WASHINGTON – Critics say President Bush's seeking the blessing of the United Nations -- a "paper tiger" of legendary lethargy and inaction -- before moving on Iraq is a waste of time.
"I believe the U.N. is a paper tiger and has demonstrated that with Iraq over the last 10 years," said Fred Gedrich, a former State Department official and spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom Alliance.
"I think that the misconceptions that many Americans have about the U.N. is that somehow it has been effective in maintaining international peace and security and helping people against human rights abuses," he said. "That's false, they have been totally ineffective at doing that."
U.N. weapons inpectors, emerging from talks with Iraqi envoys in Vienna Tuesday, announced that a deal had been struck in which the inspection team will be allowed into Iraq, but would not have unfettered access into dictator Saddam Hussein's eight presidential palaces -- a key provision insisted upon by the United States and Britain.
In fact, Iraq's chief negotiator, Amir al-Sadi, said the issue of surprise visits into Saddam's palaces in search of weapons of mass destruction was "not a subject on the agenda," and he didn't know "why it is so critical."
The members of the U.N inspection team acknowledged that the agreement made Tuesday was based on the terms laid down in the 1998 U.N-Iraq pact, which did not allow access to the palaces. Therefore, surprise access to these places would require another resolution passed by the Security Council, which places future progress of getting rid of Saddam's weapons threat back into the lap of the U.N.
The White House considered the agreement one step forward and two steps back.
"These are places that Saddam Hussein doesn't even go to. These are government facilities, government property where who knows what is going on. And there's a good reason Saddam Hussein does not want people to go there and take a look at these facilities, even if he never sleeps there."
The State Department appeared to accept that fact, almost immediately after the inspection team made its announcement. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration would defer inspections until a new resolution can be adopted.
Bush planned to meet with members of Congress Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Vienna agreement and a separate resolution by Congress that would authorize a strike on Iraq if Saddam refuses to disarm.
Critics of the U.N caution the Bush administration not to hold its breath on any more progress on Iraq, saying that sluggish reaction on the part of the Security Council has resulted in disaster before, and that it might be best to let the United States and its allies go at this one alone.
For example, in 1995, Serb forces slaughtered nearly 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys harbored in a so-called U.N. "safe zone" in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Dutch U.N. peacekeepers had made repeated, unanswered requests to the U.N. for help but in the end could do nothing but watch the massacre unfold before them.
The U.N. Security Council -- of which the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and China are permanent members -- was also criticized when it refused to intercede in the genocide of a million tribal Tutsis in the African nation of Rwanda in the early 1990s.
Critics say they hope the Bush administration is not fooled into thinking that the U.N. will be able to orchestrate a more favorable outcome for weapons inspections than it did after the Gulf War.
"I think it was a mistake for us to ask the U.N. for permission to attack Iraq," complained Cliff Kincaid, a journalist who runs America's Survival, a frequent critic of the U.N. "Saddam has flouted all of the resolutions already passed by the U.N. I'm not against having allies, but I just think the U.N. is a flawed vehicle."
Others aren't as skeptical. Don Kraus, executive director of the Campaign for U.N. Reform, said that diplomatically it is important for the United States to show the rest of the world that it is willing to lead, but with the blessing of its allies in the U.N.
"The United States has played a great role in establishing this institution and our ability to have the world perceive us as a great power that plays by the rules -- it is important to maintaining our leadership," said Klaus.
Klaus said that "if in four months down the road from now there is inaction, if Iraq is playing games and we are not able to get a resolution out of the Security Council that works, than we need to deal with it."
Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst with the Cato Institute, points out that while Bush went out of his way to prove his case against Saddam in his September speech at the U.N., he expects that the administration will carry out plans to invade Iraq no matter what the international body, Saddam or Congress has to say about it.
"My guess is the U.N. Security Council will go along with what Bush has proposed," he said. "But, I think what Bush was saying in his speech was 'You are either with our policy and can look relevant or you can obstruct our policy and we'll bypass you and you will look irrelevant.'"
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.