Saddam and Gomorrah

very time you pick up a newspaper, it seems like the world is getting more dangerous. Terrorists are trying to kill us, Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, North Korea has nuclear weapons and is threatening to withdraw from the armistice that ended the Korean War, terrorism has become a fact of life in Israel, 1,700 American troops have been dispatched to Jolo, the list goes on. With all of this going on around us, the lack of seriousness in the debate over how to deal with these threats is startling.

Few would deny Saddam Hussein is a madman, and the world would be a safer place – both for Iraqis and the rest of us – if he were no longer in power. Indeed, 60 percent of Williams students support going to war to remove him from power. There is, however, a caveat: the United Nations must endorse our action.

It is time we come to terms with what the United Nations. It is a forum for thuggish governments to gain moral legitimacy. This truth is undeniable: Syria sits on the Security Council, Libya is the chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and Iraq was offered the chair of a U.N. conference on disarmament (they have declined the invitation).

Those three examples may be funny, but here’s one that is sick: In 1994, as the Rwandan government murdered 800,000 people in 100 days of genocide, that same government was a member of the Security Council. When the Council met to discuss the situation, not one of the 14 other members asked the Rwandans to stop or explain themselves. Nobody even had the courage to say, “This is wrong.” Instead, the United Nations pulled its peacekeeping forces out of the country. Who had charge of the U.N. peacekeepers at the time? None other than Kofi Annan, the current U.N. Secretary-General.

It’s not just that the United Nations has become irrelevant; it has become illegitimate. That is the result of giving dictators a right they don’t give their own people – the right to have their views weighed equally by a democratic system. At the United Nations, the interests of Iraq or Rwanda carry the same weight as the interests of Japan or Italy. Freedom and security cannot evolve from this framework.

Yet the United States – and our coalition of allies that includes states like Britain, Italy, Australia and the nations of central Europe, to name a few – is told to wait for the moral authority of the United Nations? This is insulting.

“What about France, Germany and Russia?” you ask. The sad fact of the matter is that France, Germany and Russia are opposed to U.S. action because they have lucrative trade deals with Iraq. That is not my pronouncement, incidentally. It is the view of Khidhir Hamza, a former director of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.

“Saddam’s policy of squandering Iraq’s resources by paying outrageous prices to friendly states seems to be paying off,” Hamza wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The irresponsibility and lack of morality these states are displaying in trying to keep the world’s worst butcher in power is perhaps indicative of a new world order. It is a world of winks and nods to emerging rogue states – for a price. It remains for the U.S. and its allies to institute an opposing order in which no price is high enough for dictators like Saddam to thrive.”

But why does removing Saddam from power make the world a safer place? This question goes hand-in-hand with another: Why are we so concerned about Iraq when North Korea is by all accounts a greater threat to world peace?

The fact of the matter is we have allowed North Korea to develop a military that can effectively deter us from attacking it. An attack on North Korea almost certainly spells the end of South Korea, at the very least. Iraq is in the process of developing an arsenal that will give it a similar capability. Would America have been willing to drive Saddam out of Kuwait if the cost had been the start of a nuclear war? Most Americans would not have been willing to pay that price.

Even if Saddam has no intention of ever attacking his neighbors – a difficult assumption to make about somebody who has been attacking neighbors for the last 20 years – his presence as a regional hegemon would be profoundly against U.S. interests. First, a more powerful Saddam would be able to apply pressure on American “allies” like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, making it even more difficult for them to support the U.S. – no matter how much they may want to.

Second, Saddam would be living proof that a rogue dictator could thumb his nose at the United States and face no consequence. That Saddam survives to this day – despite murdering American allies immediately after the Gulf War, blatantly violating the terms upon which the war ended and attempting to assassinate a U.S. president – is not just embarrassing; it sends the dangerous message that America is unwilling to stand up for itself. Saddam embodies the idea that you can threaten the United States without fear – an idea we would do well to eliminate.

Finally, Saddam is the one of the great complicating factors in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Saddam only benefits when the world’s attention is on Israel and not him. As a result, he has become one of the biggest instigators of the conflict: He pays $25,000 a year to the families of suicide bombers and donates generously to the Palestinian Authority. Replacing Saddam with a government interested in peace will go a long way towards finding a solution to the situation in Israel.

War is a terrible thing, to be avoided whenever possible. Unfortunately, the price of further inaction is too high – America and her allies must act.

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