’s, whom the French, Russian and Chinese governments have long regarded as a valued client, there may, repeat may, be a basis for concerted action by the United Nations. Our experience in the past, however, is not encouraging — in particular, these countries’ joint and several efforts over the last eleven years that have, in Mr. Krauthammer’s words, “been responsible for the hopelessly diluted and useless inspection regime that now exists.” Under no circumstances should their current self-interested posturing be confused with a legitimate claim to moral superiority, let alone authority to speak on behalf of the “international community.”
What is at stake in the present debate is not merely the future of the Democratic Party in the United States — whose sorry regression is pointedly addressed by Mr. Krauthammer’s comparison of President Kennedy forty years ago with his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, today. Neither is what hangs in the balance confined to the question of whether Saddam Hussein will actually be disarmed in the only way that will prove effective — i.e., by the liberation of Iraq from his misrule.
Rather, we must reckon with the reality that nothing less than our sovereignty as a free, independent and powerful nation is risk. For far too long, the American people have been subjected to the creeping assertion by the “international community” of its authority over our ability to act in self-defense, to conduct our international and domestic trade and even to exercise certain rights guaranteed by our Constitution. This steady erosion of our sovereignty — which some have dubbed “post-Constitutionalism” — must be understood for what it is, and strenuously resisted by all those who, like Charles Krauthammer, cherish our freedoms and security.
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post, 4 October 2002
“This nation is prepared to present its case against the Soviet threat to peace, and our own proposals for a peaceful world, at any time and in any forum — in the Organization of American States, in the United Nations, or in any other meeting that could be useful — without limiting our freedom of action.”
— President John F. Kennedy, Cuban missile crisis, address to the nation, Oct. 22, 1962
“I’m waiting for the final recommendation of the Security Council before I’m going to say how I’m going to vote.”
— Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Iraq crisis, address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Sept. 27, 2002
How far the Democrats have come. Forty years ago to the month, President Kennedy asserts his willingness to present his case to the United Nations, but also his determination not to allow the United Nations to constrain America’s freedom of action. Today his brother, a leader of the same party, awaits the guidance of the United Nations before he will declare himself on how America should respond to another nation threatening the United States with weapons of mass destruction.
Ted Kennedy is not alone. Much of the leadership of the Democratic Party is in the thrall of the United Nations. War and peace hang in the balance. The world waits to see what the American people, in Congress assembled, will say. These Democrats say: Wait, we must find out what the United Nations says first.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, would enshrine such lunacy in legislation, no less. He would not even authorize the use of force without prior U.N. approval. Why? What exactly does U.N. approval mean?
It cannot mean the U.N. General Assembly, which is an empty debating society. It means the Security Council. Now, the Security Council has five permanent members and 10 rotating members. Among the rotating members is Syria. How can any senator stand up and tell the American people that before deciding whether America goes to war against a rogue state such as Iraq, it needs to hear the “final recommendation” of Syria, a regime on the State Department’s official terrorist list?
Or maybe these senators are awaiting the wisdom of some of the other nonpermanent members. Cameroon? Mauritius? Guinea? Certainly Kennedy and Levin cannot be saying that we must not decide whether to go to war until we have heard the considered opinion of countries that none of their colleagues can find on a map.
Okay. So we are not talking about these dots on the map. We must be talking about the five permanent members. The United States is one. Another is Britain, which supports us. That leaves three. So when you hear senators grandly demand the support of the “international community,” this is what they mean: France, Russia and China.
As I recently asked in this space, by what logic does the blessing of these countries bestow moral legitimacy on American action? China’s leaders are the butchers of Tiananmen Square. France and Russia will decide the Iraq question based on the coldest calculation of their own national interest, meaning money and oil.
Everyone in the Senate wants a new and tough inspection regime in Iraq: anytime, anywhere, unannounced. Yet these three countries, whose approval the Democrats crave, are responsible for the hopelessly diluted and useless inspection regime that now exists.
They spent the 1990s doing everything they could to dismantle the Gulf War mandate to disarm Saddam Hussein. The Clinton administration helplessly acquiesced, finally approving a new Security Council resolution in 1999 that gave us the current toothless inspections regime. France, Russia and China, mind you, refused to support even that resolution; they all abstained because it did not make yet more concessions to Saddam Hussein.
After a decade of acting as Saddam Hussein’s lawyers on the Security Council, these countries are now to be the arbiters of America’s new and deadly serious effort to ensure Iraqi disarmament.
So insist leading Democrats. Why? It has no moral logic. It has no strategic logic. Forty years ago, we had a Democratic president who declared that he would not allow the United Nations or any others to tell the United States how it would defend itself. Would that JFK’s party had an ounce of his confidence in the wisdom and judgment of America, deciding its own fate by its own lights, regardless of the wishes of France.