IRAQ AND THE U.N.
Peter Feaver, author of the widely-acclaimed Armed Servants (Harvard, 2003), discusses the pros and cons of a wider role for the U.N. in Iraq in today’s WaPo. He sees this possibility as a decidedly mixed bag:
This may indeed be the best of a bad set of choices. The United States desperately needs more troops to send to Iraq, at a minimum to relieve those units already deployed there when their rotation comes due in a few months. Efforts to secure meaningful commitments outside the U.N. framework have been disappointing and are essentially exhausted. A greater U.N. role may well be the only way to persuade other states to join.
In taking this move, the Bush administration is making a large concession to its critics both domestically and abroad, who have been harping for a greater U.N. role. Thus far, however, those critics have largely invoked the U.N. as a matter of theological commitment, without making a persuasive case for how it could really help. In the next few months, we will see whether there is more to the U.N. option than a knee-jerk preference for the reassuring rhetoric of multilateralism or whether the critics have simply avoided dealing with six tough questions a larger U.N. role raises.
He elaborates on these and then reaches an interesting conclusion:
Still, there are two reasons to be optimistic about Iraq, and even about increasing the U.N.’s role there. Iraq is probably a must-win mission for the United Nations; the failure of its members to reach a consensus in the spring of 2003 pushed it to the brink of irrelevancy. If it finally steps up to the plate in Iraq and then fails again, it will largely lose its role as an arbiter of major global security challenges. Even more, Iraq is a must-win mission for the Bush administration, which clearly appreciates the electoral implications and is taking drastic steps to improve the prospects there. We can only hope members of the U.N. also understand the gravity of the situation.
This piece is definitely a must-read.