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 # 432  

September 2002




Self-Defense is America's Right: The Bush Administration Should Not Allow the U.N. to Veto Iraq War Plans


by Amy Ridenour

In environmental economics, there is a concept called "the tragedy of the commons." It refers to the fact that when land is held in common, that is, is used freely by the public without the supervision of a private owner, it suffers. Its resources are depleted and its maintenance is neglected, because no single authority is responsible for its care.

In the war on terrorism, we must avoid a similar fate.

In these days of war speculation in which it is often said United Nations permission is a prerequisite for a U.S. war against Iraq, we should consider: If everyone is responsible for protecting the world from Iraqi terror weapons, then no one truly is.

This is why the Bush Administration would be wrong to give the U.N. veto power over U.S. actions.

The question is not: What does the U.N. think? It is: Is war necessary to protect the U.S.?

If the alternative to war is less palatable than military action, then on to Baghdad. The U.N. may support us, but not veto us.

Responsibility for the defense of the United States is invested by our Constitution in our President and Congress; war decisions are to be made in Washington, not at U.N. headquarters.

Democracies properly go to war to protect themselves. President Bush is making the case that this war meets that test by providing evidence that Saddam Hussein is amassing weapons of mass destruction for use on innocent people.

Bush likely will make this case convincingly, as most Americans already agree.

Those who oppose Bush's plans have a moral obligation to propose a better option. So far, they've offered little.

The most frequent call is for resumed weapons inspections. Been there; done that. After the Persian Gulf War, Hussein promised to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction and to allow U.N. inspections to confirm his adherence to his pledge. He brazenly broke these promises; inspections are a joke.

Bush's critics simply aren't suggesting any workable alternative to "regime change," which (apparently) means war. Most want to pretend the Iraqi problem does not exist. That works -- in the short run. In the long term, it may mean body bags in large numbers and more dates on the calendar like September 11.

Not all of Bush's critics live in Europe and the Arab states. Some inhabit Congress and seem more concerned about the war's timing -- they don't want it before Election Day -- than war itself. This insults everyone.

If war is to occur, it should take place at the best time for achieving war goals at the least cost in lives. The date of domestic elections in which our commander-in-chief is not even a candidate is not a proper strategic consideration.

In any case, we do not know how the timing of a pre-election invasion would influence voters. Fears by Democrats that the war would go well and voters would reward Bush by backing local Republican candidates are merely speculative. The war could be harder than expected or voters could perceive that its timing was political, thus favoring Democrats. Voters also could quite reasonably decide that since all candidates are pro-U.S. anyway, they'll vote based on other considerations.

The bottom line: if the Iraqi threat is serious enough for war, we are morally obligated to conduct the war in the most responsible manner possible. That means strategic considerations trump everything, including the U.N.'s opinion.

The U.N. has known for years -- particularly since 1998 -- that the weapons inspection program was a failure. It did nothing. Since September 11, 2001, the U.N. has known that some U.S. action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq was likely. Again, the U.N. did nothing.

The U.N. has failed to lead. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the U.N. began passing resolutions aimed at promoting peace and security in the region. Twelve years later, Hussein is more dangerous than ever.

If Saddam Hussein launches a massive terror attack against Americans, will the U.N. comfort the widows and raise the orphans? Will the U.N. make us whole?

That's no more accurate than the notion that the U.N. has the right to stop us from self-defense.

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Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

 


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