October 2, 2003 | Commentary on International Organizations

March to Irrelevance

In the wake of 9/11, President Bush laid out a new doctrine. "From this day forward," he told Congress several days later, "any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

But that was two years ago. These days, Bush is being criticized-for keeping his word.

Many leaders, including French President Jacques Chirac and U. N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, are still seething because the United States and Great Britain led a coalition into Iraq last March without explicit U.N. support.

Of course, just a few months earlier, the Security Council had unanimously passed Resolution 1441. It found Iraq to be in material breach of previous orders, and warned Baghdad it would face "serious consequences" unless it disarmed. Reasonable people would agree that, when Iraq issued a misleading and incomplete weapons report a month later, we were free to use force.

But reasonable people don't run the United Nations.

"[Some states] reserve the right to act unilaterally, or in ad hoc coalitions," Annan told the General Assembly on Sept. 23. "This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years" and could result "in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification."

It's funny, really, that Annan would even mention "logic" in the midst of his absurd claim. After all, it's terrorists who engage in the "lawless use of force," who threaten "world peace and stability" and who "act unilaterally." And it's the United States who acts to stop them.

No one doubts that Saddam Hussein supported terrorism. We know, for example, that he arranged cash payments for Palestinian suicide bombers and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. Saddam posed a terrorist threat to the entire world-a threat that's been neutralized in spite of the United Nations, not because of it.

But that reality (and the fact that his country had nothing to do with Saddam's removal) hasn't stopped Chirac from thumbing his nose at President Bush. "In an open world," the French leader told the General Assembly, "no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules."

As Chirac surely knows, the United States doesn't seek to live in isolation. But as Bush has said, we'll do what it takes to protect ourselves from terrorists, and that includes working with other nations. Let's not forget we assembled a "coalition of the willing" that included more than 54 countries to help fight the war in Iraq. As for "anarchy," it was the United States that insisted on enforcing the dozen or so U.N. disarmament resolutions.

The sad fact is, the only thing that terrorists respect is force. You can't reason with them, and they have no love for the United Nations. In August, a suicide bomber attacked the U.N. building in Baghdad, killing 22 people. France has had its own problems with terrorists. Over the years, Algerian terrorists have carried out a series of attacks, killing dozens of people.

Just two years ago, the world changed. President Bush recognizes that. Our forceful response to 9/11, targeting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere-has helped prevent another attack on our soil.

When Iraq's democracy is up and running, it will be an example for every other nation in the region to follow. It's time for the United Nations to realize that negotiations won't stop terrorism. It can either help us in the struggle, or continue its march to irrelevance.

Ed Feulner is the president of The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Founder's Office

Related Issues: International Organizations