On Iraq: If Necessary, a Fond Farewell to the U.N.

If in the judicious determination of the members of the United Nations they feel they [are] not welcome and treated with the hostly consideration that is their due, the United States strongly encourages member states to seriously consider removing themselves and this organization from the soil of the United States.

News of the recent death of Ambassador Charles M. Lichenstein brought to mind his forceful words at the United Nations that made him famous.

We will put no impediment in your way. The members of the U.S. mission to the United Nations will be down at dockside waving you fond farewell as you sail into the sunset.

Lichenstein’s suggestion that the U.S. would not mind parting ways — at least geographically — with the increasingly anti-American U.N. electrified Americans in 1983.

Lichenstein ‘s triumphant Americanism was enthusiastically embraced by a public still smarting from U.S. foreign policy debacles in Vietnam, Iran and elsewhere. A slight, middle-aged man, Lichenstein was a real-life hero in the John Wayne mold.

“I received thousands of letters,” he told the Washington Post a year later. “People stopped me on the streets of New York, they honked their horns, and shouted, ‘Right on!’ Practically every cop in Manhattan South gave me the high sign.”

The incident that made Lichenstein famous is worth recalling as America prepares for our expected strike on Iraq. Some urge our President to act only if he obtains the support of the U.N. Security Council.

Should we? Or on this issue wave the U.N. a fond farewell?

The U.S. does not need the approval of the Security Council to attack Iraq within the bounds of international law.

The U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force to seize territory, to impose a colonial-style government, or when force is used in a way inconsistent with U.N. purposes. Chief among U.N. goals is international peace and security — the same purpose the U.S. has for attacking Iraq. The U.S. has no intention of seizing Iraq’s land, or making Iraq a colony.

Furthermore, the U.N. has already explicitly granted the authority Bush now is urged to seek. After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait the first President Bush received Security Council authorization to remove Iraq from Kuwait and to restore peace and security. The former has been accomplished; the latter has not. U.S. and British military action has continued since then; not a peep has been heard from the Security Council about revoking allied authority to act. What Bush now seeks to do is escalate military action with the intention of ending a need for it once and for all.1

Nevertheless, it’s fortunate we don’t need the U.N. to recertify its support for military action, because we cannot rely upon it. Countries voting in the U.N. General Assembly rarely support U.S. interests more than half the time.2Foreign leaders condemn us routinely.

In the current case, for instance, China, a Security Council member, has ruled out the use of force to oust Saddam. “China does not agree with the practice of using force or threatening to use force to resolve this issue,” said Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen, according to the AP by way of the Xinhua News Agency. The unelected Chinese government is not, however, shy about the use of force against its own citizenry.

Considering himself qualified to guide U.S. foreign policy, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the BBC: “It has never been shown in history… that anybody removed from the outside and another person put in instead has made for the stability of the region… What makes us so gullible as to think we know what is better for the Iraqi people than the Iraqi people themselves?”3 The U.S. tends to leave defeated nations more democratic and more stable. Iraq, of course, is no more democratic than House of Saud-controlled Arabia.

The head of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Take Yamasaki, personified the quip “with friends like these, who needs enemies?,” claiming Japan should oppose us because we are friends: “If the U.S. attacks alone it will produce distrust of the United States throughout the world. As an ally, we should oppose this.”4

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder calls U.S. military plans a mistake. Schroeder’s conservative political opposition agrees.5 Two-thirds of Britons and three-quarters of the French do not support escalated U.S. military action.6

The U.S. repeatedly has taken responsibility for international security to the world’s benefit, suffering criticism while doing so. As Lichenstein observed: “Frequently when the United States is charged, we respond, and none of our allies does. It gets them off the hook. They say, ‘That’s the United States’ problem.'”

The war on terror is our problem. If other nations withhold support, we must wave them a fond farewell and proceed as we think best.

In 1983, then-President Reagan said Lichenstein’s chastisement of the U.N. “had the hearty approval of most people in America.” It still does.


Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank. 

Footnotes:1 For a much more detailed discussion of this point, see David B. Rivkin and Darin R. Bartram, “The Law on the Road to Baghdad,” National Review Online, August 28, 2002, accessed by the author from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-rivkin082802.asp on August 28, 2002.
2 Brett D. Schaeffer, “Congress Should Hold the Line on U.S. Reform, ” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1290, The Heritage Foundation, June 4, 1999.
3 “U.S. Threats to Iraq Contested by Friend and Foe,” Reuters, August 28, 2002.
4 “U.S. Threats to Iraq Contested by Friend and Foe.”
5 “U.S. Threats to Iraq Contested by Friend and Foe.”
6 Al Webb, The Washington Times, “Opposition in Britain over U.S. Plans,” August 13, 2002.

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