A melancholy reflection

Another day, another atrocity. Interesting that Le Monde says flatly that 22 people are dead, whereas the BBC fractionates them: 15 Italians, 8 Iraqis. And at once there are calls for the Italian troops to go home.

There is one thing that really worries me about the summons for the UN to take over in Iraq. It is, I think, mostly coming from people who think that this will stop the fighting. But it won’t, even in the best case. Some of the resistance is clearly hostile to the UN and will continue to attack its troops even if none of them are American. The troops attacked will fight back, and quite right too. The war will go on.

I want the UN in because I think that the use of force between states should be legitimised by a transnational or supranational body, not because I think it makes the use of force obsolete. I worry about it because too often in its history (in fact every time I can think of since Korea) the UN-mandated forces have not used enough force to do a serious job, and have not been willing to suffer the casualties needed to impose peace. If that is not to be the case in Iraq, the American troops currently there will have to stay on under a UN banner.

Any UN force worth having will include a great many American troops, and British ones, and quite right too. They will go on fighting, and they will go on dying. There should be contributions from all the other countries which have called for the UN to take over (there won’t be, of course).

The trouble with this position is that I don’t think there’s any constituency for it, either in the USA or elsewhere. Calling in the UN seems to be to be a code, whoever uses it, for “Let someone else’s soldiers die.” So long as that remains true, the UN will always be a worthless and ineffective institution.

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