The United States and The United Nations
November 28, 2003
Recent actions taken by the United States government and its military forces have sought to ensure democracy and freedom for all people of the earth. Not only for those living in oppressed countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to those living in the United States; to protect our own freedoms and safety. In each of the two mentioned countries, the United States declared that it had undeniable proof that injustices had been committed by Iraq and Afghanistan and that a military strike was justified because of this evidence. In the case of Afghanistan it was the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers and Washington’s Pentagon, with a fourth attempt at destruction that was avoided thanks to the courageous efforts of passengers on Flight 90 which downed in rural Pennsylvania. In Iraq’s case, the United States CIA and intelligence officials made claims that weapons of mass destruction had been found and located in Iraq. Because these weapons were said to exist, the United States claimed that it had no choice but to initiate a preemptive attack to not only ensure Saddam Hussein could not use these weapons, but also to “free” the people of Iraq from the reign of Hussein and his sons.
However, as months have passed since the “successful” attacks on Iraq began and ended, many people and countries around the world have come forward to question whether the United States acted in accordance with international law when it took these preemptive measures against Iraq. Despite the United Nations sending in WMD experts to search the country for said weapons, none have been found as of yet. This fact has given even more fuel to the fire in the debate on the United States’ actions. Not only did Iraq not make any military strikes provoking the U.S., now the reason that President Bush gave for necessitating the attacks (the existence of deadly WMD) appears to be a farce. In light of this, leaders such as Germany’s Defense Minister Peter Struck have declared that:
Preventive (military) action requires unambiguous intelligence. The weapons of mass destruction which cannot be found in Iraq have shown how thin the ice can be when one embarks on a war of self-defense on the basis of supposedly clear proof of an imminent threat. One can ask the question whether what the United States did in Iraq was legitimate under international law.i
These words echoed those of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who was extremely verbal against the U.S. and its decision to invade Iraq.
The most stinging question remaining from the Iraqi mess is not what will come of the nation, or who will rule it after U.S. forces set up a government and Constitution, but rather, was the United States’ actions illegal in their strike against Iraq? Did they violate the “rules of warfare” as outlined in both the NATO and UN charters? Did past precedents dealing with similar issues such as Afghanistan and incidents in the Balkans and Bosnia lead the U.S. to believe it was actually acting in accordance with international law? If not, then the U.S. and specifically President Bush could presumably be taken up on charges of breaking said international laws. Where is the line drawn between Bush’s actions, invading a country supposedly to ensure international safety, and the actions of a dictator, say Hitler, who also invaded nations at his own free will for his “reasons”? Now this is not to say that we in any way support the horrific actions taken by Hitler, but it is merely posed as somewhat of a thought-provoking question. If Bush can invade and ultimately destroy Iraq, then rebuild it as he sees fit and claim that it was done for “democracy,” then can’t almost any invasion be justified? Especially in the Iraqi case where much evidence points away from the military actions being taken for Bush’s claimed purposes, and instead towards ensuring low prices for oil and removing the “headache” that has been the Hussein regime. Nonetheless, at the heart of this debate is the hard, international legal facts involved.
Examination into Past Precedents:
To start the investigation into the exact legality of the United States’ actions, we looked back at past precedents and laws that emerged as a result of international conflict and intervention. In order to examine a situation, it is first necessary to define the legal and theoretical background derived from earlier conflicts. Two specific examples, Kosovo and Somalia both rendered changes to international law and the UN charter. In Somalia, the utter lack of a government as well as inter-clan warfare created a void in power and an obvious humanitarian crisis as refugees, while fleeing the country, unintentionally were impeding assistance efforts. Also, an enduring and far-reaching famine had gripped the country for years accompanying the disastrous collapse of the economy and any resemblance of an organized state. In Kosovo, persecution of an ethnic population at the hands of the same government that had earlier reversed the previous state of autonomy in that nation was the issue at hand. In this case, a void in government was not the problem; rather it was the repression, denial of civil and political freedoms and rights that characterized the governing force. It was deemed that the internal struggles between the Serbs and Kosovars, two groups which constantly dehumanized and discredited each other by reclaiming national myths as their cause, had led the nation to a point where, in the words of David Goldhagen in an article titled “A New Serbia” and appearing in the New Republic Magazine:
Any people that commits such deeds…clearly consists of individuals with damaged faculties of moral judgment and has sunk into a moral abyss from which it is unlikely to emerge unaided.ii
The United Nations reaction to the situation in Somalia was to adopt several Resolutions which characterized the Somalian situation as one that was “a threat to international peace and security.” Because of this declaration, it was deemed that the authorization of humanitarian assistance was proper. Resolution 794 declared this to be so:
Recognizing the unique character of the present situation in Somalia and mindful of its deteriorating complex and extraordinary nature…Determining that the magnitude of the human tragedy caused by the conflict in Somalia, further exacerbated by the obstacles being created to the distribution of humanitarian assistance, constitutes a threat to international peace and security.iii
After this Resolution was passed, Operation Restore Hope was put into place, marked by many disagreements between the United Nations and the participating forces, as well as many arguments between UN peacekeepers and local Somalians. The UN Secretary General sought to pursue a written out path towards nation building that involved both economic reconstruction and national reconstruction. UNOSOM II forces determined that they wanted to pursue a much more aggressive policy than that suggested by the Secretary General, in their words they did feel they had to be seen as “Good Samaritans.” Because of this attitude of the UNOSOM II forces, which the U.S. representative to the UN declared to be an “unprecedented enterprise,” the troops soon led to even more internal conflict and civil unrest.iv
This situation is similar to the current situation in Iraq, as U.S. troops are being attacked and seen as evil despite honest efforts to support and rebuild the nation. In the worst incident, 24 Pakistani peacekeepers were ambushed, in total 56 people were wounded between Pakistanis and Somalians, with 20 killed. In the Somali example, the troops were soon uneasy with their situation, and discords broke out between Italian, French and the Islamic nations who quickly saw the mission losing its intended purpose. Eventually, with the mandate far from fulfilled, the U.S. contingent withdrew its troops and soon after, the UN did the same.v Finally the operation was reduced to a standard and traditional peacekeeping mission, only attempting to assist in the political building process in Somalia.
The situation in Kosovo on the other hand was controlled entirely by NATO, with the UN Security Council held at bay. In other words, no official UN authorization was given to the mission that was begun, overseen and ultimately terminated by NATO. The lone move that the UN Security Council made in the Kosovo incident was to enact Resolution 1244 on June 10th, 1999. This Resolution merely stated the end of hostilities and announced that the search for a political solution, based on the general principles agreed upon by both the President of Finland and a Special Representative of the Russian Federation. Resolution 1244 also made it legal for member states and other international organizations to establish a security presence to ensure the success of the political rebuilding process.vi
However, when the situation in Kosovo began to appear beyond the point of self-control, it actually was somewhat of a preemptive strike that was made by NATO coalition forces, similar to the Iraqi situation. In February of 1999, the Rambouillet agreement, an Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, was issued and offered to the leaders presently in power in Kosovo. It stated that there would be wide autonomy for the province within the immediate area, called the FRY. Then, at the end of a three-year period, a review would be done to determine whether the nation was set to self-rule one again. If the agreement were to be accepted by Kosovo’s leaders, it would have authorized NATO forces to patrol and have access to the entire area under FRY’s territory. A warning of the use of force accompanied the discussions over whether or not to accept the Rambouillet agreement. Finally, FRY authorities rejected this accord and the military operation started as a result. The entire Yugoslav territory was covered in the operation. The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “This was a moral cause…we now have a chance to build a new internationalism based on values and the rule of law.”vii Not only that, but the operation was also seen as fueled by other geographic and political, as well as strategic factors, of which included NATO’s credibility and ability to re-establish a region which was deemed to be extremely volatile and dangerous to the neighboring regions.
An important distinction to make in the Kosovo incident is the timing and thus the cause of the mass human injustices that took place in the nation. After the operations had begun, an enormous number of refugees sought protection in the neighboring countries, with the intention to flee the persecution brought upon them by Yugoslav authorities. The question is still unanswered whether the human rights nightmare either was a predetermined policy decided upon by Yugoslav authorities, which would then justify NATO’s actions. Or perhaps, if in fact the human rights issue was a result of the NATO troops presence in the area that then may have provoked the Yugoslav’s actions.
The answer to this question is vital if we are to use the Kosovo example to compare it to the Iraqi issue. If the former was true, that Yugoslavian leaders were committing these crimes against their own citizens thus provoking a NATO response, then the U.S. could potentially justify its actions in Iraq. It is well known knowledge that for years Saddam Hussein and his sons brutally tortured and murdered citizens at will, sometimes even using "human shields” to protect Presidential compounds against any potential air strikes. Not only that, but in the early 1990’s there is evidence that early forms of biological weapons were tested by Hussein on his own citizens, as well as neighboring Iranians. Bush has used this information to justify the need for an international response, claiming that as Hussein build even more WMD it was imminent that he would use them again.
In attempting to examine and critique both the Kosovo and Somali operations, the fact that a human catastrophe was developing cannot be overlooked. Not only that, but the operations, similar to the ongoing Iraqi one, incited emotions and passions and in turn, caused much destruction. As we are currently witnessing attempts to build a stable democratic institution in Iraq, we cannot help but to look back and notice that the same goals in the Somali operation, that of political stabilization and democratic institutions has not yet materialized. In Kosovo, the operation is still in its second stage, with little real progress to date.
Also, it is important to realize and emphasize that in both cases a global outcry and general feeling of compassion and/or sympathy helped to propel the actions taken. Similar to the Iraqi situation, the international community was slow to volunteer to respond, due to the encumbering issues of sovereignty and non-intervention. Thus, it is proof that indeed there does remain “Ethical Development in a Global Environment,” that human sensitivity can in fact precipitate the stimulus for international actions. A secondary motive, of either instilling democracy or protecting assets can always be formulated. However, in both the Kosovo and Somali cases, there were widespread media images in magazines, newspapers and on television that drew out the human instinct to help. The sight of starving babies in Somalia or mass graves in Kosovo can lead to demand from a nation’s population to act as human beings and help out a fellow man in need, despite feelings that the nation should be autonomous and handle its own problems.
The far-fetched mandates of the operations of installing democratic institutions, creating a civic society and setting up national reconciliation coincides with or are prerequisites for the enjoyment of human dignity. viii
In the case of Iraq, there was little media that displayed injustices by the Hussein regime. Instead, most of the media showed unsuccessful UN inspectors’ attempts to find WMD throughout the Iraqi countryside.
Examining the Kosovo operation further, it should be said that the operation in fact was broken down into two phases, the military phase (phase 1) and the civilian phase (phase 2). While many claim that the military actions were justified and sufficient in protecting lives, it is also widely accepted that this was not the case; that the military was not impartial and instead sought to punish the Serb people as a means of degrading the Serb regime in power. Intentionally or not, it created thousands of refugees and, more importantly, it further stirred the ethnic melting pot in the area that will no doubt be an immense slowdown to any attempts at reconciliation in the area. The civilian stage is still ongoing with the goal to create a civil society; again, this will be slow to fully and effectively complete as a result of the military actions. If the situation in Iraq is to have any measurable level of success then the U.S. and UN needs to make sure it does not handle the civilian stage of the operation as poorly as in Somalia and Kosovo.
United States Domestic Policy:
To the proverbial alien, stepping onto Earth for the first time and asking about various nations’ policies regarding international intervention, the United States’ answer would appear to be a confusing mystery. Although it does indeed have a legal regime set up in this area, perhaps the most complicated on the entire planet, the political culture and demand is somewhat out of sync with that regime. In the Constitution is a framework for declaring war and thus the use of military forces. However, in the history of the United States more than 200 instances of international use of force have occurred, with only five occasions of Congress officially declaring war. Following the Vietnam War the War Powers Resolution was passed which sought to rejoin the President and Congress in declarations of war, and the use of armed intervention. However, since that legislation was passed the forces continue to be used even at a more frequent pace, with only the 1991 Gulf War receiving congressional approval. What then, is the American law?
The setup of who can authorize the use of force in America is specifically made to be complex, thus intended to avoid a dictatorial leader with complete military obedience below him. A mix of constitutional and statutory provisions outlines the basic regime, rendering those who both order and control armed forces accountable to the democratic controls. Throughout the United States’ history discontent has arisen with the system and calls for even more accountability have surfaced. During the post-WWII through the end of the Cold War, those who support enhanced accountability have pointed towards the possibility that units of American armed forces could be called upon automatically by either the United Nations or a similar international alliance. Also during this time, a concern existed in America regarding the decision-making structure of international alliances and organizations. The worry was that if America decided to intervene in an issue, how easily could an international organization such as the UN veto the decision. Following the Vietnam War, political debate on the issue of the authorization of force changed focus, now aiming more towards the extent to which presidential power to make war should be reined in if at all. In other words, what are the circumstances that require a president to gain congressional support and authorization before commanding the use of force?
An examination further into the Constitution of the United States is necessary to fully understand the domestic side of America’s foreign policy decisions. Two provisions stand out: the declaration of war clause and the commander-in-chief clause. A third clause, the treaty clause, addressed the question whether a treaty can automatically commit America to the use of force. In article 1, section 8 the Constitution empowers Congress to formally declare war. Other war related powers are also given to Congress in this section, including to lay taxes for the purpose of providing national defense, raise and support armies, maintain a navy, punish offenses against both the law and the nation, and so on. Finally, the Constitution also grants to Congress “all legislative Powers necessary and proper for carrying into execution…all…Powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States.”ix
Thus, exactly how far a president can go without stepping into the congressional war power has been, and continues to be the subject of intense scrutiny and debate. Many interpret that the intent of the Founding Fathers was to grant the president the power to “make” war, whereas Congress had the power to “declare” war. The distinction between these two words has been evidence in this debate. Many argue that by substituting “make” for “declare” when outlining the commander-in-chief clause, the framers intended for it to be clear that only in an imminent, narrow, emergency time can the president use armed forces. It is stated that the commander-in-chief can use force and has the “power to repel sudden attacks.” As James Madison wrote:
Those who are to make a war cannot in the nature of things, be the proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.x
This unfortunately does little to clarify the specific powers of the president. Like many other pieces of legislation in the United States there is ambiguity here. Was the situation in Iraq an urgent, emergency situation?
Those who support a broad presidential war-making power claim that when interpreting the Constitution, tradition has long had the final word. That is, for the past 200 plus years, the use of force as commanded by the president has happened so many times that it clearly is legal. On the other hand, those against a broad presidential war-making power respond that almost all of those uses of force have been on a very small scale, with no serious threat to large casualties or long-term involvement. The specific article at debate here is Article 2, section 2 of the Constitution, outlining the Commander-in-chief clause. “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states.”xi Again, a look back at history suggests that the framers actually intended a narrow power, with this clause only conferring minimal policy-making authority. Even Alexander Hamilton, a framer who supported broad presidential powers, argued that the President’s authority “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and the direction of the military and naval forces, as the first General and Admiral of the Confederacy.”xii
When examining the treaty issue, and whether any treaty could commit the United States to use armed forces, it is doubtful that the Constitution would support such a treaty. In fact, there is explicit evidence that this is not to be the case in any treaty. “A treaty may not declare war,” proclaimed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in its report on the Panama Canal Treaties, “because the unique legislative history of the declaration of war clause clearly indicates that that power was intended to reside jointly in the House of Representatives and the Senate.” xiii What this committee makes reference to is found in Madison’s notes on the Philadelphia Convention. At said convention, Hamilton and Charles Pinckney had submitted a plan that would have empowered the executive “to make war or peace, with the advice of the Senate.” This was met with overwhelming sentiment against it. A clever remark was made by George Mason when he said that only the Senate was needed to declare peace, and thus it should require both the House and the Senate to declare war because it should be easier to get out of war than into it.xiv
Nine years following the drafting of the Constitution, James Madison, now a member of the House of Representatives said that “Congress (the House) in case the President and Senate should enter into an alliance for war, would be nothing more than mere heralds for proclaiming it.”xv Basically, it is clear that the framers were explicit in intending not to confer war making powers on the Senate and president alone, but rather to include the House in decisions or committing the United States to war. And, accordingly, treaty makes have never rendered any of the three parties out of control in the use of force. In sum, no treaty has ever committed the United States to war without conferring and receiving a declaration from Congress. When responding to the Panama Canal Treaties, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said:
All such treaties implicitly reserve to the United States a right of choice in each individual situation to act, militarily, as it deems appropriate under the circumstances. Any treaty which did not do so would, in the Committee’s opinion, unconstitutionally divest the House of Representatives of its share of the war-making power and would, unconstitutionally, delegate to the President the power to place the United States at warxvi
As mentioned earlier, the War Powers Resolution, enacted in 1973, plays a large role in U.S. intervention policy. The central and most controversial provision, section 5(b) declared that a limit of sixty days may pass in an armed force intervention before congressional authorization is necessary. Another important section, 8(a) imposes that no treaty or statute could confer the power on the president to introduce armed forces into a hostile situation. This section is in accordance with the 1945 United Nations Participation Act, which again never “specifically authorizes” the introduction of armed forces into any conflict. Only a special agreement in Article 43 of the UN Charter, only after UNPA agreement from Congress, could such authorization be provided. Given this knowledge of Section 8, it is clear that it attempts to state the Congressional understanding that neither the UN Charter or the North Atlantic Treaty is altered by the ratification of the War Powers Resolution.xvii
United States and International Policy:
When the United States refused to join the League of Nations and instead joined the UN, NATO and other alliances, it made it clear that it “reserved the right to decide for itself when to use armed force, and that in no circumstances would it automatically be required to do so.” While maintaining the focus of examining the recent Iraqi incident, this section is extremely important. The process by which the United States goes about deciding whether or not to commit armed forces to international operations is a subset of the process in which the United States decides whether or not to use force at all. This was described in the above section regarding domestic policies on the matter. Further, there is, and has never been, a domestic legal requirement that the use of force be “authorized by any international organization, although political considerations often make it, along with participation from other nations, desirable.” The U.S. has welcomed, largely for political rather than legal reasons, the initial Security Council authorization of enforcement. Later, again they supported the “Uniting for Peace” Resolution which dealt with the Korean War. Later still, the U.S. showed its support for UNEF 1 in the Middle East, ONUC in the Congo, the UNSC authorization of Chapter VII actions to liberate Kuwait and finally the UN missions in Somalia and Kosovo.xviii
Again, it is very important to note that, prior to this current Iraqi conflict, the United States has, independently, used its military on numerous occasions. These occasions include, since 1945, the 1962 Cuban quarantine, the 1964 Dominican Republic invasion, the Vietnam War, the 1983 Grenada invasion and the 1988 invasion of Panama. The UN Security Council authorized not one of these operations, and, with the lone exception of the Vietnam War, all these military actions were done after orders from the president, with no congressional approval. One must recognize that the United States military is a very unique and specific group to study. In fact, historians argue, and it is commonly accepted that not since British conquest following Napoleon’s defeat has any single military power had such dominance.
Since the 1980’s, the United States has accounted for more than one-fifth of the world’s total economic output, a figure that many claim is the reason of America’s ability to attain and deploy such a powerful military. America’s military budget in the 1990’s almost surpassed those of all NATO countries combined, and its military spending, as a percentage of GDP was more than half of what it was during the Vietnam War. Technological advancements are the main reason the United States is able today to conduct such thorough and efficient war. Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, many military observers ranked the forces of Iraq as the fifth most powerful in the world. We were all witnesses, via various media including six o’clock news coverage featuring aerial shots, to the quickness in which U.S. airstrikes subdued Iraqi forces. In the Kosovo War in 1999, more than half of all NATO airstrikes were flown by U.S. pilots; the result after 11 weeks of high tech “smart” bombings was zero NATO casualties and the surrender of Yugoslav forces.xix
The clear superiority of U.S. military forces has led to some of the reasons that the United States feels it should have the authority to act alone. For example, the “free rider” problem has plagued U.S. military officials for years. Congress was very dissatisfied with the disparity between U.S. contributions in Kosovo with that of its allies. Over 75 percent of the 1,092 military aircraft deployed in that conflict were American, 90 percent of high-risk reconnaissance missions were flown by U.S. pilots and over 80 percent of precision-guided missiles including 95 percent of all cruise missiles fired were done so by the U.S. This was not a single case. Operation Deliberate Force in the summer of 1995 over Bosnia again showed the disparity to be clear.
This conflict illustrated that a sustained NATO combat expedition is impossible without U.S. muscle. The satellite intelligence, electronic jamming, and other technological contributions were virtually all American, and the United States flew two-thirds of all aircraft sorties.xx
This lack of sharing the burden between the U.S. and its allies has influenced American attitudes concerning participating in international organizations such as NATO or the UN.
Three specific “attitudinal clusters” have come up repeatedly while discussing future American participation in international operations, notably multilateral operations. First, although the United States is routinely criticized abroad for its over-willingness to inadequately consult with its allies and to fight alone, many members of Congress question why nations that do not put up nearly the same amount of military supplies and manpower should have as large a say in the direction of military operations involving U.S. forces. Secondly, several U.S. military officials believe that multilateral operations have become dysfunctional because of the large capabilities gap between America and some of its allies. These officials believe that “allies” of the U.S. choose to join in these multilateral agreements more for political appearance than for military backing. And thirdly, criticism against the U.S. when it attempts to pursue “casualty-free” battle through use of highly technological battlefield strategies from countries either unwilling or incapable of doing so makes little to no impression on American policy makers, either civilian or military.
Franklin Roosevelt, while President, did not wish to sign into an accord that would bind United States to send its troops to Europe, nor did he support any clause that would set up a permanent, international police force. In fact, he wanted to limit U.S. troop involvement overseas to naval and air forces. His ultimate wish was that member states of the UN would provide and maintain forces that would be available for collection action, and even then only after approval by the Congress and executive. The most pertinent piece of UN legislation concerning the use of force is Article 43. This, in conjunction with Article 24(2) is what outlines the powers that nations have to commit troops to international conflicts. The wide powers that authorize the use of force in complex operations do not contradict the powers in the UN Charter, Article 1. Essentially, the Security Council does not exceed its powers when it designates to send troops into battle. However, this Article 24(2) is what came into question in the Gulf War in 1991 when several countries, the U.S. included, were deemed to have used excessive force beyond the customary “limitation of proportionality.” Article 2 involving specifically enforcement action under Chapter VII outlines as specifically as any section of the Charter exactly when international operations are justified. “Intrusive missions are justified as responses to threats to international peace and security, regardless of any factual basis for the claim.”xxi Where the international community outcries is that the Security Council needs to approve of such actions, even if in the past, actions have been taken without said approval.
The World Responds
On March 19, 2003, President Bush of the United States told the world what it had been expecting for months. After issuing a 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to relinquish power and leave Iraq, Bush announced that air strikes on Iraq had begun as Saddam had predictably failed to comply with the terms of the ultimatum.xxii Ignoring the wishes of the United Nations and many countries of the world, America went to war against Iraq. President Bush had long made the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was therefore an imminent threat to global stability and American security; but he had failed to persuade the rest of the world to follow him into combat as they had in Afghanistan after September 11. What followed was a quick dismantling of Iraq’s meager military defenses, as American and British forces entered and occupied the country with little difficulty. But President Bush had thought that it would also be that easy to justify the war to the world once the weapons of mass destruction were found after the smoke cleared. This might have been, but for the fact that the weapons did not appear as Bush had so confidently predicted they would. What ensued was a wave of skepticism for American foreign policy and general displeasure with the country as a whole.
Whether or not the United States invasion of Iraq was justified as a valid action in the fight against terrorism under international law and in accordance with the various treaties the United States has entered into, it has undoubtedly had a powerful impact on America’s relations with the rest of world, in many cases weakening trust and support for the United States. In the western world in particular, strong bonds of similar culture and like-minded foreign policy, which had for years kept America close to its overseas counterparts, have been weakened and in some cases, almost completely destroyed. With President Bush’s blatant disregard in invading Iraq for the general international will as expressed through the United Nations and by many various countries individually, many of America’s longtime friends have turned into voices of opposition. On the other hand, some countries, such as Britain, Spain, Japan, Poland, Turkey, and India, decided to back the United States, causing a divide to form in the western world and causing the people of these countries to oppose their administrations. This paper will examine the results of American foreign policy, both in invading Iraq and in the course of action the United States has pursued since then, as seen in various countries’ responses to American actions, as well as the effects America has had on international communities, as seen in the United Nations and the European Union.
One of America’s unlikely allies is Spain. From the beginning, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the Popular Party, currently in power, supported the United States in the war against Iraq, not only by voicing approval, but by lending troops to the cause as well. While nearly eighty percent of the Spanish population oppose their government’s position, Aznar has been unwavering in his backing of America. According to Felix Vacas, professor of international law at Madrid University's Institute for International and European Studies, joining America in the war on Iraq was a terrible political move. In the face of upcoming municipal and regional elections, Aznar has put his party at a great disadvantage, with millions demonstrating their disapproval of the current administration and the leading national newspaper constantly criticizing the government for backing the US instead of joining forces with the rest of Europe in an effort to prevent war.xxiii But as Jeremy Bransten explains, Aznar’s steady support of Bush is more a matter of principle than politics. The Popular Party is very conservative, and it replaced the Socialists as the ruling party in Spain, so the move to back America might be part of an effort to realign Spain as a conservative nation amongst the general liberalism of Europe. But while doing this certainly has put Spain in America’s good graces, the rest of Europe is not at all happy. As Dan O'Brien describes it, "In terms of the repercussions in Europe, it's almost certain that both France and Germany will want to punish Spain and be seen to punish Spain. It's important to remember that Spain is the largest beneficiary of [European Union] funds, which mostly come from Germany. So the idea that a middle-weight country, that receives so much funding, could undermine the Franco-German position is something that will be taken very seriously by the French and the Germans, and it won't go unpunished." He continues to discuss how Aznar’s unpopular foreign policy has angered both the liberals and the religious conservatives in Spain, especially since the Catholic Church has taken an official stand against the invasion.xxiii Yet with so much suggesting that Spain would be one of the many countries to resist the United States when the issue of war on Iraq first emerged, the country’s Prime Minister has done the opposite, bringing his country into the improbable triad of America, Spain, and Britain.
Unlike Spain, Britain did not surprise the world when it announced its backing of America in the war. While the United Nations denied that there was sufficient evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction to justify military action, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain sided with President Bush in making the case that Saddam Hussein had been “working to break through barriers that have constrained him from rebuilding his military and the deadly weaponry that he possessed a decade ago.”xxiv This was Bush’s main argument in making the case that military action against Iraq was necessary: that United Nations sanctions had not succeeded in preventing Saddam from acquiring the ingredients for a weapon of mass destruction, and that the inspectors were not being given access to the real locations of construction of these weapons. “The 108 U.N. inspectors were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.”xxv In siding with Bush, Prime Minister Blair cited a report produced by the Joint Intelligence Committee, a committee comprised of the heads of all Britain’s spy agencies, which judged the potential threat Iraq would pose with weapons of mass destruction. While saying that the idea of a nuclear weapon being produced in Iraq was unreasonable, because Iraq could not acquire weapons grade uranium, the document did assert that "Iraq has managed to rebuild much of the missile production infrastructure destroyed in the Gulf War and in Operation Desert Fox in 1998."xxiv It also mentioned that there were many individuals and firms helping Iraq, one being an Indian chemical engineering firm that was caught helping Saddam set up rocket fuel factories.xxiv Another report by the British government said that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, and with the renewed missile production, Saddam could strike a number of targets in the countries surrounding Iraq, including US/British allies and bases. xxiv In the State of the Union, President Bush listed some of the specific threats Saddam was said to possess: anthrax, botulinum toxin, sarin gas, mustard gas, and VX nerve agent. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair made the argument that Saddam had not only violated the UN orders to disarm and allow inspectors full access, but also that he was continuing a program of creating biological and chemical weapons, and was attempting to build nuclear weapons. They believed that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the world and that a preemptive strike was necessary to prevent Saddam from using his weapons. It was on this point that the debate hinged, with America and Britain on one side, and Germany and France leading the charge on the other side.
From the beginning, Germany and France were two of the most outspoken opponents of a war on Iraq. Unlike Tony Blair, who sided with the US despite the widespread disapproval of the British public (a huge majority of which supported US/British military action in Afghanistan), the leaders of Germany and France spoke for the people of their countries when they expressed their desire that the United States not invade Iraq.xxvi President Jacques Chirac of France, on the day that America announced it was going to war, called Bush’s decision illegal and misguided.xxvii Having opposed the idea of war since it had surfaced months ago, he did not accept the conclusions drawn by the American and British leaders based on lack of evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. "Whether it involves the necessary disarmament of Iraq or the desirable change of the regime in this country, there is no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to force, Iraq today does not represent an immediate threat that justifies an immediate war.” Chirac went on to criticize Bush for “throwing off the legitimacy of the United Nations” in pursuing war as an option after trying and failing to gain UN approval. xxvii In the battle to gain global support, Bush simply had not been able to overcome the argument that Iraq might still be hiding some weapons from UN inspectors, but with sanctions in place, it would be extremely difficult for Saddam to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and he has reason not to attack America, Europe, or any of the countries around Iraq because of the overwhelming military might, (a counterattack would certainly be supported by almost every powerful first-world nation), that would fall on his head as a result. Despite early signs that it would be difficult if not impossible to persuade all 5 members of the UN Security Council to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Bush made it clear that the United States were going to war, with or without the rest of the world behind them.
Germany was the other country that resisted the idea of military action on Iraq from very early on in the process of international deliberation. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder made it clear that Germany would not be convinced that all other options had been exhausted and that war was a reasonable action. But after fearing that France would cave in and back the US, leaving Germany as the lone opponent of war, the two countries signed a pact to stand together against the idea of invading Iraq.xxvi Not only did Germany oppose war on Iraq, but it further increased the divide by siding with France and Belgium in opposing a NATO contingency defense plan in the case of Turkey being attacked if there were to be a war with Iraq.xxviii This greatly disappointed President Bush, who expressed great displeasure that members of the alliance would fail to protect one of its members, and went on to say that such a move certainly hurt the alliance as a whole.xxviii But on the main point of contention, war with Iraq, France and Germany were joined by longtime US opponent Russia; the three countries made a joint declaration to oppose the prospect of war on Iraq and instead suggested more rigorous inspections within the scope of UN Security Council Resolution 1441.xxviii
But France and Germany were merely the two most outspoken of the many countries that opposed the war on Iraq. Moreover, the people of the few countries that supported the war were generally opposed to it, as were the people of those whose governments opposed it. As Alan Cowell described the mood of the international community after Bush announced that America was about to go to war, “Underlying the world's response was a sense that corrosive divisions caused by the crisis would fester, whatever the outcome in Baghdad. Indeed, the European split over Iraq was depicted as further evidence of what critics depict as the continent's impotence in international crises.” Results of an opinion poll conducted in 9 countries, including many of America’s European allies and Russia, serve as evidence that anger toward the US only increased as it became more apparent that America was set on war; giving "empirical support to critics who say the Bush administration has squandered an outpouring of good will and sympathy among allies and partners in aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”xxvii After a devastating attack on civilian and government targets such as that of September 11, it was easy to forge a coalition to back the United States in retaliation. Unfortunately, President Bush did not convert the international support into a long-term global alliance. Instead, his decision to pursue a war against Iraq regardless of tremendous international opposition caused a major rift to develop between the two sides.
Now that the American, British, and Spanish soldiers occupy Iraq with Saddam Hussein’s regime destroyed, the most pertinent question is what will happen to the transatlantic alliance. In a letter written by Denis MacShane, the UK’s minister for Europe, he says that most European Union countries want to sustain the alliance with America. But they want it only under the condition that certain major changes take place. Specifically, there must be more European coordination and capacity building. This will allow Europe to begin to develop as a unified power on the level of the United States, with military prowess giving weight to decisions made amongst the nations in the union. The countries also want a more effective NATO, which will help bridge America and Europe. MacShane argues that while many Europeans want nothing to do with America after Iraq, “Twenty-first century geopolitics requires that the two great regions of democracy, rule of law, civil society, and open markets should work together. If we work against each other, only the forces of evil will win.”xxix While it might not be easy to reconcile the political differences and disagreements between America and Europe, if a unified European foreign policy is even conceivable in the first place, cooperation between the two is certainly a worthwhile goal for all countries involved to pursue.
This is not an easy situation to approach, however. From the perspective of the European countries that opposed America on the Iraq issue, the first problem to be solved is containment of the United States. One argument is that a common foreign policy for Europe is desirable in the future, but will have negative results if implemented now.
“Assurances that EU military structures should, naturally, not compete with NATO do not become any more credible with repetition. Apparatuses have the habit of growing. In the medium term, dual structures are therefore foreseeable and unavoidable. This must lead to a further weakening of NATO, which has, in any event, been declared dead by some military experts.”xxx
Under this reasoning, it would be preferable to attempt to increase the power of organizations that include both Europe and America, such as NATO and the United Nations. That way, European foreign policy and American foreign policy would be components of international policy as governed by these bodies, rather than two separate and potentially conflicting entities.
While nations such as Germany and France might be extremely upset with the United States decision to use force against Iraq, international law and precedents such as Kosovo and Somalia favor the side of the United States. The main concern of a nation such as Germany is that the United States, being the superpower that it is, will continue to wield its technologically advanced troops at will, without consulting the UN member nations first. However, when you examine the fine print of the UN Charter there is definitely ambiguity that suggests that any imminent threat to world safety can be deemed a justifiable cause to use force. Therefore, if a nation sought to bring the United States or President Bush specifically on a war crimes tribunal for its preemptive strikes against Iraq, it would be nearly impossible to prove that in America’s eyes, Iraq was anything short of an “imminent threat.” It is undeniable that a fracture between political decisions made by the international community and the ensuing effectiveness of undertaken operations exists. On one hand, the legitimacy of the United States carrying out UN decisions on such a large-scale effort, such as the widely criticized somewhat disproportionate use of force in the 1991 Iraqi conflict comes into question. On the reverse side, without a nation such as the United States taking a strong and leading role, UN missions often can lead to ineffective operations.
United States law also provides the necessary ambiguity from which Bush can defend his position. The 200 plus precedents of an executive sending troops into a conflict provide more than enough support for Bush to claim he was well within his bounds. The Commander-in-chief clause clearly gives the president the power to authorize the use of his military to carryout any imminent and necessary peacekeeping and safety-ensuring operations. And, with the War Powers Resolution, the sixty-day clause also applies, giving the executive up to sixty days to deploy his troops before requiring the consent of the Congress. So, while indeed domestic law and precedent allows for an executive to willingly commit his troops to overseas conflicts, the United Nations Security Council, in the words of the UN Charter, must approve such actions taken by a member state. Here is where Germany and France shout injustice. But again, the ambiguity and possibility that such an imminent threat existed in Iraq gives a defense for Bush, as he can claim that to acquire the Council’s approval may have taken too much time, at which point weapons may have already been used by Hussein.
i Barnes, Jeffrey “Germany’s Leaders Question Bush’s Policies in Iraq.”
ii Goldhagen, David “A New Serbia”
iii Glennon, Michael Limits of Law, Prerogatives of Power: Interventionism After Kosovo p 191-194
iv Glemmon, Michael p 196-201
v Chatterjee, Deen Ethics and Foreign Intervention p 76
vi Bundu, Abass Democracy by Force? p 101
vii Tsagourias, Nikolaos Jurisprudence of International Law
viii Glennon, Michael p 213
ix Ku, Charlotte Democratic Accountability and the Use of Force in International Law p 219-222
x Ku, Charlotte p 225
xi Tsagourias, Nikolaos p 215-216
xii Ku, Charlotte p 226-227
xiii Bundu, Abass p 111
xiv Ku, Charlotte p 219
xv Ku, Charlotte p 220
xvi Glennon, Michael p 87-89
xvii Tsagouias, Nikolaos p 275-276
xviii Ku, Charlotte p 117-130
xix Glassner, Martin The United Nations at Work p 183-184
xx Bundu, Abass p 156-158
xxi Glassner, Martin p 255-261
xxii Stevenson, Richard W. Blair Gives Bush Support, But Receives Little Back. New York Times, November 21, 2003.
xxiii Bransten, Jeremy. Spain: What Motivated Aznar To Side With The U.S. Against Iraq? http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/2003/03/19032003182036.asp
xxiv Tyler, Patrick E. Britain’s Case: Iraqi Program to Amass Arms is ‘Up and Running.’ New York Times, September 25, 2002.
xxv Bush, George W. State of the Union. January 29, 2003.
xxvi Tagliabue, John. France and Germany Draw a Line, Against Washington. New York Times, January 23, 2003.
xxvii Cowell, Alan. A Worried World Shows Discord. New York Times, March 19, 2003.
xxviii Smith, Craig S. with Richard Bernstein. Diplomacy: 3 Members of NATO and Russia Resist U.S. on Iraq Plans. New York Times, February 11, 2003.
xxix MacShane, Denis. America is Our Security, But Europe is Our Future.
Letter to the Independent – London, October 23, 2003.
xxx Die Tageszeitung. Contain United States with NATO; an Independent European Security Policy is Ominous. BBC Monitoring, October 22, 2003.