War advocates are loudly complaining about the United Nations, which they allege stands in the way of a justified American attack on Iraq. Some say the United States should ignore the U.N. and act without approval. And yet, much of the U.S. case for war against Iraq hinges on Saddam Hussein’s violations of United Nation resolutions. The irony is crystal clear: while many American hawks holler about Saddam’s disregard for the UN, they would like to see the United States itself disregard the UN—all with the paradoxical goal of upholding UN authority and legitimacy.

These hawks also seem to ignore episodes of U.S. defiance of the U.N., such as failures even to pay its dues. The United States even worked with the Soviet Union to shield Iraq from U.N. censure concerning one of Iraq’s most egregious violations of international law, its use of chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.

The hawks’ double standard is clearer when we consider that some hawks don’t think the United States should even be in the U.N.—though the U.S. should presumably enforce its resolutions.

And then we have the doves. Many of them argue that the United States should “let the UN inspections work,” and that if the U.S. acts against Iraq without U.N. approval, it will in itself be in contempt of international law.

And yet, many of these same pro-United Nations doves have for years protested the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, which they claim have killed over one million innocent Iraqis. Such an atrocity should disrupt the doves’ belief in the righteousness of the U.N. as the sine qua non of freedom and justice.

So we have those who now denounce the UN for not allowing the United States to enforce its resolutions; they hate the UN but selectively embrace its decrees. And we have anti-war folks who applaud the UN for slowing down the war effort—even as they mourn the hundreds of thousands of casualties they attribute to its sanctions.

And what would happen if the UN Security Council gives in, and approves of a war on Iraq?

If this happens, the war advocates will again hail the UN as an international community on the side of justice—and the doves who relied on the UN to prevent military action will quietly swallow their disappointment.

The United Nations is no flawless organization, no paragon of truth, no exemplary model for national foreign policies. It is a coalition of governments—each with its own priorities and politically motivated agendas. It’s hypocritical and foolish for those who once decried the UN to use its resolutions to justify war with Iraq—or for antiwar activists to rely on the UN to bring about peace and justice in a region they believe has suffered the worst of UN policy: mass starvation from sanctions.

Instead of hiding behind the rhetoric of U.N. consensus building, we should support or oppose the war on the basis of national security and global stability.

For the doves, this means Bush’s potential disregard for the UN ceases to hold any merit as an argument against war. For the hawks, it means that Saddam’s past disregard for the UN fails as an argument for it.