President Bush should have closed his speech Sunday night by declaring "tapis!"
If you ever watch the world series of poker, you'll occasionally see a Frenchman declare "tapis!" Surprisingly enough, tapis doesn't mean "I give up." In fact, it is a somewhat un-French word because it means pretty much the opposite. It means "all in," which in poker means you're putting all of your chips in the pot.
I don't know if President Bush is bluffing or if he thinks he's got the winning hand. But his speech amounted to a declaration that we are "all in" in Iraq. He put more than $87 billion on the line. He even put more than his presidency in the pot. He bet America's place at the table.
Until now the "international community" - the French, the United Nations, etc. - has been saying that nothing the United States does in Iraq can be "legitimate" without its approval. This has next to nothing to do with high-minded principle and almost everything to do with a desire to restrain the United States.
Some countries, such as France, Germany and to a lesser extent China, use the United Nations the way the Great Powers of old Europe used ententes, alliances and the like - to check what they see as a rival power.
It's not like France asked the United Nations for permission to invade the Ivory Coast earlier this year (they did finally ask, but not until after the fact). It's not as if China believes it can't oppress Tibet or reclaim Taiwan without the international community's say-so.
If the United States hands Iraq over to the United Nations, it will be saying, in effect, that the U.N. was right all along, that it should have veto power over American foreign policy. Even if you were against the war, that is a terrible signal and precedent for the United States to send.
On the other hand, if the United Nations agrees to work with and for the United States - as well it should - then the United States will have confirmed its authority to conduct its foreign policy, right or wrong, without having to ask permission first.
It should also be pointed out that the United States has a better record of "nation building" than the United Nations or France. The U.N., for example, runs many of the Palestinian refugee camps, which churn out generation after generation of terrorists. France's former colonies are run by a rogue's gallery of tyrants and thugs.
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