IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE DEFINITION OF “VITAL” IS….Hmmm, the New York Times now charges for articles more than 30 days old, the LA Times requires annoyingly lengthy registration, and the Washington Post website was down when I checked it. So the LA Times it is!

The subject is the United Nations. George Bush has agreed with Tony Blair that the UN should play a “vital role” in postwar Iraq, but like Bill Clinton before him, Bush seems to have his own peculiar definitions for the words he uses:

“A vital role for the UN,” Bush explained, “means (providing) food, that means medicine, that means aid, that means a place where people can give their contributions, that means suggesting people for the (Iraqi interim authority).”

Surely I’m not the only one who considers that just a bit short of “vital”?

I’ll admit that the question is a difficult one. Given George Bush’s run-in with the UN, it’s not really reasonable to expect him to suddenly embrace the idea of the UN having much say in postwar Iraq, regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea. And, as Tony Blair is learning, Bush really doesn’t care much about his opinions unless they match his own.

But what should the UN itself do? Given that they opposed the war and will have no say in how postwar Iraq is to be run, it’s hardly reasonable to suggest that they should be eager to have all the scutwork (and expense) of humanitarian aid dumped on them. Even UN bashers must realize that the U.S. can’t go around the world waging wars of its own choosing and then expecting the UN to clean up after it.

The problem, of course, is the usual liberal one: the UN is populated by lefty do-gooders, and in the end, even though they hate it, they’ll probably cave in because they hate to see human suffering continue. This seems to be the fate of liberals everywhere, and as admirable as it is, you have to wonder if it does the cause any good in the long run. It’s hard not to think that the UN has a choice of either standing up to the U.S. and telling it to clean up its own wars, or else truly falling into the irrelevancy that George Bush has so heartily wished upon it.