It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke.
According to media reports, the U.N. Secretary-General's office has already drawn up detailed plans for the United Nations to step in and administer Iraq three months after the war ends. The confidential blueprint calls for setting up a U.N. "Assistance Mission" in Baghdad that would oversee a post-Saddam Iraqi government.
Apparently, we're supposed to believe the organization that failed to enforce no fewer than 17 resolutions calling for Iraqi disarmament-and was prepared to let the process drag on even longer-is qualified to oversee a peace made possible only through the sacrifices made by Coalition troops.
It's imperative that the United States scuttle U.N. plans to play a central role in a post-war government. It would jeopardize the serious business we have in post-war Iraq -- hunting for weapons of mass destruction and terrorist cells, protecting infrastructure, securing large cities and defending Iraq's borders. It also would seriously hamper any hope of establishing a free Iraqi nation and spreading democracy throughout the Middle East.
The United Nations does have one important task in post-war Iraq: Humanitarian intervention, carried out by agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Program, will be sorely needed.
But as Secretary of State Colin Powell has made clear, Washington will not give the United Nations a commanding role in administering a post-war Iraq. "We didn't take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant dominating control over how it unfolds in the future," he told Congress on March 26.
The Bush administration envisions a temporary U.S.-led administration, which would govern Iraq for a period of several months until an interim Iraqi government can be put in place. Retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner would head it, drawing together officials from the United States and Britain to oversee civil governance, reconstruction and humanitarian aid.
But in the coming weeks, the United States will face mounting pressure from other members of the U.N. Security Council, most notably France, Russia and Germany, to cede control of a post-war administration to the United Nations. "The U.N. must steer the process and must be at the heart of the reconstruction and administration of Iraq," according to France's Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin.
Indeed, France, Russia and Germany have told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that a U.N. mandate for a post-Saddam government will be given only on their terms. French President Jacques Chirac says France will veto any resolution that "would legitimize the military intervention and give the belligerents, the United States and the United Kingdom, the right to administer Iraq."
The Paris-Moscow-Berlin axis, having condemned U.S.-British military action against the Iraqi regime, has refused to cooperate with London and Washington by not expelling Iraqi diplomats from their capitals. A U.N.-controlled post-war administration would serve merely as a Trojan horse for European nations opposed to regime change, enabling them to stake their economic and strategic claims in Iraq.
The spectacle of French or Russian bureaucrats, who for decades have tried to keep a brutal dictator in power, ruling over the Iraqi people, would be utterly abhorrent. It is important for the future of Iraq's citizens that Paris, Moscow and Berlin play no significant part in the creation of the new Iraqi state.
Limiting the United Nations to purely humanitarian goals, however, isn't enough. The Bush administration should also apply the following guidelines in planning a post-war Iraq:
• The United States and Great Britain, not the United Nations, must oversee the future of a post-Saddam Iraq. There is no need for a U.N. resolution mandating a post-war Allied administration.
• Only those nations that have joined the "coalition of the willing" should participate in the post-war administration and security of Iraq.
• There must be a full and exhaustive investigation into links between European companies and politicians, and the Iraqi dictatorship, once the Baathist regime's archives have been opened in Baghdad. US sanctions should be applied against those businesses that have contributed to Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction or violated the U.N. oil-for-food program.
Security Council members will protest. But even they must acknowledge that the U.N. is a dying force on the world stage. Unless it is radically reformed and restructured, it will go the way of the League of Nations, its influence diminishing further in the coming years.
We couldn't trust the United Nations to help us secure the peace. And we can't trust them to keep it when the war is over.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation .