Bringing in the U.N.

President Bush’s appeal Tuesday to the United Nations for help in rebuilding Iraq was as welcome as it was inevitable. The United States needs not only the U.N.'s help in terms of manpower and money, but also, and even more important, its credibility.

Obviously, things have not turned out quite as the Bush administration expected when, contrary to the wishes of the U.N., it unilaterally invaded a sovereign nation. Securing the peace, rebuilding the infrastructure and creating democratic institutions while fighting a stubborn resistance movement is proving much more difficult than envisioned. American troops are spread thin, their morale is low, and every day more of them die. Meanwhile, the financial cost of rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq, now up to $168 billion, is horrendous.

Forced to abandon his weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale, the president now offers an ex-post-facto justification for invading Iraq: Saddam Hussein was an evil man, as the discovery of torture chambers and mass graves proves. The world is well rid of his regime.

Issues of duplicity aside, he’s right, of course. He’s also correct that Iraq may someday become a functioning democracy and a beacon of light to the other countries of the Middle East. But it’s naïve to suggest, as he does, that democracy is a cure-all for terrorism. After all, Pakistan is a quasi-democracy, but it harbors more terrorists than any other country. And our “liberation” of Iraq has ironically resulted in its becoming riddled with terrorists, who have come there to fight the Americans.

Ultimately, the only group with the capability and the moral authority to bring peace to the Middle East is the United Nations. The president needs to work with the U.N. to build up its role as the world’s peacekeeper. This week’s speech should be just the beginning. The U.N. is far from perfect, but it is the only body that stands a chance to create lasting peace.