Dangerous precedent being set for war
By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON: The outcome of the struggle for a new UN Security Council resolution
on Iraq could influence the way nations go to war for years to come, foreign
policy analysts say.
The United States and Britain are working for a new resolution that would
essentially authorize war against Iraq for failing to give up its weapons of
But US President George W. Bush has consistently said he reserves the right to
go to war even without a resolution.
The debate comes down to a struggle over who decides whether or when force can
be used in this or other conflicts. France and others have argued that force is
to be used only as a final resort with explicit UN approval.
What worries some analysts most is the prospect that if Washington goes to war
without UN authorization, other nations might feel free to follow suit.
The White House, while going along with the UN process on Iraq for tactical
reasons, maintains the danger posed by international terrorism justifies the use
of pre-emptive or preventive force and that it will act as it sees fit to
protect US interests no matter what the Security Council decides.
The administration's National Security Strategy document released last September
spelled this out, saying that the only way to fight terrorism and "rogue
states" was to hit them first. "We cannot let our enemies strike
first," it said.
Some say that approach violates the UN charter, which asserts that the only
justification for the use of military force is self-defence, although the United
States disputes this interpretation.
"What's happening at the UN is that major countries like France and Russia
want to contain Iraq and stop (President) Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear
weapons, but they also want to contain the United States," said Robert Pape,
a political scientist at the University of Chicago.
"They don't want to see the United States launch a war of conquest in an
oil rich region. They fear that if Washington does it once with Iraq, it will do
it again," Pape said.
'DANGEROUS PRECEDENT': "It would set an extremely dangerous precedent.
Countries like India, which is involved in a dangerous confrontation with
Pakistan in which both have nuclear weapons, would pay close attention,"
said Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Bush himself spoke last week of using the Iraq crisis to teach a lesson to
others that might threaten the United States. "By defeating this threat, we
will show other dictators that the path of aggression will lead to their own
ruin," he said.
From the moment it took office in 2001, the Bush administration signalled
clearly its refusal to be hemmed in by a variety of international conventions.
It torpedoed treaties on global warming, an international criminal court and
various arms control pacts. But none of these struck at the center of the UN
structure the way the present struggle is doing.
One reason the administration has stuck with the Security Council over Iraq is
that public opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans
strongly prefer that an attack on Iraq be authorized by the United Nations,
"The jury is still out on the implications of this struggle because the
Bush administration, despite the reluctance of many of its key players, is still
playing by the rules of the UN Charter," said Jeffrey Laurenti, executive
director of the United Nations Association of the United States.
Key allies, including Britain and Turkey, where public opinion is overwhelming
opposed to a war, have told Washington that UN approval is crucial if they are
to take part.
"If Bush decides to launch war without UN approval, he will have
essentially torn up the Charter and taken us back a century to the situation
before the First World War where each country took care of its own interests and
regarded force as a legitimate means of action," said Laurenti.
However, Cirincione said that the French and Russian positions were not dictated
solely by deep moral objections to war but by a desire to retain power and
influence in a world so dominated by the United States.
"Countries like France and Russia are painfully aware that part of their
international standing depends on having a strong and viable United Nations. To
the extent that the United States weakens the UN their power is also
weakened," he said.
This gives those countries a strong incentive to keep the United States
operating within the UN framework rather than acting independently.-Reuters
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