Political Science Quarterly 130 (4), 2015, pp. 625-54
This article revisits the U.S. attempt in 2002-03 to secure UN approval for the Iraq War. Drawing on new evidence from declassified documents and interviews that I conducted with senior American, British, and French officials, I argue that the George W. Bush administration stood a good chance of securing UN approval—notwithstanding French opposition. The administration had to be willing to postpone the start of military operations by up to six weeks and endorse a set of demanding benchmarks for Iraqi compliance, as proposed by Britain and several nonpermanent members of the Security Council. This article therefore challenges the argument that France’s determination to “soft balance” American power made UN approval unattainable. Instead, I conclude, President Bush failed to secure UN approval because he was unwilling to make even tactical concessions to his Security Council partners and deviate from a timetable for war set months in advance.