Perhaps Chris Patten, the European Union's external affairs commissioner, put it best: "If you want to get a cheap cheer from certain quarters in America, it seems that all you have to do is bash the United Nations."Not as resounding a cheer as that you hear, Chris, when bashing Uncle Sam abroad…
The attacks of Republican hawks may be grotesque. Patten had every justification in lamenting that "multilateralists, we are told, want to outsource American foreign and security policy to a bunch of garlic-chewing, cheese-eating wimps."Well, wicked American unilateralists, we are told, want to destroy humanity's last reservoirs of humanity, mutual understanding, and brotherly love.
Also, Cohen makes little of the "Investigations of widespread corruption in the UN-directed Oil-for-Food program in Iraq". The only thing he can come up with is a five-word sentence: "All of this is unsettling." So it is a scandal which Cohen effectively drops (just as quickly as he picked it up) as he segues to… "the startling declaration from the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, that the war in Iraq was 'illegal'" (followed by a description of the ensuing row with Colin Powell).
Still, Cohen gets it right when he says:
I am not enough of an expert on international law to know if the war was legal, but believe a strong case can be made that it was. Good lawyers in good faith have disagreed. But I do know that if the Iraq war was illegal, so too, and probably more so, was the 1999 war in Kosovo, another fight not specifically authorized by a UN resolution. It is thanks to that war that Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia was stopped and sits where he belongs: in court in The Hague.Cohen does end his article by making a pointed reply to Chris Patten's laments:
Chapter VII of the UN Charter endorses collective military action to counter "threats to international peace and security," and Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 on Iraqi disarmament were all adopted under this chapter. On this basis, the British attorney general, among other legal experts, determined that the war was legal to force a compliance that Saddam Hussein had been unwilling to demonstrate.
…it is also true that the cheese eaters need to set aside their Château Montrose and get real.