Wednesday, December 01, 2004

More Details on Tomorrow's UN Reform Report

Hat tip to the Powerline trio for the heads up on the article. As is usually the case, they are right on the money. As the Big Trunk states, "Who could reasonably object to giving France, Russia or China a veto over the right of the United States to defend itself?" Indeed.

However, there is more to be mined from this article and, I suspect, the report. One quote, in particular, stands out:

The findings reflect persistent international unease over last year's U.S. invasion without an explicit council endorsement, noting, "There is little evident international acceptance of the idea of security being best preserved by a balance of power, or by any single — even benignly motivated — superpower."

It is really quite interesting and rather humorous to read something like this. The machinations in the Security Council leading up to Iraq and since the invasion reflect the relevance, utility, and enduring nature of balance of power. How else can one explain the cooperation of Russia, France, and China in working to hinder, block, and isolate the US over this issue.

It is also only fair to point out that the UN itself was formed partly as a result of and operates to this day based on the relevance of balance of power, at least on the level of the Security Council. Otherwise, why would it be necessary to have a Security Council with five permanent members that can veto any action? Why would discussions about expanding the number of permanent members generally center around inviting newer regional powers rather than a random grouping of states?

Balance of power occurs in international politics on a number of levels, rarely reaching the level of actual war. To deny that it exists seems rather naive or, at worst, hypocritical.

It is also interesting to note that the report once again locates the only legitimacy of war as being the stamp of the United Nations. The UN is composed of member states, all of which maintain the characteristics and the defining criterion of the Westphalian state system - sovereignty. It certainly makes sense to condemn clear cases of aggression for aggression's sake as there are a host of common moral and practical reasons for doing so. Arguing that states lack the right to defend themselves, protect their borders and citizenry, or order their own affairs shows a real confusion among panel members and the UN hierarchy.

It is naive to think that just because the UN speaks the language of collective security it is actually a working collective security organization. Collective security assumes that all member states of the organization prize peace above all else and will present aggressors with an imbalance of power rather than the more traditional balance. In order for collective security to work, an attack on one member state must be met by a timely and massive response by the member states to defend the state in question. Does anyone believe the UN works this way? Will the world act to preserve peace? Do great powers behave this way? Does anyone believe that the UN has demonstrated the ability to shape state and great power behavior in this way? This is less a failure of the UN leadership and more of a reflection that sovereignty, national interest, and self-defense trump the desire for a more idealistic and peaceful world.

More to come on this when time permits and when I have seen the full report.