If, as Kofi Annan said at the United Nations this week "the last 12 months have been very painful to those of us who believe in collective answers to our common problems," let's hope the U.N. General Secretary listened carefully to President Bush's remarks before the General Assembly. "The Security Council was right to be alarmed," Bush said, referring to the 17 Security Council resolutions on disarming Saddam Hussein. "The Security Council was right to demand that Iraq destroy its illegal weapons and prove that it had done so. The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply."
"And because there were consequences," the president continued, charitably omitting the Security Council's failure, ever, to enforce those consequences, and "because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is free. And today we are joined by representatives of a liberated country."
All of which sounds like American-Anglo -- or, in U.N. parlance, "unilateral" -- answers to our common problems. Not that anyone was about to say thank you, either collectively or unilaterally. Instead, Annan fretted (partly in French) over the "fundamental challenge" to "world peace" posed by such "unilateralism." Acting without the "unique legitimacy" of the United Nations, Annan continued, such states risk the stability of the globe.
French president Jacques Chirac also took a turn to revive that old, multilateral feeling. What the world needs now, he said, is "fresh impetus." The Chirac solution is: "a summit meeting of the Security Council to frame a genuine United Nations action plan" -- a prospect likely to stir hope only in insomniacs.
Monsieur Chirac was really out there pitching for a Security Council that looks more like, not America, of course, but the world. "More representative," he explained. "France is thinking, naturally, of Germany and Japan, but also of some leading countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America." France is thinking, naturally, of something more anti-American and anti-Zionist -- something more like the General Assembly.
All of which goes back to Annan's original schpiel. He plugged a Security Council "more broadly representative of the international communities as a whole." Not only was unilateralism a threat to world peace, it was also, according to the Washington Post's encapsulation of Annan's remarks, "an assault on the cooperative principles of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and those who founded the United Nations."