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February 28, 2003

Another United Nations War?


by Rep. Ron Paul

President Bush Sr. proudly spoke of "The New World Order," a term used by those who promote one – world government under the United Nations. In going to war in 1991, he sought and received UN authority to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. He forcefully stated that this UN authority was adequate, and that although a congressional resolution was acceptable, it was entirely unnecessary and he would proceed regardless. At that time there was no discussion regarding a congressional declaration of war. The first Persian Gulf War therefore was clearly a UN, political war fought within UN guidelines, not for U.S. security – and it was not fought through to victory. The bombings, sanctions, and harassment of the Iraqi people have never stopped. We are now about to resume the active fighting. Although this is referred to as the second Persian Gulf War, it's merely a continuation of a war started long ago, and is likely to continue for a long time even after Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

Our attitude toward the United Nations is quite different today compared to 1991. I have argued for years against our membership in the United Nations because it compromises our sovereignty. The U.S. has always been expected to pay an unfair percentage of UN expenses. I contend that membership in the United Nations has led to impractical military conflicts that were highly costly both in lives and dollars, and that were rarely resolved.

Our 58 years in Korea have seen 33,000 lives lost, 100,000 casualties, and over a trillion dollars in today's dollars spent. Korea is the most outrageous example of our fighting a UN war without a declaration from the U.S. Congress. And where are we today? On the verge of a nuclear confrontation with a North Korean regime nearly out of control. And to compound the irony, the South Koreans are intervening in hopes of diminishing the tensions that exist between the United States and North Korea!

As bad as the Vietnam nightmare was, at least we left and the UN was not involved. We left in defeat and Vietnam remained a unified communist country. The results have been much more salutary. Vietnam is now essentially non-communist, and trade with the West is routine. We didn't disarm Vietnam, we never counted their weapons, and so far no one cares. Peaceful relations have developed between our two countries, not by force of arms, but through trade and friendship. No United Nations, no war, and no inspections served us well – even after many decades of war and a million deaths inflicted on the Vietnamese in an effort by both the French and the United States to force them into compliance with Western demands.

But in this new battle with Iraq, our relationship with the United Nations and our allies is drawing a lot of attention. The administration now says it would be nice to have UN support, but it's not necessary. The President argues that a unilateralist approach is permissible with his understanding of national sovereignty. But no mention is made of the fact that the authority to go to war is not a UN prerogative, and that such authority can only come from the U.S. Congress.

Although the argument that the United Nations cannot dictate to us what is in our best interest is correct, and we do have a right to pursue foreign policy unilaterally, it's ironic that we're making this declaration in order to pursue an unpopular war that very few people or governments throughout the world support. But the argument for unilateralism and national sovereignty cannot be made for the purpose of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions. That doesn’t make any sense. If one wants to enforce UN Security Council resolutions, that authority can only come from the United Nations itself. We end up with the worst of both worlds: hated for our unilateralism, but still lending credibility to the UN.

The Constitution makes it clear that if we must counter a threat to our security, that authority must come from the U. S. Congress. Those who believe, and many sincerely do, that the United Nations serves a useful function, argue that ignoring the United Nations at this juncture will surely make it irrelevant. Even with my opposition to the United Nations, I can hardly be pleased that its irrelevancy might come about because of our rush to war against a nation that has not aggressed against us nor poses any threat to us. From my viewpoint the worst scenario would be for the United Nations to sanction this war, which may well occur if we offer enough U.S. taxpayer money and Iraqi oil to the reluctant countries. If that happens we could be looking at another 58-year occupation, expanded Middle East chaos, or a dangerous spread of hostilities to all of Asia or even further.

With regard to foreign affairs, the best advice comes from our Founders and the Constitution. It is better to promote peace and commerce with all nations, and exclude ourselves from the entangling, dangerous, complex, and unworkable alliances that come with our membership in the United Nations.


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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