Brushing aside the world’s largest antiwar demonstrations ever, the United States, Britain and Spain have introduced a new United Nations Security Council resolution that would in their view authorize the use of force against Iraq. The Bush Administration has thus chosen not only to defy world public opinion but also to embark on an endgame of bullying and buying off other Security Council members to win their consent to war (see “Buying a Coalition,” page 4). To those who can’t be bought or bullied, the Administration brandishes the threat of blackmail: Consent to our war or we will render the UN irrelevant, it warns.

That the Administration must resort to such practices reveals just how unsuccessful it has been in convincing the world of the merits of its case. (Further evidence came on February 26, when 199 British MPs–the majority from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s party–voted to reject Blair’s war policy.) If the United States succeeds in “winning” a vote on its resolution through bribery and threats, it will weaken, perhaps irrevocably, UN credibility on matters of peace and security, and further undermine the role of international law. The UN’s relevance rests on its adherence to the rule of law. In this case that means defying US pressure for an unjustified war. We therefore hold the view that Council members have no choice but to oppose the US-British-Spanish resolution and join the people of the world in demanding that all countries participate in a coordinated Iraq policy. France, Germany and Russia have offered an avenue more consistent with international security: a proposal that the Council adopt a “realistic and rigorous” timeline for Iraq to complete remaining disarmament tasks.

To review briefly what we have argued before: War is unnecessary because Iraq does not now pose a threat to our national security, to its neighbors or to international peace and security. Moreover, war is unwise because the human, economic, political, social and security costs far outweigh any conceivable benefits. These costs include the possibility that war would further inflame the Arab world, destabilize pro-US governments in the region, make Americans the target of Islamic extremists at home and abroad, and bring weapons of mass destruction closer to the grasp of international terrorists. Indeed, the danger that terrorists may get their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear materials comes not from Saddam’s imagined collusion with Al Qaeda but from the chaos that would result from an invasion and from the possibility that Pakistan, which actually possesses nuclear weapons, might be destabilized as a result of war. The memory of September 11 is a reminder of the need to actively defend our country, but it is not a license for irrational actions that may bring about the very danger we are trying to prevent.

The Administration and its supporters argue that inspections cannot work; that it is a question of going to war now when Saddam is weak or doing it later when he is more dangerous. Yet Saddam is weaker today because inspections forced him to destroy many of his weapons and because containment denied him access to the technology and money to rebuild his military and to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. There is no reason a program of inspections and containment can’t work again–especially if the international community is united in its commitment to a strategy that spares Iraqi civilians.

Contrary to the arguments of the hawks, time is not on Saddam’s side, it is on the side of peace, security and the rule of law–if the international community uses that time wisely. More time would allow the inspectors to locate and destroy any weapons of mass destruction that may still exist and to build greater international cooperation against terrorism. More time would allow for efforts to defuse Arab anger by helping to bring into being a democratic Palestinian state, to bring real governance to Afghanistan and to initiate programs of economic development in the Arab world. It would also allow the development of a much broader and representative democratic movement in Iraq, a shutdown of financial support for Al Qaeda and a lockdown of millions of tons of chemical, biological and nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union and in places like Pakistan. And it would allow the US government to better secure America from terrorist attack.

If history is a guide, the problem is not so much that the international community would grow weary of this benign form of containment and inspections but that US hawks would not have the patience for it, preferring war to painstaking efforts aimed at building a more secure international order. After all, it was the United States and Britain that provoked the crisis in the former UN inspections in Iraq by pursuing “regime change” and using inspectors as spies. Now they are threatening similar destructive action, dividing the international community by stretching its will beyond an acceptable course of action–this time inviting far more disastrous consequences.Therefore the Security Council must demand that Washington, London and Madrid stand down with their war plans and that they rejoin the international mainstream as it presses Iraq for cooperation and the acceptance of more inspectors.