SEOUL — While virtually all countries are agreed on the danger posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s surreptitious efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD), this is not the only — or even the main danger — facing the international community over how to respond to Iraq’s noncompliance with existing United Nations resolutions on inspections. There is a parallel challenge to the U.N. Charter itself, not to invert its principles and purposes to serve narrow national interests by manufacturing a casus belli where none exists under current international law.

Rather, a convincing case must be made for taking action on the basis of the danger posed by either the possession of WMDs or the attempt to acquire them that is consistent with international law. It may very well be that Hussein is the greatest threat to international peace and security since the end of the Cold War. But that does not justify overturning the international legal order — stretching the language of the Charter to the limit and beyond — in order to put him out of business.

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