Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON--Don't go back, Mr. President. You walked away from the United Nations at great cost and with great courage. Don't go back.

No one knows when this war will end. But when it does, you'll have to decide the terms. Yet in the last few days both you and Tony Blair have said you will seek a new U.N. resolution, postwar, providing for the governance of Iraq.

Why in God's name would we want to re-empower the French in deciding the postwar settlement? Why would we want to grant them influence over the terms, the powers, the duration of an occupation bought at the price of American and British blood? France, Germany and Russia did everything they could to sabotage your policy before the war. Will they want to see it succeed after the war?

The Frankfurt Allgemeine reports that on Feb. 21, Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, wrote his Foreign Ministry that the United States, blocked on a U.N. war resolution and fighting alone, would later ``remorsefully return to the council'' to seek help in rebuilding Iraq.

That is their game. Why should we play into it? And why return the issue to Kofi Annan, who had the audacity to declare the war illegitimate because it is supported by only 17 U.N. resolutions and not 18?

Mr. President, we lost at the U.N. Badly. But that signal defeat had one significant side benefit. For the first time, Americans got to see what the U.N. truly is. The experience has been bracing. The result has been an enormous and salutary shift in American public opinion.

You've seen the polls: 75 percent of Americans disapprove of how the U.N. handled the situation with Iraq. In December, polls showed a majority of Americans opposed to a war without U.N. backing. Today, after the U.N. debacle, 71 percent support the war regardless.

What happened? Americans finally had a look inside the sausage factory. Their image of the ``U.N.'' as a legitimating institution had always been deeply sentimental, based on the U.N. of their youth--UNICEF, refugee help, earthquake assistance. A global Mother Teresa. That's what they thought of the U.N., and that's why they held it in esteem and cared about what it said. Now they know that the ``U.N.'' is not UNICEF collection boxes, but a committee of cynical, resentful, ex-imperial powers like France and Russia serving their own national interests--and delighting in frustrating America's--without the slightest reference to the moral issues at stake. The American public understands that this is not a body in which to entrust American values or American security.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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