Howard Dean on Meet the Press

I’m watching Governor Dean on Meet the Press. Tim Russert is grilling him on his Iraq policy, and I think Russert has cornered the Governor on this point: the UN passed a resolution to tell Iraq that they have to be in full compliance with existing UN resolutions or they will face serious consequences. Well, by Blix’s own admission Iraq is not in full compliance. So shouldn’t we take action based on that?

Well, the Governor’s doing an OK job justifying his position, but I think he’s missing an opportunity to make a critical point: the reason we need to go through the UN on this war is that we need the United Nations. There are things we simply cannot accomplish as a nation-state. The United Nations should be critical to our long-term security by creating stability in regimes and regions where we have little if any creidiblity.

Instead, the Bush administration has rushed headlong into a crisis in which we are rendering the U.N. irrelevant. And without the U.N. our so-called Homeland Security is actually more critically harmed than if the U.N. were strengthened and Saddam stayed in power.

I think there’s a leadership characteristic at stake here. In Good to Great, James Collins writes about the difference between level 4 and level 5 leaders. The difference is that those who are what Collins refers to as “level 5” leaders are the ones who make those around him or her stronger.

Put into the foreign policy context, the role of an American president in this day should be to make other nation-states appear stronger. (Whether they are stronger is a less important issue.) The role of the U.N. can be one of empowerment – and if we become the backroom dealmaker in which other countries can appear to be the ones identifying solutions – then we are infinitely more secure than we are today. (And our strength emanates from our security and our alliances – instead of our military might. As 9/11 proved, military might does not equate security.)

To sum up – Governor Dean has proven he’s willing to take unpopular stances (see health care, civil unions, etc.). But he could come out in favor of explicitly strengthening the United Nations – and point out that doing so would actually increase our security and secure our sovereignty.