Can the United Nations remain a viable part of our world in the 21st century?
We'll find out soon.
Two things seem pretty clear: Attacking Iraq is dangerous, and not attacking Iraq is dangerous.
Let's deal with the latter part of that assessment first. If Iraq isn't stripped of its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and if Saddam Hussein isn't deposed, America will either one day face blackmail or the death of thousands of innocent citizens. That's the danger in not attacking Iraq.
Meanwhile, attacking Iraq is dangerous, on the surface of it, because a wounded, cornered opponent is likely to lash out with every weapon at its disposal. That could mean attacks on our troops with nerve gas, smallpox, anthrax or who knows what else. But attacking Iraq is also dangerous because it could turn the Muslim world totally against America. And it could, depending on what action Israel takes, thrust the whole Middle East into war. That is very dangerous -- a scenario that conceivably could lead to a third world war.
So the best of all scenarios is for the United Nations to figure out a way to disarm Iraq, and get Iraqis to depose Hussein, without the need for a conflict and without the world to hate the U.S. even more.
And if that isn't possible, the next-best scenario is for the United States to lead a very broad coalition against Iraq, one that hopefully would have the backing of Russia, France and other key players.
The United Nations has not had much success yet. The whole shell game Iraq plays with U.N. inspectors simply cannot be condoned or considered, for one minute, as an answer to this very dangerous problem.
Yet the United Nations seems unable to move beyond such ineffective means, paralyzed apparently by its own timidity and the veto votes of the major powers.
Perhaps the United Nations can still help resolve this precarious situation without bloodshed. That is certainly what was envisioned for it when the United Nations Charter was drawn up in the wake of World War II.
But if the U.N. cannot firmly impose its will on crucial world matters such as this one, it may soon go the way of its predecessor, the League of Nations -- to the scrap heap.