08 July 2006

Iraq: War and Occupation

I'm going to make this fairly brief because I've been working on some things for the second draft of my thesis all day, and both my hands and brain hurt. There's a lot of people out there who still cling to the view that the invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are illegal because they lack the blessing of the United Nations. These people are wrong, and in any event, as Dean Acheson once said, the survival of states is not a matter of international law. Frankly, I don't have much use for the UN Security Council and a lot of its other bodies. There are those which do good work in protecting and feeding children, and taking care of human rights, but these are largely overshadowed by "high security" matters that fall to the Security Council. The Council is outdated, outmoded, and irreflective of current global realities, and the concept that a democracy can't do what is an international public good because non-democratic China wants to protect its economic interests is repugnant to any good Wilsonian. That's my view, some people agree with it, but many do not, and believe Kofi Annan when he says that the UN is the sole entity that can confer international legitimacy on the use of force and other international actions.
For them, I present this. People who continue to harp about the supposed illegality of the war and subsequent occupation need to look at Security Council Resolution 1637, which affirms the legitimacy of the occupation because the multinational force is there on the request of the legitimately-elected government of Iraq. I'll even bold it below so that there can be absolutely no mistaking what the UN has said on this matter. Because I'm nice, here are the operative clauses of the resolution (the preamble is lengthy and I don't want it to clutter my page, though it is helpful too, so I'll give a link):

Determining that the situation in Iraq continues to constitute a threat to
international peace and security,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Notes that the presence of the multinational force in Iraq is at the request of the Government of Iraq and, having regard to the letters annexed to this resolution, reaffirms the authorization for the multinational force as set forth in resolution 1546 (2004) and decides to extend the mandate of the multinational force as set forth in that resolution until 31 December 2006;
2. Decides further that the mandate for the multinational force shall be
reviewed at the request of the Government of Iraq or no later than 15 June 2006, and declares that it will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the Government of Iraq;
3. Decides to extend until 31 December 2006 the arrangements established
in paragraph 20 of resolution 1483 (2003) for the depositing into the Development Fund for Iraq of proceeds from export sales of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas and the arrangements referred to in paragraph 12 of resolution 1483 (2003) and paragraph 24 of resolution 1546 (2004) for the monitoring of the Development Fund for Iraq by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board;
4. Decides further that the provisions in the above paragraph for the deposit
of proceeds into the Development Fund for Iraq and for the role of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board shall be reviewed at the request of the Government of Iraq or no later than 15 June 2006;
5. Requests that the Secretary-General continue to report to the Council on
UNAMI’s operations in Iraq on a quarterly basis;
6. Requests that the United States, on behalf of the multinational force,
continue to report to the Council on the efforts and progress of this force on a
quarterly basis;
7. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

And there you have it, kids. The UN has given its approval and support for the occupation of Iraq. The occupation would not have occurred without the invasion and regime change. Ex post facto legitimacy will do nicely. I'm more than a trifle disappointed that this bit of news never made it on television (guess the media don't like to give up on one of their top talking points), but knowing the truth is more than enough to overcome that bit of sadness in my Wilsonian heart.


Jason Bo Green said...


Interesting (and learned) post.

I never ever bought that Iraq was a threat, and while I'm THRILLED that Saddam Hussein has been knocked out of power, I opposed the Iraq war on the grounds that Bin Laden was still free and that North Korea and Iran were bigger threats.

This is complicated, but here goes.

I feel I have been proved right. Bin Laden's thus-far escape has prevented America from bonding together in victory - which is disastrous. NK is firing missiles, and Iran will be soon, it seems.

That does *not* mean I gloat, at all. I don't like sore winners, and international security is no place for petty who's-right games.

That all said: I fully and completely agree that the UN has no flipping business telling democracies how to deal with dictatorships. You are right when you say that survival of states is no matter of international law.

Whether we agreed or disagreed on whom we should go after post-September 11th, we can agree, absolutely, that totalitarian communist China has no place telling democratic Western powers what they can or cannot do.

Jason Bo Green said...

Oh, I hit the button and didn't mean to...

In closing:

I'm with you on massive UN reform. I like the idea of a Liberal Democratic Nations or something - so long as they use the UN building in NYC and kick out all the excluded members. And fly a gay pride flag, just to piss off all the totalitarian commies and fascists and nutjobs in the world!! Take that, losers!

That's what I say.

RGM said...

Very interesting thoughts, and I do agree that pursuing regime change in Iraq has brought about unintended negative consequences, both for domestic harmony (the traditional bipartisan consensus on foreign policy that arises in such times of crises has been shattered) and for America's international relations. They're pretty much down to the Brits as far as reliable, credible, and committed allies go, and that's not enough to do the democracy promotion thing on a wide scale.

I've always seen the 'axis of evil' as a slow build: do the "easy one" (Iraq) first, then Iran, and culminating with North Korea. That doesn't mean military action for all of them; indeed, I would hope that we can still avoid war with both Tehran and Pyongyang. Due to poor planning and tactics, however, Iraq is resembling more of a Rube Goldberg than it should have, and has tied down a lot more resources than previously expected, which limits America's ability to credibly face down the other two.

Having spent most of this day drawing up a modified Prisoner's Dilemma scenario on the Iraq War, I'm still convinced (even moreso)that it was the right course of action to start the democratic revolution in the Middle East, but if some things could be done again, I'd see them done differently.

Jason Bo Green said...

Listen, I got zero problem with agreeing to disagree on an intelligent and thought-out discussion, that's totally cool.

I actually dropped be because I recalled while out that I'd gotten ahead of myself and missed a part of my post - I'd intended to say, "I feel I've been proved right, yada yada yada, but.... I can sympathize with anyone who legitimately believed that Iraq was a threat. I feel there was quite a bit of poorly-thought, knee-jerked, "Let's do this" gung-ho attitude going around at the time, and I think those people were foolish. I don't suspect, though, that you were one of those people.

Now, regarding your response -- and doing things differently: Man, had they done the job properly, and gone in with twice the troops and secured the region and developed the hell out of it, condos, nuclear power (with serious US-only guards crawling all over it), office towers, etc., or, less fantasy-land, then just securing the country and building up schools, training police like nuts, doing an Americanization like Japan had, I wouldn't be complaining.

It might seem "colonial", but if you're going to take out a dictatorship and put in a new system of government, well, that's the way to do it. I know a lot of the Left would complain, but I'm disappointed in the half-hearted commitment the Admin has given to Iraq.

But, that's the cookie we've got to crumble, so no use griping, I suppose.

I'm personally against your view of taking out the weaker elements first - in my eyes, you take out the Joker and Two-Face before you move on to the Riddler and the Penguin, and you take out near-nuclear powers before non.

Catwoman you just let go, of course.

RGM said...

Heh, interesting Batman analogy. Ever read the Knightfall storyline from a few years back? Batman did end up going through all the weak ones and leaving the Joker for last, and after beating him, got his ass whupped by Bane.

Jason Bo Green said...

Exactly my point, my dear McAdam. ;)

Jason Bo Green said...

Incidentally, there's not too many global politics bloggers I can really talk Batman analogies with - extra bonus points!

RGM said...

Of course, had he gone after Joker (and to be fair, & Scarecrow) first, he may have ended up getting his ass whupped by some lame two-bit villain that happened to get lucky.

Jason Bo Green said...

Nuh uh - see, and I'm being completely serious here, once he takes out Joker and Two-Face (okay, and Scarecrow), then the pawns alone are left. A bad case scenario - Dick comes back and takes out Nygma or Cobblepot or Isley before they can kick Bruce's ass, and very worst case scenario, Selina Kyle steps in at the last moment.

It's always best to get the Queen early rather than risk having yours taken as you're hammering at the Bishops and Knights. You always gotta keep your sights on the Queen.

The first chance you have to take the General, you take it - you don't waste time on infantry all day.

North Korea and Iran were always closer to nuclear capability. Iraq was BAD - don't get me wrong.

But had we tackled NK and Iran, Iraq would an easy target. It very possibly might have fallen in line like Libya.

We wasted our resources and time on the least threatening enemies, and now are left with even stronger versions of the strongest threats. It's bad news.

RGM said...

Very interesting way to look at it we've come up with here eh?

There's a lot of dynamics involved in the War on Terror and Tyranny (my personal preferred definition for "World War IV") that we haven't even touched yet (Sunni/Shi'ite divide, what would China do, that kind of stuff). I think they had to do something in the Middle East first because that's the hotbed of fundamentalism, and given Iraq's history and outstanding CW and BW stockpiles at the end of the UNSCOM regime, it was probably the easiest case to make. I've seen a lot of people lately using the "least common denominator" approach to Iraq: nasty regime, big history of having and using WMDs, state sponsor of terrorism, and an old enemy that a lot of folks in the US establishment wanted gone in '91.
The Admin. has taken a ton of heat for doing the 'bait-and-switch' by expanding the definiton of the war on terror to include Iraq, it would have been much worse had they gone after North Korea first. "Wait a minute here, the problem is Islamist terrorism, why are we going after a state that definitely had no connection to 9/11, isn't a state sponsor of Islamist terrorism, and isn't even located in the geostrategic region that we're focusing on?" Iran makes for a better case, as for a lot of things they probably could have gotten away with swapping 'Q's for 'N's, because a lot of the issues are similar. But for all intents and purposes, they had to start somewhere, and picking Iraq was probably the right choice to make. That being said, I'm disappointed that the Administration didn't try to walk and chew gum at the same time. There's no reason that a team with this much experience and intelligence couldn't have juggled at least two of these countries simultaneously. By shelving Iran and North Korea to focus exclusively on Iraq, they have done themselves a disservice and, as you say, now have to confront stronger versions of stronger enemies. The strongest resource wasted is that of human diplomacy.

Jason Bo Green said...

Dude - WHOA. Tackling Iraq AND Iran at the same time?

That's a thought that has *never* occurred to me.

I'm trying hard to think of what I *would* have thought back then...

Hard to say exactly how I would have reacted. But, hearing it today - I like it, I think. Dicey situtation, but... wasn't it already, after Sept 11?

I don't think I would have objected, really. And (had they done it with proper troop levels) I think I'd be far, far happier with the situation today.

(I generally agree on NK, although once you've been attacked and a crazy, albeit different, foe is going nuclear, anything is possible when it comes to persuasion. I'm not disagreeing with you though)

RGM said...

That's not necessarily suggesting that there be military options for both, just a stronger diplomatic push against Iran to coincide with the plan for Iraq. It would have immensely boosted the credibility (especially if, as you say, they'd done it with higher troops levels, enough to make the mullahs think that maybe some of those hundreds of thousands of troops were pointing at them) to say, "Give up the nuclear program or there's going to be consequences." The Iranians are slightly more rational than Saddam, in that I think they can be reasoned with and their situation resolved diplomatically. I don't think that was possible with Iraq, given Saddam's erratic nature and sordid history. But with Iran, it should have been possible to deal with that situation at the same time and achieve some sort of resolution back in '02-'03 instead of it dragging on for four more years and who knows how much beyond.

Jason Bo Green said...

On the fly, but - oh sure, of course there'd be a period of diplomatic "or-else-ness" going on, I gotcha, no worries.... back much later...