The consequences of the president's decision to violate his own public pledge to seek a second U.N. resolution before waging war are certain to be grave, if not immediate. By declaring, in effect, that such resolutions mean whatever we say they mean -- and that we can do so because of our superiority in arms -- we are tempting tyrants from China to Pakistan to North Korea to do likewise. International law may sound like the arcane obsession of bureaucrats in striped pants, but it is what protects us from a permanent condition of global war and insecurity.
There can be little doubt that Bush has betrayed the trust of allies -- including the hapless Tony Blair -- who believed that he was serious about the process commenced by the passage of Resolution 1441. As Josh Marshall points out in a valuable post this morning, the interpretation of that document must rely, as with any law, on the stated intentions of those who approved it. Our historic allies and other nations on the Security Council believed that a new resolution would be required for military enforcement of 1441. And our U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, agreed on the day the resolution passed:
"There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution. Whatever [Iraqi] violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken."
In other words, the Bush administration promised its longtime allies that another resolution would have to pass before the bombs fell. That was a key selling point when 1441 passed. Now those who voted for that resolution in good faith can only believe that the White House played them for fools with a double game. That isn't good for America or the world.
[[8:51 a.m. PST, March 18, 2003]