Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Feeding the Beast

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. says that a strong show of support from Congress on the Iraq war resolution will not strengthen the President's hand at the United Nations, but could have the opposite effect — undermining the U.S. "It takes the U.N. off the hook," said Senator Levin, who has proposed an alternative resolution that would require Bush to first seek U.N. support.

Senator Levin is almost certainly and dangerously wrong.

If there are signs Mr. Bush's approach is not trusted at home, and might not be supported by Congress, the U.N is unlikely to think something beyond the ususal impotent fussing is required. The position of the U.N., most of its General Asembly members, and especially the Secretary General, is clear: They are making great efforts to convert the whole affair into a big, meaningless stage performance of various showy and irrelevant acts, such as sending inspectors into Iraq where "palace grounds" (some of which are bigger than the District of Columbia) are renedered effectively off limits by "advance notice requirements." To date, only Presidential resolve has produced even the modest movement towards rationality in the U.N. that has occurred. And, of course, the whole "inspector" approach is a farce given what we now know about Iraq's determination to undermine the inspectors' efforts. As the Pantagon puts it in the above linked article: "[A]ny inspections would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry out because Iraq was going to extreme lengths to conceal its arsenals. "It is a very organized, very comprehensive effort" ... one that that includes "inputs and guidance from the highest levels."

Mr. Bush is absolutely correct to understand that the only approach likely to cut through this U.N. intransigence is a clear showing that the United States will simply ignore the U.N. farce if the U.N. insists on its usual farce. Any indication that the U.N. has real influence in this process will not be viewed by the U.N. as "being on the hook" - it will be viewed there simply as another opportunity for "being an obstacle in the road."

Senator Levin's approach is exactly the wrong approach, and it is a good thing that there appears to be no chance that it will be included in the final resolution. But then he is Senator from Michigan - which has a large population of Arab Americans. Of course, Senator Levin is Jewish - and some might think on those grounds he would be more sympathetic to Israel's pleas that Iraq be taken out as soon as possible (although the Man Without Qualities is not sympathetic to the force of this kind of reasoning). Ironically, if Republican Spencer Abraham - who is an Arab-American - were still Senator from Michigan (he is now energy Secretary), my guess is that he would be more supportive of the President's position.

"Identity politics" certainly is getting complicated.

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