Sunday, January 06, 2008

Howlin' Pelle Almquist, Meet the InstaSheep

Back in April 2004 — when conservatives were leveraging the Oil-for-Food scandal to try to disqualify the UN from playing any meaningful role in the reconstruction of Iraq (never mind that the United States government had armed Saddam) — I wrote the following comment to one of Richard's posts on the subject:

Holy crap, Rich! This blog's blown wide open!

But here's my problem with your post: certainly generalized dishonesty, incompetence, and opacity cannot be factors that disqualify an institution from playing a role in Iraq — or the Bush Administration would have to go to the back of the line as well.

But I know, I know: you destest my casual "apophases," and Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Bremer are our exploitative cronyists and demagogues, so let them run amok. The simple fact is that the UN, for all its faults, is a better bet for nation-building than the US, particularly under these conditions.

Putting aside the simple fact that they're more experienced at it (for better or for worse), they're not American. And that means something, for legitimacy purposes, when the Iraqi people, right or wrong, are increasingly suspicious of the motives underlying the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. Sure, the case can — and will — be made that the UN, when it acts, is simply an extension of the American hyperpower's will.

But multilateral peacekeeping spearheaded by the UN, and not the US, has a certain cachet of trustworthiness that the "U.S.-led coalition" peacekeeping does not — for the same reasons that an invasion of Iraq with the UN's approval was amply preferable to the invasion without it, and for the same reasons that supported our jeers at the Administration's decisions to consider only coalition country-based corporations (and to short-list Halliburton) for reconstruction contracts.

Yeah, fine: the Oil-for-Food scandal was terrible. These bad actions compromise the integrity of the entire UN institution. We get it. But you fail to show how this failure peculiarly disqualifies the UN from the specific enterprise of helping to transition Iraq into democracy. And I think that's an important question, when so much of the problems we're dealing with now are rooted in concerns that the U.S. is trumping up a puppet government of preferred Chalabis.

Do you really think that internationalizing this thorny problem will result in rapacious U.N. officials grubbing for shares in Iraq's oil reserves? Because otherwise I don't see what the Oil-for-Food scandal has to do with the U.N.'s ability to provide constructive aid to this process — a process that we're having some trouble with on our own.

For this I was set upon by a herd of InstaSheep who were briefly grazing on Richard's site, at the direction of their Shepherd. Years later, of course, bittersweet vindication: the CPA stiffarmed and subordinated the UN, to the considerable detriment of Iraq. Samantha Power writes in this week's New Yorker about the lost opportunity. Regrettably, it's only an abstract of the article online, but it probably wouldn't kill you to go out and buy a hard copy of the magazine.

All this is of course a roundabout way of announcing Feigned Outrage's first promotional event: the first 50 InstaPundit readers who make their way here and post an appropriately "Sheepish" comment will be awarded a copy of The Hives' Hate To Say I Told You So off iTunes. Please leave your email so I know where to send the gift. Richard, you're eligible. And so are the rest of you comment heroes: reheatedsouffle, AST, Steve in Houston — all of you.