While Anne Applebaum was right to spotlight the corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program [op-ed, Oct. 13], she drew some misguided conclusions.
First, she over-generalized in stating that an international organization is "never going to be good at managing large, long-term projects involving a lot of money or a lot of soldiers." Despite a few high-profile failures, the United Nations has successfully intervened in conflicts around the globe.
Contrary to the column's assertion that media oversight of the United Nations is lacking, an abundance of commentators seem ready to pounce on the United Nations and hold it accountable for its shortcomings. What seems to be missing, at least from the American media, are voices recognizing the organization's considerable accomplishments or suggestions for constructive solutions to its problems.
Second, the column implied that the United States is better off without any real U.N. involvement in Iraq. However, as the Bush administration's missteps in Iraq make clear, the United Nations is more experienced and credible than the United States when it comes to nation-building. The Bush administration should have taken the United Nations up on its offer in 2003 to share the burden of reconstruction in exchange for more U.N. control. A genuine U.N. mandate would have provided the cover needed for hesitant governments to contribute troops and funds. In turn, a real multinational effort would have blunted the ability of radicals such as Moqtada Sadr to rise to an exaggerated height of power by preying on hatred of the United States.
Instead, the administration insisted that the United States run the show in Iraq. In doing so, President Bush allowed extremists in Iraq and elsewhere to brand Americans as greedy occupiers and the Allawi government as an American puppet. This has fanned the flames of insurgency.