Friday, July 04, 2003

I meant to write a short response to an excellent Kosfiles entry about the problems in Iraq, but ended up writing something, um, substantially longer. So I decided to reproduce it here:

Simplicissimus (and I thought people had trouble with my pseudonym):

You're right, it is the problem of all Americans, and Steve is also right in saying that other countries aren't going to jump in to help in the current situation.

...I would quibble, however, with Steve and space's notion that 'peacekeepers' cannot impose peace. There's a reason that 'peacekeeping' is actually called PEO (peace enforcement operations) now, and that's because there's a hell of a lot more in the way of options and tactics than Pearsonian peacekeeping. The problem is that nobody is going to help out the U.S. in any serious manner as long as it's seen as a U.S. adventure by the governments and citizenries of foreign countries.

In that light, the solution is simple: bring the U.N. onboard with Iraq. The U.N. won't do that, though, as long as the U.S. is antagonistic towards them. So the U.N. (including the Security Council) needs to be convinced that the U.S. will play ball. The best way to do that is for the U.S. to not only explicitly embrace the U.N. in a rhetorical sense, but in a legal and financial sense as well: by paying back part of what it owes the U.N., and signing on to some multilateral UN-backed treaty that it had previously been shying away from out of concern for 'national security'. (Chemical weapons would be a perfect choice.) It doesn't have to go all-out multilateralist, which is politically impossible right now... but it does need to make the first move.

(Yes, this will almost certainly tick off the Israelis. So be it.)

Once that's done, and the tension between the U.S. and U.N. is seen as an unfortunate past incident, then the U.S. can safely call for U.N. help in creating peace and stability in Iraq, and with the U.N. imprimatur on the enterprise, other countries (particularly regional actors) can introduce peacekeeping forces under the U.N.'s authority. The U.S. can then switch its role from putting boots on the ground to financial and technological support.

Do this, and everybody wins: the U.S. moves from spending lives to spending dollars, the U.N. gets reconfirmation of its relevance, foreign governments friendly to the U.S. get a welcome breather, and the Iraqis get peacekeepers that are representatives not of any sort of 'empire', but of the world community that Iraq wants to reincorporate itself into. It also gets a force that's willing to go for the long haul: U.N. peacekeepers know that they may be around for a while, and that it's part of the job.

The only possible losers, really, are the neocon and radical right unilateralists who foam at the mouth at the mention of the words 'United Nations'.

My reaction? Screw 'em.


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