Ray Fleming knows far more about the United Nations than I do. His insights into its procedures and behindthescenes horsetrading are fascinating and informative and authoritative. So why do I think that in his analysis of the Iraqi crisis he's got it all wrong?
Why has he got his adversaries mixed up with his allies?
Why does he consistently overstate the power and influence of the UN and why does he regularly write of the United States as if they are Global Public Enemy Number One?
The unfortunate truth is that the United Nations, in its higher aspirations, has been hamstrung from the very beginning by its constitution. It was rather like a group of worthy citizens getting together to form a Neighbourhood Watch and then admitting every burglar, mugger,rapist and conman in the parish to the benefits of full membership. It has done some good.
In small situations where the major powers have no particular interest in the mineral rights it has put together some effective and courageous peacekeeping forces. It has also allowed bloodstained dictators to put on their thousand dollar suits and strut the stage as world statesmen. It has allowed characters like Idi Amin and Mugabe and now Saddam Hussein to cock a snook at world opinion as expressed in tepid resolutions of condemnation passed by the UN.
Which is exactly what Hussein is doing now. I can understand those who say we must not have war at any price, though I think they are dangerously misguided.
I understand those who say war is necessary to remove Saddam. I do not understand those who appear to be saying war is a bad thing unless approved by the UN in which case it magically becomes a good thing. Mr Fleming is one of those who argue that the solution to the Iraqi crisis lies with the UN.
But even if we accept that sweeping statement surely the UN had its last word on the subject when the Security Council passed Resolution 1441? That was the one which gave Saddam Hussein 60 days to comply with his disarmament obligations. He has not done so.
So what next? Is the plan now to pass further resolutions until we find one Saddam likes?
Perhaps, like a fitted kitchen manufacturer, we should send him a catalogue of options to choose from.
Meanwhile Mr Fleming declares himself sickened by the arrogance and impatience of the US. I am by no means uncritical of the US. They are after all the only global superpower and that is a condition, as Britain demonstrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, prone to breed a spot of arrogance and impatience. After World War 2 hysterical fear of communism led the US to back many wrong horses. Present unrest in the Middle East stems largely from America's inequitable support for Israel against the Palestinians. It to be hoped that Tony Blair will be seeking a rethink of this policy as a quid quo pro for Britain's support against Iraq. But if we must have a superpower thank God we have the U.S.. There are times when we would do well to reflect that without them there would be no United Nations at all. Countries like France ,who have repeatedly bitten the hand that feeds them and will be first in the queue when contracts for rebuilding Iraq are up for grabs, would be provinces of Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. And Ray Fleming and I would be jail.
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