Sunday, July 16, 2006

How Bush has weakened both the United States and the United Nations

I know Bush is counting on us all to forget this, but some of us remember all the way back to 2003, when one of Bush's claimed reasons for invading Iraq (without the approval of the U.N.) was that Iraq had supposedly violated U.N. resolutions, and we had to go in to enforce them. In other words, the U.N. is an important institution, its ability to pass resolutions and have them enforced is important, and if they're not man enough to do it themselves we'll do it for them.

The problem is that not only does Bush have no grasp of history (witness his reference to the fight against Muslim totalitarianism as a "crusade"), he has no sense of the future. Other countries, though, can remember as far back as three years ago, and they point out what had to be an unintended consequence of Bush's unilateral act.

This month Bush has had his panties in a twist over North Korea's testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. (Fred Kaplan has a column here about why the result's of Kim's latest missile adventure was a good thing.) In fact, things are so bad that they were enough to even make Bush want to get the U.N. to take a stand. And they eventually did, sort of. It's just what they did before going along with what Bush wanted that is important:

China and Russia wanted no mention of Chapter VII for fear that it could be used to justify military strikes on North Korea. Opposition by both countries to the Chapter VII rubric has grown since the war in Iraq and what Beijing and Moscow see as the Bush administration’s resort to military means to remove governments it opposes. Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador, had repeatedly said he would cast his country’s veto if that reference remained.

I guess the moral here is that if you treat international institutions the way Bush has, simply a tool or an obstacle depending on your whim, when you need them to do something important they just might remember what you did last time, and you may not get what you want.

I just wonder how long it's going to be before Bush or one of his lackeys start saying that this resolution is sufficient authorization for unilateral U.S. action.

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