March 21, 2003


Fischer and de Villepin have declared passionately for months that war would be wrong and that their governments wouldn't stand for it. So what are they doing about it, now that it's started? The same thing they did about Saddam Hussein's rearmament: nothing. Sloth and cowardice, it turns out, are as agreeable to American aggression as to Iraqi aggression.

"The Security Council has not failed," Fischer told fellow council members. "The Security Council has made available the instruments to disarm Iraq peacefully. The Security Council is not responsible for what is happening outside the U.N."

Wait, let's hear that again. The Security Council is not responsible for what is happening outside the U.N.

And to think some people said the United Nations was useless.

Saletan continues:

Let's see. The Security Council negotiation process failed to give pro-war nations the legitimacy they sought. It failed to give anti-war nations an effective veto. It failed to keep the peace. A massive American-led assault on Iraq is underway—I'd call that an alternative—and nobody's paying attention to Fischer's urgently relevant remarks. I've underestimated the German sense of humor.

De Villepin followed Fischer's speech with an equally indispensable lecture on the wisdom of France. The U.N. weapons inspections, he explained, had merely been "interrupted" and would soon resume. To those who think this war will eradicate terrorism, de Villepin warned, "we say they run the risk of failing in their objectives."

Fair enough. So here are our options: the risk of failure or the certainty of it. Gentlemen, gentlemen. Your words are as compelling as your deeds.

If the Franco-German axis had set out deliberately to construct a compelling case for American unilateralism and the futility of the United Nations, it could hardly have done a better job.