Here they go again, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan's famous quip -- bestowing on the United Nations what President Bush called a "vital role."
Someone should tell the State Department: Been there. Done that.
The only "vital role" the U.N. should play is simply to lift the sanctions. They were pushed by the U.S. and U.K. against a tyrannical Iraq. Now they might be used by France, Germany and Russia against the U.S. and U.K. with a liberated Iraq.
Bush turning to the U.N. Security Council before the war proved disastrous. It gave Saddam Hussein yet more months to augment his Fedayeen and other terrorist squads, who ambushed young Americans and Brits. It pitted France and Germany against us, and against most European states -- dividing the West more gravely than anytime since 1945. Turning to the U.N. Security Council after the war would prove as disastrous -- in terms both of effectiveness and morality.
Two years as an American ambassador to the United Nations convinced me that most folks there aren't terribly adept at economic development. Don't take my word for it -- ask someone in Kosovo, whose reconstruction is largely run by the U.N., which is largely making a hash of it.
Moreover, it's morally wrong to allow key beneficiaries of Saddam's regime back into Iraq as key beneficiaries of post-Saddam Iraq. Big bucks will soon flow for Iraq's reconstruction. France, which built the nuclear facility and oil facilities for Saddam, seeks slices of sizable contracts. The Germans, who built his deep underground bunkers -- drawing upon their historical expertise in this field -- seek a similar sizable cut.
Their best shot at jumbo contracts lies through the United Nations, which oft spreads dough around major countries to please its key member states.
Now I don't mind an outflow of French and German Euros through the U.N. into Iraq. In fact, I welcome it.
But that's not quite what the French and Germans have in mind. They seek an inflow of Euros from the U.N. for rebuilding Iraq. I sure do mind that.
But why are we even considering returning to the U.N. to rebuild Iraq? For two reasons, both bad.
Tony Blair wishes to re-bond with his fellow Europeans. But there are gobs of issues, besides Iraqi reconstruction, by which he can re-bond.
I feel no great compulsion to re-bond. The French and Germans acted irresponsibly, even immorally. Let them stew in their actions, as we increasingly see the nature of Saddam's tyranny they backed commercially and politically.
Second, re-engaging the U.N. on Iraq would allegedly restore its reputation. Maybe Blair and French President Chirac seek to do that. I sure don't.
The U.N. has a tarnished reputation because it deserves a tarnished reputation. When it was seriously tested, it failed. Now, when presented with a clear issue -- lifting the sanctions imposed against Saddam -- it furnishes a forum for entrapment, extortion and delay.
The French and Germans want to boost the United Nations as a way, not of building up Iraq, but of fencing in America. Going multilateral can crimp us from going anywhere.
Sitting in the Security Council makes them seem equal with the big boy. How else could France posture as a real global actor? Without that seat on the Security Council, it would be relegated to third-rate status.
Excluding the Security Council, as I advocate, doesn't freeze out the whole United Nations. U.N. specialized agencies, with specialized expertise, should be welcome.
Some fine professionals work for the World Health Organization, U.N. Development Program, Food and Agricultural Organization, and such. They can compete on Iraqi projects with the International Red Cross, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other big organizations with technical capabilities -- yes, even with Halliburton and Bechtel (who won the first one).
Let the best bidder win, whether American, British, other national, or U.N. and whether non-profit, government or private.
Granted, telling the U.N. to butt out will fuel the rap that Americans have become imperialistic, controlling Iraq to stay in control of Iraq.
This rehash of tired Marxist and radical '60s rhetoric is absurd. It may only be proven absurd when Americans repair enough of Iraq's infrastructure and political culture to turn the place over to freely elected Iraqis.
We'll be finished with that before the U.N. ambassadors would have finished debating a Security Council resolution on the process of identifying the modalities of conceptualizing the problem of intricacies of analyzing Iraqi development.
The Iraqi people need results quick. U.S. and British teams of experts are poised, ready to begin restoring electricity, repairing roads, supplying water, and rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. Let 'em go -- without the existing sanctions or more U.N.-ery mucking things up.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.