It’s entirely possible that an influx of new UN military forces under U.S. command will improve the situation. But it’s also at least as likely that the number of Baathist- and al Qaeda-led attacks may increase. Notes an administration official, “Arabs will see this as a sign of fear—and the terrorists will pounce.”
Like any smart criminal enterprise, Baathists and al Qaeda are going to apply the most energy to attacking when the enemy is weakest. Bringing in the UN is tantamount to the U.S. partially pulling out, creating the perception—if not the actual reality—of retreat. Just as past U.S. non-responsiveness to pre-9/11 attacks only emboldened al Qaeda, the UN move could encourage even more attacks against ground forces in Iraq.
With increased risk usually comes increased reward, but not so with the UN. Its management of the oil-for-food program after the end of the Gulf War allowed Saddam to skim billions while his people starved. And contrary to current finger-in-the-wind opinion, it does not have a spotless track record in peacekeeping operations. Asks one administration official rhetorically, “When did the UN pull out of Kosovo?” (The answer, several years later, is still “not yet.”)
To top it all off, the U.S. will manage to further anger the already-annoyed Iraqi people. Notes an administration official, “Iraqis hate the UN. Where was the UN for them (when Saddam was still dictator)?” This is the international body, after all, that saw fit to have Saddam’s henchmen head up its arms control commission. You can forgive Iraqis if bitterness still lingers.
The mastermind of this genius stroke, of course, is the State Department. Just as they trusted Baathists more than ordinary Iraqis for top spots in the transitional government, they now are turning to the UN. The operative question, posited by an administration official, is: “If there are going to be mistakes in Iraq, why not just let them be made by the Iraqi people?”
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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