Was Iraq Action a Pyrrhic Victory?

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UNITED NATIONS: This is why Saddam Hussein didn’t fight back -- he has friends in high places. Security Council members France, Russia and China have officially called for an end to economic sanctions on Iraq and the firing of UNSCOM head Richard Butler, and the replacement of his inspectors with something about as effective as a gaggle of traveling salesmen. Their motives are as transparent as ever -- France and Russia want oil deals, and China just hates meddlers -- but that won’t make this tide any easier to turn.

Special Report The U.S. is leaning on Kofi Annan to leave UNSCOM with its teeth, and is promising to use its council veto to keep sanctions intact. But TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell points out that after the bombings, the Security Council just isn’t what it used to be. “Nobody got a chance to veto when the U.S. and Britain acted alone,” he says. “For the U.S., which doesn’t even pay its dues, it’s going to be hard to insist on having its way again. Iraq may simply cease to be a Security Council issue.” Which is why Pentagon head William Cohen is headed to the Gulf Wednesday for a Christmas visit with the troops -- they may be there for a long time.