Next week the United States and Great Britain will go back to the United Nations Security Council once again and try to persuade the other member nations to enforce resolution 1441, which the Council has not only passed, but passed unanimously. Some may find the whole situation rather curious, because the U.S. and G.B. seem to be attempting to convince other Security Council members of the patently obvious — that Iraq is not fully complying with Security Council Resolution No. 1441. This resolution states:
The government of Iraq shall provide to Unmovic [the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission], the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons
Resolution 1441 finishes by saying that “the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.” Even the inspectors, which have clearly disagreed with the U.S. and U.K. on many substantitive issues, and therefore can hardly be called a pawn to our interests, have stated that Iraq has yet to fully comply. The Iraqi regime has also violated other specific provisions of 1441. For instance, Iraq was to provide all scientists and others involved with WMD programs for private interviews at the request of the inspectors. Stories like this one, Iraq defies weapons inspectors, from London’s Daily Telegraph have been numerous. Iraq has failed to comply fully, completely, and immediately as clearly stated in 1441.
So why is there a discussion? The facts are quite clear. Iraq is not complying with either the spirit or the letter of 1441. The resolution was passed unanimously. Why are the members of the Council unwilling to state the obvious and then call for enforcement?
Frustrations like these betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the U.N., and of the Security Council in particular. If one starts with the assumption that the Council is made up in a way similar to the U.S. Supreme Court — wise men chosen through a democratic process who are then free to make their best judgment on what lies before them — then the actions of the Council are nearly incomprehensible. This is how many of the people who are wrongly stating that all war without U.N. approval is immoral or illegal see the Council. They see the Security Council as a body of men who are chosen by the world to represent the world’s interests. This is not the case.
The men on the Security Council are not appointed to a position like the Justices in the American Supreme Court. They are mere mouthpieces for the governments they represent. They are not free to see evidence before them and then make informed judgements. Witness the reactions to Colin Powell’s recent evidentiary statement before the U.N. — the responses to his statements by many nations were written out beforehand. Therefore, it was quite clear that it didn’t matter what Mr. Powell had to say. The positions of the various members of the Council were already decided ahead of time, and they were dictated to them by their home governments.
Those who believe in the concept of the U.N. Security Council as the ultimate arbiter on when force ought to be used and when it should not might still say “Well, Okay, so the individuals on the Council may not be free to vote their conscience, but what’s really important is the fact that they still voice the will of the international community by speaking for the individual nations.” This brings me to my second point, and, I think, the heart of the matter. One cannot represent an individual nation and the international community. France serves as an excellent example of why this is so.
Is the will of France the same as all of Europe? Is the will of France that of India? Nations like France have a lot to gain from continuation of the current Iraqi regime. Despite the murderous nature of the regime, France has made multi-billion dollar oil contracts — contracts which could very well be null and void with the fall of the regime. There is a great deal of suspicion that France has sold prohibited dual-use building blocks for banned weapons. This would all come out if the regime were overthrown, and something which would destroy French credibility on these matters. After all, it would be shown that they were breaking Council resolutions which they themselves voted for. Many might begin to ask whether India, the world’s largest democracy, would be more appropriate as the fifth permanent member of the Security Council. France has a lot at stake. France will vote its own interest, notwithstanding the flowery speech of Mr. Villepin to the contrary.
The U.N. has become nothing more than the thinly-veiled pursuit of narrow national interests in the guise of a democratic world body. The moral authority of the U.N. is an illusion. The members of the Security Council do not represent the world. In many cases (such as China) they cannot even be said to represent their own countries, because their governments, in turn, are not legitimately representative of their own people. The will of the U.N. is flouted by countries when it is convenient to their interests. To use France again as an example, this would include selling materials to Iraq which were proscribed by U.N. resolution. It would also include bombing Serbia and taking military action in the Ivory Coast without U.N. authorization. However, when it suits its national interest, France will cry out that all U.S. action is immoral if not done through the U.N. — where, conveniently, France holds a veto.
There was hope when the U.N. was founded (by the United States) that it would become a body truly representative of the world and gain the authority to prevent war by confronting would-be tyrants and conquerors with the united will of the international community. Sadly, human nature, and thus the nature of nations made up of men, does not change. What we have seen lately at the U.N. is nothing more than age old power politics between nations, but in the venue of the U.N. Let us all remember to see the world the way that it is, not the way we wish it to be.