Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tossing the Gauntlet at UN Council

The resolution Britain introduced in the UN Security Council on Monday with the support of the United States and Spain is as much a challenge to the council as it is to Iraq. In deceptively bland language, the resolution declares that Baghdad "has failed to take the final opportunity" the council provided in November to give up its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The resolution seems sure to spur more days of debate. If that means more gabbing and grandstanding but no progress toward fulfilling the demands the UN made more than a decade ago, Saddam Hussein will score another of the victories that have kept him in power. That's why council members must show the discipline to focus on the critical goal at hand: definitively disarming Hussein.

Those seeking to delay military action, primarily France, need to announce a deadline for the UN inspections they insist should continue. French President Jacques Chirac, who says Iraq probably has biological or chemical weapons, said again Monday that Iraq could be disarmed peacefully through continued inspections. That's farfetched.

It has been 12 years since Hussein agreed to disarm in return for a cease-fire in the war he began by invading Kuwait. Year after year, UN inspectors found evidence that the ruthless tyrant was hoarding banned weapons capable of killing millions. In 1998, the inspectors left in frustration.

The Bush administration says that if there is no disarmament, it is willing to wage war on Iraq with whatever nations will help. A U.S. official said the resolution Britain introduced Monday might be modified. But, apparently forgetting how diplomacy often works, he added, "we're not gonna dance, we're not gonna sing" to win votes.

What the administration and its allies do need to do now is make blazingly clear to the Security Council why it should back forced disarmament by the UN. They can do this in part by spelling out a vision of a post-Hussein Iraq.

They must address head-on the costs of war and reconstruction and the role of the UN in rebuilding the country and present all reasonable scenarios of how an attack would spur and thwart future terrorism.

This is a terrible moment. The debate must be blunt. The UN exists in part so that a community of nations can band together to combat international threats. Resolutions, unenforced, can't do that.

This comment first appeared as an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.