President Bush departs for Northern Ireland today to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. High on the list of topics for discussion will be the United Nations' role in post-war Iraq. This is the latest step in a diplomatic minuet that began last Thursday at NATO headquarters when, as the New York Times reported, "virtually the entire leadership of the foreign ministries of Europe, including Russia, came to Brussels with only a day or two of notice" to meet with American Secretary of State Colin Powell. Nice of them to care.
Powell was gracious in all his public remarks in the midst of and following a flurry of meetings. But he made it politely clear that the coalition now waging war in Iraq will take the lead in organizing the peace. The French, German, and Russian foreign ministers hastily hightailed it to Paris, where they insisted on Friday—less graciously it must be said—that the U.N. have a "central role." Whereupon National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice weighed in—still polite, like cold steel in a velvet sheath—to reiterate the view of the U.S. Secretary of State, that those who had given "life and blood" in this war would, of course, expect to see their work through.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair will be, and should be, not only gracious and polite but genuinely friendly. Nevertheless, to keep their friendship on a firm footing, and in recognition of the pressures on Mr. Blair and of his own acknowledged predilections, the following draft of a joint statement may be helpful as a basis for their pourparlers:
U.N.ilateralism—the principle of international relations according to which one weak and perverse nation, seething with ressentiment and puffed up with political amour propre, should be enabled to prevent the most powerful coalition of free nations in the world from defending themselves against their avowed enemies—is dead.
The death was messy and somewhat prolonged, but not unexpected. The postmortem will take some time to complete. Reliable preliminary diagnoses suggest multiple self-inflicted wounds. But assisted suicide is not ruled out.
Multilateralism—the principle of international relations whereby self-governed sovereign nations, free of arbitrary and artificial impediments, may collaborate on mutually agreeable terms for the sake of common objectives, such as self-defense and promotion of freedom: Multilateralism is alive and well, full of renewed vigor.
Mourning the passing and dreading the renewal are certain Old European elites, who paradoxically yearn for a post-modern world order to accommodate an allegedly postmodern world.
For good French jokes, go to your favorite source. For temperate thoughts on how the divergence between Old Europe and America reflects not just a difference about foreign policy but a different understanding of politics, see
Patrick Garrity's review of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order on the Claremont Institute's website.