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April 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

Who Will Lead Iraq’s Postwar Reconstruction?

Now that military units from the "coalition of the willing" (The United States, Great Britain, Australia and Poland) have effectively wrested control of Iraq from the government of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party enforcers, attention turns to the question of who will control the reconstruction of that country. This week, Herald readers can express an opinion on the matter. Options offered are drawn from several scenarios, ranging, on one extreme, to an exclusive U.S.-British administration to oversee the process, to the other, an all United Nations administration to take over as soon as Iraq is pacified. Everyone seems to agree that the U.N. should have some role. The question is "what and how much?"

The Bush Administration concedes that establishing the rule of law and democratic institutions in Iraq will take time. Some estimate as much as two years. Presently, it holds that there are capable Iraqis who can move into leadership positions and quickly gain the confidence of the people. Critics say that these candidates will have no credibility and will be seen as puppets of an occupying force. Only the postwar administration of Iraq by an international body, they argue, will convince world opinion that the coalition military campaign was anything other than the colonial occupation of an oil-rich nation. Already, a newly established American entity, the Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance Administration, has a team in place in Southern Iraq, waiting for the chance to begin their work.

The Bush Administration, aware that international public opinion could turn ugly if American postwar policies in Iraq seem to be colonial in nature, are nevertheless reluctant to give the United Nations a significant role in the reconstruction. It reportedly still smarts from the U.N. Security Council opposition, headed by France, Russia and China, to a prewar joint British-U.S. resolution specifically authorizing force in Iraq. Also, important segments of the President’s conservative political base view the United Nations with disdain. For these and other reasons, the President has stressed the importance of firm control by the U.S. and Britain of the postwar reconstruction process. Conversely, Tony Blair, as a partner to the United States in the conflict, faces serious political risks at home if the process is perceived as an American occupation.

Since public opinion in Great Britain is strongly negative to that nation’s participation in the war, Blair and his diplomats had worked the Security Council hard to get that resolution passed. When their efforts failed, the U.S. and U.K. withdrew it and opened their battle plans. Dissenting U.N. members considered the coalition’s move against Iraq to be in violation of the U.N. Charter. This is the dilemma now facing the U.S. led coalition. Irrespective of its true motivation in confronting Saddam militarily, the coalition will be seen in the Arab and Muslim world as new colonialists if the military occupation lasts too long.

It is clear that George W. Bush wants to give Tony Blair as much political cover as possible. He has been a staunch ally of the U.S. in the coalition and the two have met frequently to strategize the campaign against Saddam, most recently in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reason Belfast was chosen as the summit’s venue was to showcase Blair’s heroic efforts to bring together warring religious parties in that British protectorate. Also, the two heads of state wished to look past Iraq and make public their determination to support a peace process to bring to an end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

As President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced the press after their two-day meeting in Belfast, discussion of the degree of U.N. involvement in postwar Iraq turned on the adjective "vital." Both heads-of-state said that cooperation by that body would be "vital," but as further questioning homed in on what exactly was meant by the word, it became clear that both wished to leave its meaning vague. Body language readers, however, could see that Blair was much more comfortable with the prospect of a significant role for the U.N. in Iraqi nation building than was his guest from Washington, leading observers to conclude that the matter was far from settled.

With Saddam’s symbols of power reduced to shrapnel and shards of cardboard, and the leaderless Iraqis on the verge of civil chaos, it is clear that, in the short run, coalition commanders will begin to impose discipline in the cities and towns of Iraq. As this occurs, we can be sure that the debate about the extent of international involvement in the stabilization of Iraq will intensify. Proponents of a stronger U.N. role will argue that previous U.S. administrations called on the United Nations to keep the peace and establish democratic institutions, most recently in Kosovo. Detractors will posit that the United Nations was toothless in its 12-year effort to disarm Saddam and it will be equally ineffective in building a democratic system in multi-ethnic Iraq.

How do you come down on the issue?

Assuming that the coalition will have some role in a postwar reconstruction of Iraq, what role would you prefer for the United Nations?

This Week's Question:
Assuming that the coalition will have some role in a postwar reconstruction of Iraq, what role would you prefer for the United Nations?

(US Mainland Residents, please vote on the left; PR Residents on right)

US . Residents
. PR
The United Nations with a leading role 33%
51% The United Nation in a secondary role 48%
18% The United Nations with no role 19%


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