An Open Question:
Here is the text of the UN Security Council Resolution (#1441). Here is a relevant snippet:
13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;
As soon as this was signed, it was clear to me that this paved the way for military action, because it held that Iraq was in material breach and that it was up to them to prove that they were not. We all knew Hussein would never comply, and from the minute this was passed, he has continued to be in material breach. Now, then. What exactly were the French signing onto when they stated that Iraq would face serious consequences?
So, my question for you, if it was not clear that ‘serious consequences’ meant military action, what the hell did they mean by ‘serious consequences?’ Forced viewing of ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ re-runs?
Better yet, if ‘serious consequences’ did not mean military action, why the hell could we reasonably expect Saddam to comply with ANY RESOLUTION? Because this time we really, really mean it?
Clearly, ‘serious consequences’ ALWAYS meant military action, but let’s just pretend it did not. If it did not mean military action, why then did the French not create their own proposal and present it before the Security Council with the heretofore mysterious non-military ‘serious consequences.’ A proposal with ‘serious consequences’ other than military action would have done the following, all of which can be viewed as French goals:
1.) Hamstrung any push towards military action.
2.) Provided Saddam with more time to ‘comply with inspections.’ Quotes of sarcasm because he wasn’t complying, but anything he did was used by the French to prove he was working within the agreed framework.
3.) Forced the United States to go along (as long as these ‘serious consequences’ fell short of war but were stronger than the sanctions and no fly zones in place, we would have had to accept them or look like war-mongerers, and we would have completely lost Blair), enhancing France’s stature as a counter to American power.
Once the French resolution (the fictional one I have just created here) was passed, this could have stalled any Bush ‘war aims’ for at least 6 months to a year more.
So, my question is- what were those ‘serious consequences’ if they were not military might, and why did the French not do exactly what I have stated?
The answer- we all knew what was meant by serious actions, and the French have simply acted in bad faith. It really is that simple.
*** UPDATE ***
Yes, I understand that this flies in the face of Josh Marshall’s automaticity essay, which essentially boils down to two central points:
1.) Bush and company acted in bad faith and some of the signers of 1441 got ‘played.’
2.) Those that got played believed we were in this for some open-ended inspection process with no clear end in sight (or no enforcement, or no timeline, or no agrred upon definition of ‘material breach’ or ‘serious consequences.’)
Nonsense. This is appealing to Josh, because it simply casts the current administration in a bad light. But it also makes the rest of the Security Council look like a bunch of idiots- which they clearly are not. Disgusting as the French are, there is no doubt they have used their position to the utmost of their ability to achieve their own selfish goals.
*** UPDATE #2 ***
Try Tony Blair’s take on the issue:
We laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into line with resolution 1441 or be in material breach. Not an unreasonable proposition, given the history.
But still countries hesitated: how do we know how to judge full cooperation?
We then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and drew up five tests based on the document they published on 7 March. Tests like interviews with 30 scientists outside of Iraq; production of the anthrax or documentation showing its destruction.
The inspectors added another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to cooperate with them. So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified time to fulfil all six tests to show full cooperation; that if he did so the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme and that if he failed to do so, action would follow.
So clear benchmarks; plus a clear ultimatum. I defy anyone to describe that as an unreasonable position.
Last Monday, we were getting somewhere with it. We very nearly had majority agreement and I thank the Chilean President particularly for the constructive way he approached the issue.
There were debates about the length of the ultimatum. But the basic construct was gathering support.
Then, on Monday night, France said it would veto a second resolution whatever the circumstances. Then France denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we continued to negotiate.
Last Friday, France said they could not accept any ultimatum. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement. But they remain utterly opposed to anything which lays down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.
Just consider the position we are asked to adopt. Those on the security council opposed to us say they want Saddam to disarm but will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance.
That is their position. No to any ultimatum; no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action.
*** Update #3 ***
Maybe Clinton will persuade you:
Once again, Blair stepped into the breach, with a last-ditch proposal to restore unity to the UN and disarm Saddam without military action. He secured US support for a new UN resolution that would require Saddam to meet dead lines, within a reasonable time, in four important areas, including accounting for his biological and chemical weapons and allowing Iraqi scientists to leave the country for interviews. Under the proposed resolution, failure to comply with this deadline would justify the use of force to depose Saddam.
Russia and France opposed this resolution and said they would veto it, because inspections are proceeding, weapons are being destroyed and there is therefore no need for a force ultimatum. Essentially they have decided Iraq presents no threat even if it never disarms, at least as long as inspectors are there.
The veto threat did not help the diplomacy. It’s too bad, because if a majority of the security council had adopted the Blair approach, Saddam would have had no room for further evasion and he still might have disarmed without invasion and bloodshed. Now, it appears that force will be used to disarm and depose him.
Again- the serious consequences clearly were military action. Any other position is silliness.
I agree with your statement and I just wanted to add that I believe that France did not think that Bush was serious, therefore, why not sign the resolution. And when France did realize that Bush was serious, Chirac was too committed and he also had alot of favorable press not only in Europe but also in the USA.
I think by “serious conseuqnces” the French probably meant forcing Saddam to listen to a lecture from a post-modern theorist from a Paris university. I think I’d rather be bombed than face that fate.