"...as a consequence of the administration's dogma that the United States needs no help and no blessing, the United Nations is now contributing plans without contributing troops: a brilliant outcome. The Bush administration never tires of instructing the world that the United States must lead. But what is the point of having led, if we are not followed?" source The U.N.'s Revenge by the Editors | May 10 '04 The war in Iraq has become an epic of unanticipated (and some anticipated) consequences, and one of the most unanticipated of all is certainly the emergence of the United Nations as the new demiurge of Iraq's political future. How did the Bush administration, which was so boastful about its disdain for the ideas and the instruments of the United Nations, end up on Kofi Annan's doorstep in a posture of supplication? The administration's contempt for the United Nations was not lacking a basis in reality. In the 1990s, U.N. peacekeeping forces (when they were headed in New York by Annan), were accomplices of the genocide in Bosnia; and when the Clinton administration seemed on the verge of getting tough with Saddam Hussein, it was Annan who rescued it from its outbreak of historical seriousness by announcing that the dictator in Baghdad was a man he "can do business with." Moreover, the notion that only the United Nations has the authority to confer legitimacy upon the actions of states is ridiculous, even if sovereignty is not the supreme value in international affairs. The United States did not win the cold war for nothing. The outcome of the contest with Soviet principles and Soviet power was a vindication of American principles and American power; and it is not presumptuous of the Bush administration to insist upon this point. And here is Lakhdar Brahimi, the former foreign minister of Algeria and the U.N.'s man in Iraq, explaining the crisis in the Middle East last week: "There is no doubt that the great poison in the region is this Israeli policy of domination and the suffering imposed on the Palestinians, as well as the perception of the body of the population in the region and beyond of the injustice of this policy and the equally unjust support of the United States for this policy." If the U.N.'s special envoy to the region understands the region this way, then he really is special. But the emergency in Iraq is too great for this to be the end of the analysis. For whether or not the prospect of a significant U.N. role in Iraq is appetizing, it appears to be inevitable; and it owes its inevitability in large measure to the doctrinaire bungling of the Bush administration. The justice of a cause is not a promise of its success. If the United States fails in Iraq, the catastrophic results will ramify throughout the region and across the globe. So at this grim hour it is worth rehearsing a few elementary distinctions that have been lost in the din of the administration's certainties. The first is the distinction between military power and political power. Militarily, it is obvious that the United States can go it alone in Iraq, if "it" means destroying the regime of Saddam Hussein. Our army really is that good. But there are things that our forces cannot do because they cannot be done by force. Politically, cruise missiles are useless. And so the "revolution in military affairs" has interfered significantly with the revolution in Iraqi affairs. You cannot stabilize a society or democratize a country by satellite. The second is the distinction between moral legitimacy and political legitimacy. The former is no guarantee of the latter. The United States can assert that its aim in Iraq is morally right, but only the people of Iraq can assert that it is politically right. Without their consent, all our Jefferson will profit us nothing. If a large number of Sunni and Shia, each for their own reasons, conclude that what we are calling a liberation is only an occupation, and that the United States lacks the authority to determine the political direction of the country, then we will be helpless before the internal chaos and the internecine conflict that will ensue. Worse, if the Arab states in the region arrive at a similar conclusion, then there will be nothing splendid about the isolation to which the Bush administration has condemned its own grand endeavor. What we started alone we cannot finish alone. The third is the distinction between pride and pigheadedness. The unilateralism of the Bush administration, which was its revolution in diplomatic affairs, has backfired. The abject resort to the United Nations is a measure of this mistake. International cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq did not have to come as an embarrassment to America. But, as a consequence of the administration's dogma that the United States needs no help and no blessing, the United Nations is now contributing plans without contributing troops: a brilliant outcome. The Bush administration never tires of instructing the world that the United States must lead. But what is the point of having led, if we are not followed?