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December 19, 2005
Gray Lady Loses Respect For Security Council

I seem to recall a time when the New York Times editorial board considered the UN Security Council the final word on international affairs, not to be contravened once it had rendered a decision -- or a non-decision. Even after a dozen years and sixteen resolutions demanding that Saddam Hussein comply with terms of his cease-fire and the disarmament demands went by without any answer from the Iraqi dictator, the New York Times insisted that the UNSC still held the only legitimacy for international action to remove a madman from power. Now it discovers that the UNSC has feet of clay -- but only because it won't hold Syria responsible for the assassination of a newspaper columnist:

Syria is getting away with murder in Lebanon, and the United Nations Security Council is letting it happen. The resolution the Council passed last Thursday might have been minimally adequate if something less were at stake than the sovereignty of a United Nations member country and the lives of some of its best and most courageous people.

Here's the laughable closer:

In October, an initial report by U.N. investigators confirmed that important elements of the Syrian government appeared to be deeply involved in planning and organizing the Hariri murder. The Security Council then warned Damascus of further action to follow unless it started providing full cooperation to international investigators.

Yet in the intervening two months, the will to impose consequences on Syria seems to have all but evaporated. Despite a follow-up report last week noting several important areas where Syria has withheld its cooperation, no serious consequences will result any time soon. That failure to follow through comes despite further political murders, including last Monday's car bomb assassination of a publisher known for his criticism of Syria, that have fed suspicions that Syria is continuing to employ terrorism to try and impose its will on Lebanon. As if that weren't disheartening enough, the tough-minded German prosecutor who led the U.N.'s investigation is going home with no successor yet named.

Syria's deadly meddling in Lebanon presented an ideal opportunity for the Security Council to show it was capable of taking effective diplomatic steps to defend vulnerable member states and punish brazen international terrorism. It is too bad that Russia, China and Algeria failed to recognize the fundamental issues at stake.

Excuse me, but the UNSC had twelve years to demonstrate its capability for taking effective steps against "brazen international terrorism" in dealing with Iraq. All the UNSC would do was to pass meaningless resolutions it never intended to enforce. Why? Because Iraq was a client to Russia, China, and France, and they wanted their oil concessions -- the ones promised by Saddam Hussein in exchange for their interference on the UNSC. It's the Times that fails to recognize the fundamental issue: the UN has become hopelessly corrupt and probably should be shut down.

At least the Washington Post had the intellectual honesty to point out the similarities to Iraq while editorializing against Syria and the UNSC. It starts from the beginning of the editorial:

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S challenge to international security was exceptional in part because of his flagrant defiance of resolutions by the United Nations Security Council and his equally crude actions to obstruct the work of U.N. inspectors. Now another Arab Baathist dictator, Bashar Assad, has adopted the same tactics. Not only has Mr. Assad sought to obstruct a U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, but his agents in Lebanon are continuing to murder Syria's Lebanese critics.

Both editorals demand, in their own ways, some kind of payback for Syrian intransigence. Neither will find it through the UN, however, a fact which both editorials conveniently ignore. If the UNSC could not find the courage to act on its own resolutions with a nutcase like Saddam, they certainly won't do anything with Bashar Assad over two or thee murders of politicians, even if one of them wrote newspaper columns for a living.

The lessons of Iraq? Don't leave global security and freedom in the hands and vetoes of the Russians, Chinese, and French. Don't give the UNSC more than one opportunity to take action in defense of its own credibility. And if a dangerous dictator needs to get removed, don't even bother to call the UNSC, but start talking to people who commit to following their own best interests in spreading freedom and democracy, like the US and the UK.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2005 6:57 AM

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