Steven Den Beste's recent post on whether Iraq was a distraction featured a single sentence that I believe is very important to provide amplification "The invasion had very little to do with WMDs, even though that was the core of the public debate in the UN." The question naturally arises why didn't we debate the real questions and instead created some sort of shadow puppet debate that created confusion where there should, ideally, be clarity.
The core of the problem is that the UN is one of the many institutions and systems that is founded on the bedrock that the nonintervention principles of the Peace of Westphalia. Since the US and the UK have declared Westphalia to be defunct, in the technical sense of the term, they are the most powerful rogue nations on the planet as far as the UN system is concerned and it is a complete deriliction of duty for Kofi Annan not to declare them so.
It's really a pity that he doesn't because it would bring the crisis to a head and ensure that we come to a relatively quick and efficient solution. He hasn't, doesn't, and likely won't do this unless he's absolutely forced to because if he does, he will end up being on the side arguing against a fuller expression of the universal values that the UN is supposed to be upholding. He will expose the name of the organization as the farce that it is. The UN neither represents nations, nor is it united. It represents states, whatever their character.
To illustrate, the Kurds are a nation but they have no state. Yugoslavia was a state but there was no nation of yugoslavs. The US, well we're special. We're an emerging nation with maybe a couple of hundred years of history as americans
Speaking of special cases, the Catholic theocracy of Vatican State is admitted to the UN under special regulations but the theocracy of Orthodox clerics is not admitted. Is this religious discrimination? Hardly, it's just that the Catholic Church runs a state and the Orthodox Church is melded with the local state. If the EU wins its fight with Greece over the male only status of Mount Athos, It will cease to be a part of Greece and either the Orthodox monks will rejoin Greece and admit women or they will set about the business of running a state which, no doubt, will eventually be admitted to the UN, not because the people of Mount Athos will be of a particular nation, but they will be a state. As a sidenote, the question of Mount Athos could be abstracted into a really neat press conference question. The underlying issues have significant application.
But let's get back to the UN. The UN, crys out much of Western Europe, is largely a US created institution. Why doesn't the US just work within the UN framework? The answer is simple. If you're going to blow up bedrock, one thing you absolutely must do is before you hit the detonator switch is to stop standing on it.
The UN system as currently constituted fundamentally depends on the bedrock of the nonintervention principles of the Peace of Westphalia. If you wanted to 'work within the system', you would have to first completely remake the UN, a process that is likely to take years of time, countless personnel, and huge political and human resources all so that... you have a new set of charters, rules, and regulations with absolutely no increase in security and no lessening of the threat. On the contrary, the threat that these nihilistic death cults pose will likely grow as you dither with the sisyphean task of UN reform.
If this were a multipolar world where some of the relatively equal great powers agreed on destroying Westphalia while others were dedicated to defending it, the world would be in an awful lot more trouble than it is now. Fortunately, we do not live in that world. And in the unipolar world we do live in, restraining the one power when it wants to remake the world system is like tying down Gulliver. The Lilliputians keep trying but it's just not working.
So here we are, confronted by an Islamist force that carefully walks the fault lines of the Westphalian system and the US running after it causing earthquakes and all the other nihilistic death cults (NDCs from here on out) taking copious notes and working on imitating whatever successes the Islamists have.
We chose to act first, in part as a method of forcing the UN to confront how untenable its baseline assumptions are, in part because we couldn't sit around and argue out the paperwork before we acted. But we also chose not to completely break the system and humiliate the world but leave everybody a figleaf.
And that's why the UN discussed WMDs so much.Posted by TMLutas at March 19, 2004 09:21 AM