Iraq: Transformation failure and intervention performance
Although the Bush administration sought the support of the UN on the issue of Iraqi compliance to relevant UN Security Council resolutions, it did not seriously pursue a multilateral, negotiated settlement of the perceived crisis, consistently pursuing its favored strategy of pre-emption. The Bush administration became intent on the use of force, despite consistent European opposition, and did not exhaust all diplomatic paths before implementing its decision.2 Rather, once Hans Blix, Chairman of the UN Monitoring and Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), had issued his critical view of Iraq’s response regarding weapons declaration in late January, the US refused to consider a further resolution, despite urgings from the United Kingdom and visible improvement thereafter in Iraqi compliance with inspections.3 The US administration opted to use force without waiting for a further UN resolution to be passed. By deliberately opting for unilateralism, the US lost its potentially greatest asset in the fight against global terrorism, an asset it had managed to acquire in the wake of 9/11 through the ongoing Afghan operation: international support.4 Furthermore, the US lost the opportunity to muster further consensus internationally about how to deal, beyond Iraq, with “rogue states” likely to covet WMDs. Had the US administration made more effort to utilize multilateral fora and acquire support especially from its allies, a stronger coalition would have been built to deal with Iraqi disarmament and beyond. The diplomatic debacle caused by the Iraq War wrecked the fragile but emerging possibility of achieving a cross-Atlantic consensus on preventive engagement to root out the causes of terrorism. Further, although most European nations did not support the war of preemption launched in the particular case of Iraq, there was nothing to indicate that they would refuse to accept the utility of pre-emption elsewhere should the situation warrant (i.e., in cases where terrorist links were proven).5 In this theater of the global war on terrorism, the Bush administration chose not to exploit the potential of negotiation; indeed, it abandoned diplomacy altogether. Another serious consequence of unilateral action was betrayal of the authority of the United Nations and the rule of law. Despite the stated intention of the US and UK to “enforce” UN Security Council resolutions, the unilateral nature of their action, on the contrary, undermined the role of the UN. While the UN Security Council may be credited for refusing to endorse the policy of regime change proposed by the US and the UK, which the majority states considered problematic in light of dominant interpretations of existing Council resolutions and ongoing UN inspections, the fact that the US and the UK were unwilling to subordinate their judgment to that of the majority of members of the Security Council demonstrated the limits inherent in the international institution.6 It weakened the UN forum, as some nations-notably some US Eastern European and
Asian allies-were forced to prioritize bilateral relations with the US over pursuit of multilateral ways to resolve the crisis. The US action was, in addition, based on fundamental distrust toward-even denigration of-the capability of the UN weapons inspection regime, although that distrust was later proved ill-placed, since the alleged WMDs were not discovered.