According to recent reports, the United States may be about to warn
U.N. inspectors and reporters to leave Iraq within three days. The purpose of this warning will be to protect the inspectors and reporters from harm when U.S. forces attack Iraq, perhaps late next week.
The situation provides an interesting opportunity for U.N. Secretary General
Kofi Annan. If the U.S. issues the expected warning, he can and
announce that the U.S. has no authority to evict the inspectors, who are United Nations employees. Furthermore, Annan can say that he will not withdraw the inspectors from Iraq unless he is ordered to do so by the U.N. Security Council or the inspectors report that they are not being allowed to do their job.
Any effort to get the Security Council to order the inspectors out under current circumstances would undoubtedly fail, and if by some miracle it did get the needed nine votes it would certainly be vetoed by France, Russia, or China.
Such an announcement by the Secretary General would have three very beneficial consequences. First, it is unlikely that President Bush and his advisors would proceed with an attack, which would be a public relations nightmare as long as the inspectors are still in Iraq.
Second, the announcement would not undermine the work of the inspectors, but could even increase their clout, and that of the Secretary General, vis-à-vis Saddam Hussein. As long as they remain, the inspectors would protect Iraq from an American attack, but if not given carte blanche to do their work they will leave.
Third, the announcement would become a precedent for greatly enhanced power to be exercised by the Secretary General of the United Nations. This person is the closest thing we have to a chief executive for the world, and he is in a position from which it is natural to consider the welfare of the people of the world as a whole.
Until now, the veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members of the Security Council (U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia, and China) has generally been considered to be a limit on the power of the United Nations. However by assuming the power to act on behalf of the human race unless the Security Council tells him he cannot, the Secretary General can make the
veto work to increase his own power, and thus the power of the United
Wouldn't it be wonderful if today's tragic world conditions provided the
opening for a great leap forward in our world institutions! If he
the opportunity fate has given him, Kofi Annan may well go down in history as a "Machiavelli for peace," one of the greatest people of the twenty first century.
And it will be the Bush Administration that made it all possible!
Paul F. deLespinasse is professor emeritus of political science at Adrian
College in Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.