Bush and Blair Disagree on Post-War Iraq
John de Boer (GLOCOM Platform)
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has just left for a meeting with the US President George W. Bush at Camp David. Although obviously premature, considering that the war waged by the UK/US on Iraq has no end in sight, the meeting is said to concentrate on reconstruction efforts in post-war Iraq. There are no doubts about it, all of us know that what is being discussed behind closed doors today will eventually have a dramatic impact on the world in which we live. In essence, Blair and Bush will be talking about much more than post-war Iraq, they will be planning the new world order.
Neither administration has shied away from the fact that this has been their intent all along. Both made it clear that their objectives were not limited to disarming and removing Iraq. They spoke about spreading a wave of democracy throughout the Middle East and in driving home a message to all "rogue" states who seek to challenge the "overwhelming power" of the US through weapons of mass destruction to think twice before doing so. In advance of the war, the two leaders were in perfect sync as they spread this message to every corner of the world.
What they don't agree upon, however, is the fate of the United Nations. In his speech to the UN General Assembly on 12 September 2002, President Bush made it clear stating that the UN had to "act like a real instrument for collective security or die like the League of Nations". With the US and the UK choosing to go to war without UN sanction, they have obviously dismissed the UN's ability to "act like a real instrument for collective security". However, after having described the UN Security Council as a useless talk shop in the Azores "summit", Tony Blair now seems intent on keeping the organization alive. Just yesterday he was quoted by the New York Times as stating that, "it is important that whatever administration takes over in Iraq has the authority of the UN behind it" (Warren Hoge, 26 March).
The issue is not just about the reconstruction of Iraq. As Martin Woollacott of the Guardian put it, "Iraq could be the site of a partial reconciliation between the US and its alienated (former) allies, between American and the UN, between Americans and the Arabs… Or it could be the place where the divergence of interest and policy evident in the period before the war is confirmed and deepened" (26 March). Basically, how Iraq is reconstructed will shape the post-war world.
Confirming that Bush and Blair disagree on this issue, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian stated that the, "UK and US are at odds in talks on reconstruction". He insisted further that, "the British Government is frustrated at being forced to negotiate with some of the most rightwing elements in the US republican administration" (26 March). Frustrated particularly because most of Europe, and indeed the international community, insists that the UN play a key role in post-Saddam Iraq.
While France has refuses to discuss the issue for fear that it would legitimize the war de jure, the German Minister for Development, Heidemarie Wieczorck-Zeul, has noted that post-war Iraq must be administered by the United Nations. Its Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has explicitly stated that, "Germany would join reconstruction efforts provided that they are coordinated by the UN". The Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was even more insistent on a central UN role stating that, "Germany would not tolerate the emergence, after the Iraq war, of a new world order centered on the US" (Financial Times, 26 March). Like France, the European Commission has been reluctant to discuss the future of Iraq, however, it did state that the "UN must have the mandate to coordinate the massive reconstruction effort" (Financial Times, 26 March)
Contrary to European aspirations (which this time include Blair), the US has already set up an office for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Iraq within the Pentagon. According to Patrick Wintour, the director of this office (Jay Garner) is already in Kuwait overseeing the "intense recruitment of his staff", which will not include the UN or Britons. As far as Jay Garner and the dominant force in the Bush administration are concerned, this will be an all-American affair (see EU Report # 46).
The decision to rid the world of the UN also has the seeming approval of some in the Washington Post. After reminding the President of his ultimatum to the UN in September 2002, Charles Krauthammer pled, "don't go back, Mr. President. You walked away from the UN at great cost and with great courage. Don't go back" (Washington Post, 26 March). He went on to argue, "why return the issue [Iraq] to Kofi Annan, who had the audacity to declare the war illegitimate?" Citing opinion polls that rate American disapproval of how the UN handled the situation of Iraq at 75%, Krauthammer claimed that "the American people are with [the President] in leaving the UN behind". He went on to state that Bush should, "let a new structure be born out of the Iraq coalition. … If we're going to negotiate terms, it should be with allies who help us, who share our vision and our purpose". In conclusion he noted that there was "no need to leave the organization formally", rather he said that the US should "just ignore it" because it will "wither away" with out the US.
These views are sending a chill down Europe's spine and should do so in Japan as well. The US administration is currently dominated by hawks such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney who have no regard for the United Nations and welcome the weakening of international treaties and obligations that could restrict US power. More will become clear after Blair's meeting with Bush, however, under the current circumstances the future of the United Nations and the will of the international community does not look bright. What is bewildering is that a country such as Japan, which has traditionally believed in the central role of the UN in securing peace and security has failed to put up any fight for the organization whatsoever. Does this signify a change in Japanese foreign policy? Or is this simply a lack of understanding on the part of the Koizumi administration? In any case, we simply cannot allow the Bush administration to single-handedly try and destroy the United Nations.
- Patrick Wintour, "Rightwingers dismiss UN role in future Iraq", The Guardian, 26 March 2003
- Martin Woollacott, "Can Blair convince Bush to share his belief in the international institutions?", The Guardian, 26 March 2003
- Charles Krauthammer, "Forget them all, Mr. Bush", The Washington Post, 26 March 2003
- Hugh Williamson and Judy Dempsey, "US should bear cost of rebuilding, says Berlin", The Financial Times, 26 March 2003