Secretary of State Colin Powell just laid down the latest and perhaps most convincing case to date for going to war with Iraq. The war to disarm Iraq is necessary, since Iraq has refused to disarm itself. Ideally the war would have U.N. approval. However, after the U.N.'s behavior over the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that it is irrelevant to the international community.
The U.N. has proven many times its inability to determine international affairs. Libya is chair of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, perhaps the most powerful body that deals with human rights violations around the world. Moammar Gaddafi, a military dictator, currently rules Libya. His regime has been responsible for mass killings, torture, and other atrocious human rights violations. Iraq will become the president of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament this May. This is not a joke. Iran, which still tops the U.S. State Department list for state-sponsored terrorism, will be second-in-command at the conference.
Obviously the U.N. system of "everyone gets a fair shot" is flawed. Countries like Libya, Iraq, and Iran should never end up in those positions, and Syria and Cuba should not have seats on the Security Council. As a friend of mine put it recently, "when you're a kid, you eat at the kids' table, and when you're a grownup you eat at the grownups' table." He nailed it. Only countries that have "grown up" and have demonstrated that they care for human rights, are dedicated to non-aggression and non-proliferation, and have denounced terrorism, should have a say on the world stage. Membership in an organization like the U.N. should be a privilege, not a right.
The opportunity to back up Resolution 1441 to physically disarm Iraq is a good test for the U.N. If the U.N. rejects the use of force, and bows once again to the influence of "kid" regimes, it will truly have proven its irrelevance.
Although I support giving the U.N. one last shot at legitimacy, we should not make a "legitimate war" synonymous with a "U.N.-sanctioned war." British Spectator columnist Mark Steyn made a good point when he said that "one of the reasons for not pressing on to victory [in the Gulf War] was that to do so would have risked 'fracturing' the international coalition." In essence, if the U.N. hadn't been so scared of angering rogue Arab regimes in 1991, Saddam might not be on the national scene today. It would be a terrible thing for all legitimate wars if they were expected to be fought under the approval of today's U.N.
So where does this leave us? It still makes sense to make our case to the U.N. for going to war with Iraq. Let the Security Council vote on a second resolution authorizing war. With or without the U.N., America, and its growing number of allies, should proceed and disarm Iraq. If the U.N. signed on, it would prove its international relevance. If the U.N. rejects the use of force, it has outlived its usefulness.
Resolution 1441 was drafted as a "last chance" for Saddam to disarm. Perhaps it is also a "last chance" for the legitimacy of the U.N. on the world stage.