In the final declaration of the Azores summit meeting just before we invaded Iraq, President Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Blair agreed to a major U.N. role in the reconstruction of Iraq. The European Union also has called for the United Nations to have a central role "during and after the current crisis." Administering and reconstructing post-Saddam Iraq would be an appropriate role for the United Nations, and the United States should avail itself of this opportunity to cooperate in a U.N.-led transitional administration in Iraq.
At this crucial juncture of history, the United States needs to take advantage of the positives and minimize the negatives to diffuse growing worldwide opposition to the war and to dampen rising anti-American sentiment. The strong reactions of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments and people are indications of how even the more remote countries of the Muslim world oppose us. We must recapture the moral and political high ground.
Going to the United Nations would not be a sign of U.S. weakness, but strength. It is also smart. Whoever governs Iraq during "reconstruction" is going to have an expensive and complicated undertaking on their hands. It must be modeled on a 21st-century Marshall Plan, which should be based on trade and private property rights, sound economic, tax and monetary policies, and helping to build democratic institutions - not only for Iraq but also Afghanistan and the entire region. The image of an American raj in Baghdad feeding multibillion-dollar contracts to American companies will transform what the Bush administration wants the world to see as a "war of liberation" into what would be labeled a colonial war in the eyes of the world, which, I fear, will aggravate the terrorist threat.
I was disappointed to see Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer say last week that it is time to "leave the United Nations behind." He described the Security Council as an "anachronism," characterizing it as the "victory coalition of 1945," which now should be replaced by the "coalition born out of the Iraq coalition."
My old friend Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, went even further. In columns he wrote for The Spectator and The Guardian, Perle implied that more "wars of liberation" led by coalitions of the willing would be required to win the war on terrorism: "We will not defeat or even contain fanatical terror unless we can carry the war to the territories from which it is launched," Perle wrote. "This will sometimes require that we use force against states that harbour terrorists. ... The most dangerous of these states are those that also possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is one, but there are others."