March 18, 2003

Kalorama Revisionism Watch Joshua Micah

Kalorama Revisionism Watch

Joshua Micah Marshall sees ambiguities aplenty in 1441 thus precipitating the alleged diplomatic trainwreck. What's the Marshallian appraisal of the past six odd months of diplomacy at the UNSC? Basically, he comes down like this: "The rest of the Council didn't like being wriggled. And that's how we got where we are. They felt like they'd been played. And, to a real degree, they had."

Why and how did we wriggle the UNSC and get burned? Basically because, wink-wink, we got all the parties to sign up to Resolution 1441 by employing what Kissinger might call "constructive ambiguity." We were looking for truly unfettered, unobstructed, proactive cooperation from Baghdad--while the French and their ilk were basically looking for a more muscular Blixian poking around--but certainly not South African or Kazakh style voluntary disarmament.

Not only that, but if you buy Marshall's take, the ambiguity really got heady when it came to the automaticity question. Alleged non-compliance with 1441, more material breaches, were to be given further consideration at the UNSC. Marshall trundles out the following John Negroponte quote, evidently to support the contention that a second UNSC vote was required per the "legislative record" one would employ to analyze, in legal fashion, the "intent" of the 1441 drafters:

"There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution. Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken."

O.K., and so what? Here's how the process was supposed to work, quite clearly, per the language of Resolution 1441. Pursuant to Paragraph 4, "...failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below..."

The key graf in the context of Marshall's analysis is 12 which reads: " [The UNSC] Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security."

There is no express requirement for a second UNSC vote on the matter. There is an express requirement to "convene" and "consider" the situation. This has been done numerous times since the inspections began--including yesterday morning. No serious observer, including previously liberal hawks like Marshall, deny that Saddam is in further material breach as compared to early November when the resolution was passed. Further, there were numerous Administration comments, even right before the November resolution was passed, that stated that no explicit requirement existed for a second resolution. In other words, Marshall's drafter's "intent" argument falls flat on that score.

The problem isn't that the U.S. "played" the UNSC--the problem is that the French deceived Powell on the seriousness of their intent to pursue 1441 with vigor and objectivity. Beyond that, what we have is, as Dubya pointed out, a failure of will--among actors as varied as Cameroon, Mexico and previous Ken Pollack aficionados like Josh Marshall.

As the moment approached to actually make a momentous decision--these varied actors wavered fearful of the fog of war scenarios--how many Iraqis will die, whither NATO, whither the U.N, will there be Kurdish-Turkish fighting, will Israel be drawn into the conflict, will chemical weapons be used etc? All valid fears and concerns--but they don't address the integrity of Resolution 1441 and the need to honor its letter and spirit.

We must hope the war proceeds expeditiously, with minimum casualties on all sides. We must hope for a viable, unitary federated Iraq with few revanchist killings in the chaotic aftermath of combat. And, contra Glenn Reynold's ruminations, the U.S. must lead with magnanimity, bringing in old allies like Germany and France (however distasteful a notion) after the war is over to assist with post-war reconstruction. And there must also be serious efforts to resuscitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations--perhaps including the appointment of a special envoy who will devote all his or her time to implementing the long-delayed roadmap.

But let's keep in mind that no mortal blows have yet been delivered either the Western alliance or the U.N. And no feverish revisionism, whether from the Tom Daschle crowd or the French, is merited. What we need now is resolve and will--which this Administration is displaying to the international community in impressive fashion. They should be applauded for it--rather then subjected to daily and hyperbolic attacks about the failure of their diplomatic efforts.

Posted by Gregory at March 18, 2003 12:02 PM
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