Among the momentous decisions George W. Bush must make in the next few weeks is to make good on his promise to “lead a coalition of the willing” into Iraq – or to acquiesce to the idea that only the U.N. can legitimize such an action.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov says that “military action by the United States and its allies against Iraq, without U.N. approval, [would be] illegitimate and unjustified.” This view is shared by many U.N. member nations and, sadly, some of the members of the Bush administration.

The first responsibility of the commander in chief is to protect and defend citizens of the United States. In the case of Iraq, where weapons of mass destruction – and the demonstrated desire to use them – are known to exist, Bush has articulated a “pre-emptive strike” doctrine of self-defense.

Ironically, many of the voices that condemn Bush’s pre-emptive strike doctrine embrace the “precautionary principle” when it comes to environmental issues. More than 170 nations embraced Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration, which says:

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The presence of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a maniacal dictator certainly constitutes a “threat of serious or irreversible damage” to people and to the environment. If “full scientific certainty” is not necessary to take “precautionary” action to protect the environment, why are these same voices opposing “pre-emptive” action to protect the lives of humans?

The real question is, who has the authority to say what action, and when it should be taken? The U.N. claims this authority, for both environmental and military questions.

President Bush has announced to the world that he would take whatever action necessary to protect the United States and its allies. Under intense pressure from the international community, and from the U.S. State Department, he waited for the U.N. Security Council to adopt its resolution, while retaining the right to lead “a coalition of the willing,” with or without U.N. approval.

Pressure continues to mount, from both the international community, and from anti-war activists in the U.S., for Bush not to lead a coalition of the willing, but to wait for authorization by the U.N. It is a matter of sovereignty.

Is the United States a sovereign nation? Or, is the United States a subject of global governance administered by the U.N.?

We find no fault with diplomatic efforts to avoid war. Ultimate victory is to win without fighting. If diplomacy can achieve the objective, wonderful. But for 11 years, diplomacy has failed in Iraq. The time for decision – and action – must come. Failure to decide and act is defeat.

The United States does not need the approval of the U.N. to exercise a pre-emptive doctrine to protect its citizens. The U.S. does have the responsibility to prove that a real danger does exist, but it would be tactically imprudent to reveal that proof before the danger has been eliminated.

For eight years, we watched the United States surrender its sovereignty to the United Nations in decisions affecting the environment. The Clinton-Gore administration eagerly implemented policies advanced by the United Nations. The Bush administration has said “no” to the Kyoto Protocol and to the International Criminal Court. The same voices that condemn Bush for these courageous steps are now condemning him for preparing to lead “a coalition of the willing” into Iraq – with or without U.N. approval.

The United States should not – indeed, cannot – allow the United Nations to usurp its sovereignty over either environmental or military decisions. To do so is nothing short of betrayal of the U.S. Constitution.

No one wants to see America’s youth go off to war. If, however, the decision to take pre-emptive action against Iraq becomes necessary, the decision must be made by the United States government – not by the defense minister of Russia, or the president of France, or by the United Nations.

Congress has authorized our commander in chief to defend our nation. We expect President Bush to lead a coalition of the willing, even if we are the only willing nation.

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