DURHAM — Does the United States need the legitimacy of the United Nations in democratizing Iraq? Does the United Nations have legitimacy to give to this process? Three distinguished panelists discussed, and disagreed, on the answers to these questions during the Confronting Iraq workshop sponsored by Duke University earlier this month.
Bruce Jentleson, director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, opened the discussion by warning of internal conflict in Iraq now that the Iraqis’ main enemy, Saddam Hussein, is gone. The liberation of Iraq will not send “shock waves of democracy throughout the Middle East,” but will, in fact, complicate other delicate issues in the region, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In order to resolve this conflict, Jentleson said, Palestinians must have a “deep and genuine commitment to peace” and Sharon needed to prove the same. Jentleson said he thinks Sharon has shown only that he is in favor of security but not yet peace.
In establishing this peace, American military power cannot be the organizing principle of the world because “shock and awe have a different effect in diplomacy.” Jentleson stressed the need for the United Nations in any conflict resolution, arguing that the organization can give the legitimacy needed in the volatile transfer of power to authority in Iraq. He admitted that the United Nations is a frustrating place but he said there is hope because countries like Germany get ”an A+ in their support for U.S. initiatives other than combat.”
Robert Litwak, international studies director for the Woodrow Wilson International Center, continued on this theme of necessity for U.N. legitimacy. Similarly admitting to problems within the United Nations, Litwak said in any case that the world body, and only the world body, can give a country the “international Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”
He said there is a crisis of weapons proliferation in Iran, North Korea, and still in Iraq. Even though the United States and Britain have rid the world of Saddam, the coalition must locate and destroy weapons of mass destruction and also prevent rogue elements from transferring them out of the country. Litwak questioned the effects of Iraq’s liberation upon Iran, implying that the military “pre-emption” in Iraq may accelerate instead of deter Iran’s desire to arm.
Litwak stressed the need for the world to understand the Middle East. Was Iraq a product of Saddam or is he a product of his country? He said the United States needed to examine the region because the current situation there is not the “manifestation of one man’s megalomania.” He said he thinks that another leader living under the same geopolitical crisis could have behaved just as Hussein. With Russia poised to ship the fuel needed to complete a weapons program that Germany started in Iran, Litwak said that the United States and the United Nations must work together and do so soon.
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, asserted that the post-Cold War era ended with Sept. 11. This new era and new world is marked by the war in Iraq.
The immediate implication of the war was regional, Kristol said. As much as Hussein has been a source of concern for the world, he has been more so for countries that neighbor Iraq. Iraq’s liberation has been the first positive, dramatic change to occur in the Middle East in recent memory, Kristol said. While there has been a sense of “stability” in the area, it has come at the high cost of dictators and their sons.
Internationally, the implications of the war have “exposed, not caused, a rift between America and the U.N., who have been artificially held together by common enemies.” Kristol said he thinks that the damage may not be repairable because in this new era American expectations and responsibilities are much different from those of Europe. The French, German, and Russian dealings with Iraq are not a onetime instance of conflict with the United States, Kristol said. It has become a trend.
Kristol defended American military power, saying that while it is not the answer to everything, it establishes some level of decency in the world. While American unilateralism may not be the answer, Kristol said that neither is U.N. multilateralism. He warned of the United Nations’ handling of refugee camps in Kosovo and reminded the audience that most of the countries in the world body are not “crazy about self-government.”
Legitimacy is “conferred by the outcome” and not by some seal of approval, Kristol said. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval rewards only the good and takes no action against the bad, he said.
Hood is an editorial intern at Carolina Journal.