By Howard Meyer
“Just for a scrap of paper Great Britain [is] going to war,” Germany’s chancellor, Theobold von Bethmann-Hollweg complained as the First World War began. The “scrap of paper” was the treaty that Germany disregarded when it invaded Belgium.
Because of such dismissal of international agreements, the esteem that Germany had enjoyed until then among neutral nations quickly changed to hostility and fear. Britain and France exploited the “scrap of paper” remark in the United States, where there then was respect for international treaties, which the 1787 Constitution had elevated to the “supreme Law of the Land.”
Today we must ask, is the United States about to treat the Charter of the United Nations as a scrap of paper? We would be doing so if, without the authority of the U.N. Security Council, the administration were to launch American armed forces against Iraq.