Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Baghdad, said Thursday that he hopes to hold elections next year and that he's asked a U.N. expert to come advise him on how to set up voter registration. While he's at it, he should ask a few more U.N. experts to come advise him how to do peacekeeping.
It is becoming increasingly clear that, at some point, the United Nations will have to take over the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The only question is whether Kofi Annan ends up rushing in on his own terms to fill the gaps of a desperately overwhelmed American occupation force�or whether President Bush comes to his senses, realizes that the task is much harder than his advisers had predicted, and admits that he can't manage it by himself. If he reaches this conclusion in six months or a year, it will look like a mortifying retreat; if he does so much sooner, like now, he might still be able to look courageous and wise.
The chance of such a swift switch is remote. Secretary of State Colin Powell, meeting Wednesday with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, acknowledged that some nations "have expressed the desire for more of a mandate from the United Nations" and added, "I am in conversation with some ministers about this." But Powell is famously out of synch with the rest of this administration on the question of unilateralism versus multilateralism. And, notice, even he owned up to being merely "in conversation" with "some ministers," as opposed, say, to arranging action with pertinent U.N. agencies.
Elsewhere in the article Kapaln, not by any means an opponent of the war, notes that various high officials of the Bush administration seem unable to identify the nations or numbers involved. According to Anne Summers, in today's Sydney Morning Herald, the numbers are 13 000 allied troops out of 160 000 all told, which hardly represents a triumph of multilateralism.