March 17, 2003

Why We Are Poorer For

Why We Are Poorer For Not Having Had the Second Vote (But Had To Skip It Anyway)

One of the reasons I've always respected Dubya is that, after eight years of Clintonian obfuscation, we finally have a leader whose word we can trust. Therefore, I am saddened that he was forced to renege on his press conference statement about ten days back to, no matter the whip count, have a second UNSC vote. It would have been telling to see which countries, during the heated penultimate moments of decision, actually voted no. Perhaps Russia would have surprised us with an abstention? Or Mexico and Chile with affirmative votes? Regardless, we would have determined which countries truly cared about the issues surrounding WMD, the disarmament of Iraq, and the integrity of Resolution 1441--and by extension, the seriousness of purpose of the United Nations in a new century full of perilous threats directly related to the aforementioned issues.

I believe Bush wanted to go ahead with the vote, but decided against it as a favor to his stalwart friend and ally Tony Blair. Blair believes he has enough legal backing for a war based on material breach of 1441, among other post-Gulf War I resolutions, without getting a second vote. But to have gone into conflict with a majority of the UNSC opposed, leaving aside the issue of the French veto, would have violated the U.N. charter and caused him even greater grief domestically.

I wonder if Bush will mention this in his speech tonight. If so, he likely won't mention it in the context of Blair but, as he did in the Azores, in relation to Chirac. He will argue that, whatever Saddam's behavior, the French had all but assured a veto. He will say there was no point in going ahead with a UNSC vote. But the real reason was Blair, I suspect. I agree that Blair merited this concession--but am saddened that we will not be able to see everyone's "cards on the table."

That said, of course, to have gone to war in express violation of the will of the UNSC (however feckless the constitutive elements of this common will) would have placed the U.S. and its allies in quite uncharted territory with respect to international public law. In the final analysis, likely better to have bypassed the second UNSC vote in similar fashion to Kosovo and at other junctures, for reasons above and beyond lending a helping hand to Blair.

Posted by Gregory at March 17, 2003 05:21 PM
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