Saturday, December 04, 2004

Ivo Daalder & James Lindsay on UN Reform Panel & Use of Force

Ivo Daalder (Brookings Institution) and James Lindsay (Council on Foreign Relations) write here in the Boston Globe, Saturday, December 4 on the just released report of the UN high level panel on reform of the UN. The report covers many topics, from HIV/AIDS in Africa to the structure of the Security Council, but Daalder and Lindsay - both prominent liberal internationalists - focus on the report's views on the use of force. (You can read Secretary General Kofi Annan's summary of it here in the Economist, December 4, 2004, p. 23.) As they note, the report endorses the concept of not only preemption but also preventive use of force. However, it does so only on the say-so of the Security Council: "Not surprising for a UN-appointed body, the panel vests the sole authority to decide on when to act on these principles within the UN Security Council."

Applied to Iraq, that makes many internationalists happy. Applied to Kosovo or Darfur, it makes them unhappy:

"The council failed to authorize NATO's intervention in Kosovo designed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. It failed to act in time to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, and is equally divided on how to respond to the genocide in Darfur. It has done nothing in response to North Korea's violation of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Quite strikingly, Daalder and Lindsay endorse the idea of coalitions of the willing to deal with the world as it is:

"What, then, are states wishing to act on the principles of intervention the panel endorses to do if the UN Security Council refuses to authorize the use of force? The panel is right to say that unilateral action in such circumstances is a recipe for chaos and anarchy. But so is doing nothing. Had the panel's precepts ruled in the case of Kosovo, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians would have suffered the same fate their fellow-beings suffered in Rwanda a decade ago or in Darfur today. What is wrong was not the decision to act in Kosovo; what is wrong is the decision not to do so in Rwanda and Darfur.

The NATO model in Kosovo suggests that in the real world, states have an alternative to going it alone or doing nothing when the UN Security Council cannot agree on action. And that is for like-minded states -- especially the world's great democracies -- to band together and act when the UN will not. Of course, every effort must be made to get Security Council authorization for using force to uphold international order. But when such authorization is blocked by a few states -- especially by states like Russia or China that do not share the values that unite democracies -- then the responsibility to act must devolve to the democratic states that depend on maintaining a just and secure world order.

The challenge, therefore, is not only to insure that the UN acts when it must, but to build viable structures of cooperation among democratic states to insure that there will be action when the UN does not."

A fair reading of the report would have to say that its fundamental goal is not to justify preemption or preventive use of force or really any of those concepts, but instead to assert the primacy of the Security Council in authorizing the use of force. It is rather late in the game to be doing so, in my view. As Tufts scholar Michael Glennon has pointed out, in a major article in 2003 in Foreign Affairs as well as in his recent book, Limits of Law, Prerogatives of Power: Interventionism After Kosovo (2003), since Kosovo at least, it is hard to argue that there is an international rule of law, the language of the Charter notwithstanding, giving the Security Council authority over the use of force. Certainly I share Glennon's view of the state of international law on the authority of the Security Council.

More broadly, I share the view that the UN is a failed institution, at least as far as use of force goes, and in much else besides. There will always be a use for a talking shop for states, with many different fora for discussion, from the Security Council to the various committees. And it can and does useful work in matters where great power interests are not at odds with each other. But the task at this point should be to build parallel institutions of coalitions of the willing among the great democracies to deal with situations that the UN cannot address. There is a bellicose way of framing that view, as American conservatives are wont to do, and there is a sympathetic way of framing it, as liberals such as Daalder and Lindsay do, and I am not so much concerned with tone as substance.

The differences between American liberals and American conservatives on this will be, first, how much consultation and discussion one must undertake before concluding that the Security Council ought to be left aside? Second, who and how many are required in order to leave aside the Security Council? What liberals Daalder and Lindsay have in mind is that a lot of consultation must go on before deciding to act as a coalition of the willing; I think that is a bad idea, set up as a requirement - it was a mistake militarily and politically to have waited as long as the US did before attacking in Iraq, trying to get the Security Council on board in order to make life easier for Blair. What Daalder and Lindsay also have in mind is that a coalition of the willing is not precisely ad hoc - it should be not Bush's Iraq coalition, but an entity like Nato (note, however, that Nato has no legal standing in international law, in the manner of the Security Council or other UN body). In practice they mean that France and Germany must go along - the world's "great democracies" - even if Russia and China do not. This is also a huge error, and one which is designed to allow future Kosovo's, but not future Iraq's. (Their liberal position is also approximately Princeton's Anne-Marie Slaughter's position on intervention without the Security Council - Nato can serve as a proxy of legitimacy.) In these two matters, I am with the conservatives. What is plainly not acceptable is any effort to assert a rule of the primacy of the Security Council, legally, morally, or politically, which is what the panel report seeks to do.

UPDATE (Wednesday, December 15, 2004): I agree with Glenn Reynolds' assessment of the UN, and recommend following the link to Philip Gourevitch's devastating liberal indictment of the UN as an institution and Annan as its leader in The New Yorker.

1 comment:

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