Suddenly, all the “smart people” have an idea for advancing the war on terror while cutting our costs, reducing the burden on over-stretched American forces and affording enhanced legitimacy to our counter-terrorism initiatives: Seek a new UN mandate authorizing an expanded international operation in Iraq.
Notably, this was the theme du jour of the Sunday talk shows, as a gaggle of legislators, retired generals and former officials took turns endorsing such an approach. If only the Bush Administration -- and, in particular, Donald Rumsfeld -- were not so hung up on the United Nations, the drumbeat went, the U.S. could readily secure heretofore absent international support for the occupation of Iraq. Large numbers of foreign troops would become available, without compromising the principle of unified command. And the American taxpayer could be spared the prospect of being solely responsible for an investment of untold additional billions to try to rebuild Iraq faster than Ba’athist and/or Islamist terrorists can sabotage its infrastructure.
Some of these Sunday morning luminaries cited as evidence of the feasibility of their suggestions a precedent: the UN’s authorization for American-led NATO forces to stabilize post-war Bosnia. There is one significant problem with this analogy, however: Iraq is no Bosnia.
There is, after all, an ongoing war in Iraq, albeit one involving less than “major combat operations.” Unlike Bosnia, what is involved is considerably more than keeping once-warring factions apart and allowing international bureaucrats to perform open-ended nation-building assignments.
Instead, as the past fortnight’s deadly terrorist bombings, infrastructure attacks and serial ambushes of American and British forces make clear, there is an active conflict underway that is taxing the world’s two finest militaries. It is not a place for usually well-meaning, but generally not terribly competent, “blue helmets.”
If there were any doubt about this reality, it should have been vaporized along with the UN’s headquarters in Baghdad. International personnel -- be they military or civilian -- are going to be treated as fair game by those bent on returning Iraq to one form of despotic rule or another (sectarian or theocratic).
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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