The price of
Saturday, October 18, 2003
President George W. Bush won a big victory Thursday at the United Nations. By an impressive unanimous vote that even Syria joined, the Security Council approved an American-backed resolution containing almost everything he wanted, including continued exclusive American control over Iraq's political affairs and the authorization of a multinational peacekeeping force under American command.
Restoring Security Council unity over Iraq is a substantial achievement after the damaging divisions that emerged last winter. Much of the credit goes to Secretary of State Colin Powell and America's UN representative, John Negroponte. Washington showed more graciousness than it had recently done about listening to ideas from other countries and incorporating them into the resolution's text. Most of the resulting changes were symbolic, but the newly cooperative tone helped overcome the reluctance of many Council members to endorse exclusive American rule. China, and especially Russia, intervened helpfully in the final hours to ensure unanimity.Unfortunately, the real impact of ratifying the current arrangements in Iraq is to leave the burden for postwar Iraq squarely on American soldiers and taxpayers. The resolution does not commit American allies and other Council members to do anything in Iraq and will do little to ease the continued reluctance of major countries to commit badly needed troops and reconstruction aid. France, Germany and Russia, while voting for the resolution, also made clear their disappointment that the resolution did not go further in transferring power to Iraqis and expanding the United Nations' political role. As a result, they have announced that they plan to offer no troops and no additional money. The resolution provides that power will be given to Iraqis only as quickly as Washington judges them ready to receive it. That leaves the Bush administration free to shape Iraq's new constitution and steer contracts toward favored companies. But the price of exclusive control is that most of the costs of occupying Iraq will still have to be borne by the American people. A few additional countries may now be willing to contribute peacekeepers. But the world's major military powers are still holding back, so overstretched American forces will not get much relief anytime soon. And while an international donors' conference will proceed in Madrid next week, most rich countries, like France and Germany, remain unwilling to pledge substantial new aid until Iraqis exercise more sovereignty. Despite the UN victory Thursday, the Bush administration faces growing problems in Iraq if it persists in demanding exclusive control. Continuing security problems there are putting a long-term strain on America's military forces. At home, political resistance is growing to the huge rebuilding costs ahead. Eventually, the White House must resign itself to sharing real authority with Iraqis and the international community.
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