U.S. encourages other nations to act on ‘self-defense’ claim

I’ve been thinking more about whether the pitch Powell was trying to make Feb. 5 at the U.N. was aimed more at a domestic or an international audience. Yesterday evening (Feb. 7) I focused in this ‘JustWorld’ blog on the point when Powell was trying to establish a link– through this shadowy Kurdish-Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam– between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. And I said that argument seemed to be pitched much more to the US public than to “mere furrners”.
Then I thought more about something my friends Ralph and Corky Bryant and I talked about on the phone yesterday. Establishing that link between Saddam and Qaeda could also be useful, one or other of the Bryants mentioned, to help the U.S. justify to other governments any decision the Prez might make to go to war alone– or at any rate, in a “coalition of the willing” that might NOT receive a Security Council sanction to go to war.
That’s because so far the U.S. is still a member-in-good-standing of the U.N. And clearly, Powell, good amigo Tony Blair and other people with influence on the Prez think it would be best to keep things that way.
But the U.N.– can you believe this??– doesn’t really like it when individual states or groups of states go around the world gratuitously knocking off governments or government heads whom they don’t like. I mean, how fuddy-duddy can you get? Why don’t they just get with the program of U.S. righteousness and invincibility for gosh-sakes???
But here, in the U.N. Charter we find a possible way to try to square this circle. Article 51 of the Charter spells out that, “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations..” Well, it might seem a stretch to describe the threatened U.S. assault against Iraq as constituting an act of American “self-defense” responding to what Article 51 seems clearly to imply should have been a prior armed attack against the U.S. (Quite sensibly the U.N. Charter makes no allowance anywhere for pre-emptive attacks.)
So maybe Powell was trying, with his claims about the Qaeda-Saddam link, to lay the basis for future Article 51 claim to other nations– in the event that he fails to get a specific force-enabling resolution through the Security Council? But I’m sure he was also looking to bring onto the war-wagon as many members as possible of the 9/11-scarred American public.