The Magazine

Kofi Annan's U.N. Power Grab

U.S. foreign policy doesn't require the permission of the Security Council

Oct 4, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 03 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
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The correct American response, for those who supported the NATO campaign, is: "We did not need the Security Council's permission to act. Besides, the Security Council was paralyzed and therefore useless for our purposes." In the Persian Gulf crisis, had President Bush not obtained Council authorization to use force against Iraq, he would have made precisely this case to support the U.S.-led coalition's subsequent assault. President Clinton's failure to make this case is neither accidental nor simply cordial, a case of being polite to the secretary general in the chamber of the General Assembly. He effectively accepted the Annan doctrine's logic.

With a lame-duck administration, we need not dwell on what the president's speech will mean in practice. Instead, with a national election a little more than a year away, we should insist that candidates in both parties address Annan's challenge. This is not just a theoretical debate. In the long run, it is far more important than the issue of American arrears to the United Nations, which the media never tire of. If the Annan doctrine is left unanswered, we will soon hear about "emerging new international norms" that will make it harder and harder for the United States to act independently in its own legitimate national interest. And we will wait in vain for our adversaries to follow those "norms."

John R. Bolton is senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. He served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs in the Bush administration.