The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Wednesday, June 25:

Ambushes. Sabotage. Discontent among the populace. The reconstruction of Iraq by the United States and Great Britain hasn’t been going smoothly at all. It’s not too late to turn things around, but to do so, the Bush administration should swallow its pride and give the United Nations a greater role in rebuilding post-war Iraq.

U.S. soldiers were trained and equipped to fight and win wars. They did that in Iraq with impressive efficiency. But our soldiers neither were trained nor equipped to police a country – and as members of an occupying force, they lack the neutrality needed for peacekeeping.

On Sunday a U.S. patrol encountered a young girl wielding an AK-47 assault rifle. It’s difficult to deliver aid when even children must be feared.

The United Nations, on the other hand, has the experience and specialized agencies to build a nation atop the rubble of war. U.N. workers have served in places as diverse as the Balkans, Mozambique and East Timor, and while results have varied, lessons in nation-building were invariably learned.

The U.S. provisional authority has been slow to install law and order, deliver electricity and clean water and provide adequate healthcare. Impatience is turning Iraqis who initially welcomed our troops against the U.S. occupation.

What’s more, recent developments have made the liberation of Iraq look less inspired by American values and more tainted by American self-interest: L. Paul Bremer III, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, told Arab leaders this week that he wanted to sell more than 40 government-owned companies to foreign investors. After meeting with Bremer in Baghdad, several senators predicted that U.S. soldiers would be in Iraq for five years. Meanwhile, the creation of a representative government is still on hold.

The Coalition Interim Authority is so far failing to show any progress in fulfilling its obligations as outlined in the May 22 U.N. Security Council resolution, which stressed “the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and control their own natural resources” and “that the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly.”

A U.N. authority could open reconstruction bids to all companies, not just those with seemingly perpetual Pentagon contracts, and Iraqis – not Halliburton subsidiaries – could be top-priority hires. A fairer reconstruction effort would meet less resistance internally and attract more assistance internationally.

For the United States, ceding some aspects of reconstruction to the United Nations would mean sacrificing some of the anticipated economic spoils of victory, not to mention the glory so coveted by military warriors. But the costs of going it alone – in dollars and lives – are already weighing heavily against those spoils.

The United States and Great Britain won the war on their own, but to win the peace anytime soon – a far more difficult task – they must enlist the international community.


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