Lessons learned?

Now is as good a time as any to think back to the debate in late 2002 among those favoring military action against Iraq over whether the U.S. should seek a U.N. resolution or simply proceed militarily along with those allies willing to join in. Those who favored the U.N. route assured skeptics like me that Saddam Hussein would quickly prove his bad faith for all to see and that, in any event, President Bush would proceed with military action in good time. I acknowledged that this was probably true, but objected on principle to allowing countries like France, acting through the U.N., to have any influence over the timing of events. And I worried that we might face more resistance to military action, rather than less, if we delayed.
The arguments and concerns of both sides of the debate have turned out to be largely valid. Saddam quickly proved his bad faith, President Bush almost certainly is going to proceed with or without the U.N., countries like France have had far too much to say, and the anti-war movement has gained ground. However, perhaps the most significant development is one that, if I recall correctly, was not widely mentioned — the fact that France and Germany, as much as Saddam, have demonstrated their bad faith for all to see. It has become clear that France never cared whether Saddam complied with the Security Council resolution it helped craft. Rather, the resolution was merely a pretext to forestall action while France scrambled to new finds ways to prevent action entirely. This reality represents a huge blow to those in this country who wish to tie our ability to act militarily to the approval of “the Europeans” and/or the United Nations. For individuals of good faith in that crowd, such as Colin Powell, the actions of France and Germany have been, I believe, an eye-opener. For that reason, it may prove fortuitous that we waited these months. Some valuable lessons have, I hope, been learned.


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