Retail Diplomacy at the United Nations

March 5, 2003

Retail Diplomacy at the United Nations

The Bush Administration is making frantic rounds of retail diplomacy, going country-by-country among the fourteen UN Security Council members, imploring those who are with us to hold firm, the undecided to vote our way, and opponents to abstain on a

But the Bush Administration should acknowledge that this may take more than a matter of weeks, and should consider postponing invasion until the fall.  No one has shown that, particularly under the inspectors' watch, Iraq will attack anyone in the next six months.  Come September, the desert sun will be dim and the weather cold enough not to threaten our troops.  French, German and Russian demands that the inspections run their course for another few months can be met.  

Two reasons are given against waiting. One is the cost. But just as dovish cries that we shouldn't go to war because of the expense are short-sighted, so too are hawkish calls to start hostilities now in order to save money place green-eyeshade considerations above the larger imperative of conducting a war with legitimacy and broad support.

The second reason given for acting now is that September 2003 is too close to the start of presidential primary season next year. Waiting would leave hundreds of thousands of reservists cooling their heels, would keep the economy in punishing limbo, and is generally deemed politically unwise. But it is not hard to understand why the rest of the world is reluctant to plan its wars to fit America's domestic political calendar. Deferring would allow heads of state around the world to make the case to their own populations, convincing doves that the utmost restraint and patience had been shown.   The administration often points out that Saddam's defiance has been going on for 12 years.  Given that, it seems fair for the world to ask what would be lost by waiting another six months.


Suzanne Nossel was Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Her article, "Retail Diplomacy: The Edifying Story of UN Dues Reform", appeared in the Winter 2001/02 issue of The National Interest.  (An excerpt can be read at