TCS Daily


French Unilateralism

By Dale Franks - January 28, 2003 12:00 AM

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has hinted that France will veto any UN Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of military force against Iraq. "We will not associate ourselves with military intervention that is not supported by the international community," he said. Further, he declared, "Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen. We must do everything possible to strengthen this process."

For the Foreign Minister of a nation that regularly decries American "unilateralism", the threat to veto a UN Security Council resolution seems a little...well...unilateral. After all, if the UN Security Council authorizes such a resolution, how could a French veto be seen as anything but a unilateral attempt to thwart the will of the international community? If the American Ambassador to the UN were to do the same thing, the squeals of outrage issuing from the Elysee Palace would be heard all the way to Seattle. Evidently, the French don't particularly object to unilateralist policies per se, they just object to them when they're U.S. policies.

Never mind that the U.S. policy on Iraq isn't unilateral in the first place. We have quite a lot of support from Great Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, and many more of our NATO allies, among others. One wonders exactly how many more nations would have to sign on to the Iraq project before the French stopped complaining about American "unilateralism". The answer is probably just one, France, which tends to indicate that the French definition of unilateralism is, "anything we don't like."

To be fair to the French, it is perhaps equally unfair to describe their position as unilateral since they have the complete agreement of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's socialist government. Indeed, Schroeder himself remarked a few days ago that the two countries "are entirely in agreement to harmonize our positions more closely in favor of a peaceful solution of the Iraqi crisis." Yet, at the end of the day, France has a veto in the UN Security Council, and Germany does not.

Let's stipulate that Messr. de Villepin truly has his finger on the pulse of the international community, and can accurately divine its will. That still doesn't mean that the will of the international community is relevant in all times and in all places. What we refer to as the "opinion of the international community" is really the opinion of the world's governments. There are, as we are all aware, many different types of governments. In North Korea, for example, the citizens must boil and eat grass in an attempt to prevent starvation, but are whisked off to repeated rounds of torture in brutal concentration camps for mentioning the slightest criticism of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il. By contrast, in the United States, there are no concentration camps, and the stiffest penalty for uttering dissent against the government is that people may stop inviting you to their cocktail parties.

In internationalist enclaves like the United Nations - and the French Foreign Ministry - the opinions of governments like North Korea and the U.S. are treated with equal courtesy and respect. Why the opinions of dictators should be accorded the same respect as the opinions of governments that are regularly subjected to civil audit is a mystery. It is, however, an important point to think about when considering that the opposition to intervention in Iraq is made up primarily of countries whose governments are autarkies of various stripes. Support for such intervention comes largely - indeed, almost entirely - from free and democratic nations. Since this is so, the question of why ostensibly liberal, democratic states like France and Germany are lining up in support of dictatorships would seem to be an important one to answer.

The last question takes on special significance when one looks closely at Messr. de Villepin's last statement. "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen." There is a huge load of meaning incorporated in this simple sentence. This is an outright admission that Iraq does have a WMD program, and that only UN action is preventing that program from bearing fruit. If only UN action is preventing Iraq from obtaining WMDs, then Iraq is obviously not cooperating with the UN on disarmament. In other words, France's Foreign Minister admits that the U.S. charges against Saddam Hussein are true.

But it's still not enough to go to war, as far as France is concerned. As de Villepin explains, " Using force like that would only be a last resort assuming all other possibilities are exhausted. We will go to the end. As long as you can make progress with the inspections and get cooperation, there's no point in choosing the worst possible solution - military intervention."

That certainly sounds nice, except that Messr. de Villepin just admitted that Iraq isn't cooperating. As chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix has pointed out, the Iraqi WMD declaration is full of omissions, and Iraqi officials are not cooperating with the current inspections process.

Messr. de Villepin's statement that Iraqi WMD programs are being blocked also seems rather naïve, in light of what the inspections have started to uncover. In recent days, UN inspectors have discovered brand new missile warheads for chemical weapons, which are themselves a violation of previous UN resolutions. Iraqi documentation has been discovered that shows Iraq does have an ongoing nuclear weapons program, despite its repeated assurances to the contrary. None of this, amazingly, seems to faze the government of France.

Just in case the UN Security Council is fazed by it, however, they are prepared to shed their abhorrence for unilateral action just long enough to veto any resolution they don't like.
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2 Comments

France was up for war, then not, then supportive again, only to pull out troops before everyone else. As a country, they not only detest the rest of the allies being bullies, but don't have resolve on their beliefs.

Big Mike
CEO of OC Jail

France was up for war, then not, then supportive again, only to pull out troops before everyone else. As a country, they not only detest the rest of the allies being bullies, but don't have resolve on their beliefs.

Big Mike
CEO of OC Jail

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