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2003 December 29 Monday
Mark Steyn: Destroy The International System

Oh come on, don't hold back Mark. Tell us what you really think. Mark Steyn sums up his attitude on the international institutions which give legitimacy to people who ought to be considered illegitimate.

The one consistent feature of the post-9/11 era is the comprehensive failure of the international order. The French use their Security Council veto to protect Saddam. The EU subsidises Palestinian terrorism. The International Atomic Energy Agency provides cover for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN summit on racism is an orgy of racism.

All these institutions do is enable nickel'n'dime thugs to punch above their weights. The New York Times, sleepwalking through the 21st century on bromides from the Carter era, wants the UN to run Saddam's trial because one held under the auspices of the Americans would "lack legitimacy". Au contraire, it's the willingness of Kofi Annan, Mohammed el-Baradei, Chris Patten, Mary Robinson and the other grandees of the international clubrooms to give "legitimacy" to Saddam, Kim Jong-Il, Arafat, Assad and co that disqualifies them from any role in Iraq. I've come to the conclusion that the entire international system needs to be destroyed.

I share Steyn's lack of faith in and antipathy toward the United Nations and assorted associated international institutions. My own simplistic view is that organzations made up of member governments which are basically bad in all sorts of ways (illiberal, undemocratic, corrupt, etc) can't be good. But what is intriguing here is his support of their destruction. I wonder what Mark has in mind. Airborne JDAMs? Or perhaps a more controlled form of destruction where experts are brought in to plant explosives to provide a controlled collapse? Or am I being too physically literal? Should the US and allied governments instead simply label these enemy entities as terrorist-supporting institutions, freeze all their bank accounts, and then let them collapse when their employees stop getting paid and the utilities are turned off?

Speaking of matters of faith in international institutons, while he doesn't use this exact term Mark Steyn makes note of Howard Dean's attempt to be an agnostic on the question of international institutions.

There was a revealing moment on MSNBC the other night. Chris Matthews asked Dr. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in an American court or at The Hague. "I don't think it makes a lot of difference," said the governor airily. Mr. Matthews pressed once more. "It doesn't make a lot of difference to me," he said again. Some of us think what's left of Osama is already hard enough to scrape off the cave floor and put in a matchbox, never mind fly to the Netherlands. But, just for the sake of argument, his bloodiest crime was committed on American soil; American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.

I doubt the sincerity of this agnosticism. Mark, though, does make an excellent case for Dean as a member of the "Bike Path Left" that no longer has faith in so many big ideas that they used to be enthusiastic about. So maybe Dean really has no deeply held convictions about the UN. But my fear about some on the political Left (and there are admirable notable exceptions even among those of my readers who lean leftward) is that they will support bad ideas and bad institutions just in order to avoid taking positions that agree with those on the political Right (not that Rightists are totally immune to this phenomenon). Support for the UN and like institutions seems (at least in the minds of some who don't attach much importance to the need for a serious foreign policy that protects threatened national interests) like a harmless way to enhance political brand identity. They can signal their opposition to unilateralist cowboys by praising institutions that work against US interests. So I tend to view agnostic sentiments from Leftists on the question of the legitimacy of international institutions as basically still likely to lead to support for such institutions once they are in power. Therefore nothing short of a firm renunciation of the international institution faith is enough.

By Randall Parker    2003 December 29 12:32 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 October 14 Tuesday
US Gains Ground In UN Iraq Negotiations

There has been considerable commentary that the Bush Administration has gone to the UN for help with Iraq as a sign that the US occupation is in trouble and that the US must now go grovelling for help. But the Bushies have continued to stick by their position that they are not going to give the UN a significant governing role in Iraq and the commentary by both worried supporters and gleeful opponents of US occupation in Iraq is looking pretty unjustified by the course of negotiations at the United Nations Security Council

France, Russia and Germany on Tuesday dropped their demands that the United States grant the United Nations a central role in Iraq's reconstruction and yield power to a provisional Iraqi government in the coming months.

The move constituted a major retreat by the Security Council's chief antiwar advocates, and signaled their renewed willingness to consider the merits of a U.S. resolution aimed at conferring greater international legitimacy of its military occupation of Iraq.

Difficulties with Baathist and Islamist resistance fighters have not caused Bush Administration officials who have a deep visceral distrust of the United Nations to suddenly decide that the UN holds the key to get them out of a bind. More likely, the Administration hawks think they have a tough problem on their hands and therefore all the more reason to keep the UN involvement minimal and symbolic. Better to only ask the UN to get involved in situations where the stakes are much lower.

By Randall Parker    2003 October 14 08:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 July 06 Sunday
Jim Hoagland: Bush And Blair Are Gaullists

Charles de Gaulle on the United Nations:

My country "will not at any price accept that a collection of states more or less totalitarian and professional at dictatorship, a collection of new states more or less responsible, more or less consistent, dictate its law to us. The United Nations is a derisory tribune for sensational speech-making, overbidding and the worst kind of threat-making."

Geez, I had no idea that de Gaulle was so wise.

Jim Hoagland argues that Blair and Bush are the real Gaullists because they are behaving as nationalists and that the French leadership has effectively abandoned Gaullism. But if Blair goes along with the next round of proposed constitutional changes for the European Union he is effectively going to cede a lot of sovereign power to Brussels. So I'm less convinced in Blair's case of his commitment to British nationalism.

By Randall Parker    2003 July 06 12:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 22 Thursday
China Should Not Get SARS International Financial Aid

The World Health Organization wants to raise money to fight SARS in China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that it was seeking $200 million, half of it for China, to help developing countries fight SARS.

China has a $6 trillion dollar per year economy and the CIA estimates that China spends from $45 to $65 billon per year for their military. Therefore it seems obvious that China can afford to pay for internal measures to fight SARS.

One can understand the desire to help very poor countries to keep SARS from getting brought into their countries. Given that the Chinese government has done so much to mishandle SARS because the regime wanted to hide information that would make it look bad it makes more sense that China should donate money to the WHO that the WHO should then use to help other countries protect themselves from Chinese irresponsibility.

This article says the United States, Japan, and France have expressed an interest in donating to this WHO SARS fund. Why? Make China pay for it. As an American taxpayer I protest. China can afford to deal with a problem which it has done so much to make worse than it had to be. China ought to be compensating the rest of the world for the costs that the rest of the would might have been able to avoid had the Chinese government been more responsible and not conducted a cover-up operation for months.

Update: China's Health Minister Wu Yi says China is ready to contribute to a global SARS control fund.

WHO should also play a greater role in information exchange, personnel training, technical support and resources exploitation in the combat against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), she added.

Wu reiterated that it is necessary to set up a global SARS control fund, to which China is ready to make its contribution.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 22 01:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 May 19 Monday
Taiwan Rejected For WHO Observer Status

Enough countries in the world want to curry favor with China that the World Health Organization assembly has voted once again against Taiwanese observer status in the WHO.

Taiwan's bid to secure observer status at the World Health Organisation, given increased impetus this year by the island's devastating Sars outbreak, was again rejected by the WHO's annual assembly on Monday, as China maintained its unbending stance against Taipei's participation in the United Nations system.

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports on continued Chinese opposition to Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization.

"Taiwan, a Chinese province, does not have qualifications to join WHO under any terms," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday.

Let's think about this. The Chinese government resisted for months telling the WHO about the existence of a new disease in China's population that we now calls SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The rest of the world only found out about it when SARS spread outside of China's borders. Then the Chinese government resisted allowing WHO inspectors come to work in China to fight SARS. Once the WHO inspectors arrived in China the Chinese government delayed allowing the inspectors access to many relevant files and parts of the country. The Chinese government even went so far as to hide SARS patients by taking them out of hospitals in advance of the arrival of WHO inspectors. This all speaks volumes about what the Chinese leaders think of the WHO.

The Chinese government wants to be a member of the WHO because it wants to be a major country that is a member of all the big international organizations. But it does not want the WHO actually interfering with anything that happens in China. This is especially problematic because China is a source of a lot of new disease strains owing agricultural practices in southern China. Also, China's government has been unwilling to do what the WHO would attempt to do for it. By contrast, the Taiwanese government would not oppose the WHO working inside of Taiwan doing what the WHO does to control a disease outbreak. But the Chinese government does not want the Taiwanese government granted any legitimacy and therefore China opposes membership for Taiwan in the WHO.

There is something deeply unfair in all this. The Chinese government is opposed to the purpose of the WHO. Also, Chinese government actions have made SARS a much bigger problem for the rest of the world than it would have been had China informed the rest of the world about SARS when it first showed up in Chinese people. The Chinese government will probably manage to continue to keep Taiwan out of the WHO and yet Taiwan deserves membership far more than China does at this point.

What is even more disgusting than the position of the Beijing regime are all the countries that line up to support the Beijing position toward Taiwan. Seasoned China watchers have good reason to believe that one really should not get one's hopes up about China politically developing in ways favorable to the rest of the world. But one might expect better from some parts of the rest of the world. The only substantial motive for most European, East Asian, and Latin American countries to vote against Taiwanese membership in the WHO is money. They want to be able to invest in and sell to China. Remember that the next time they demand that the United States show more respect for international institutions.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 19 12:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 05 Monday
First World Health Organization Taiwan Visit In 30 Years

Consider the irony. For many weeks the WHO complained that China would not allow it much access to information about SARS or to hospitals or other health care facilities Yet at the same time the WHO was refusing to visit Taiwan, where SARS had also spread, because the United Nations does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country. The WHO took far longer to break down and visit Taiwan than the Chinese governmeent took to break down and start cooperating with the WHO.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) met with Taiwan officials for the first visit time in 30 years, underlining the seriousness of an outbreak that killed two more on the island on Monday.

In a sign that politics was being put aside -- at least temporarily -- to combat the growing spread of SARS, two doctors from the WHO arrived in Taipei on Saturday for a landmark 13-day visit that was approved by China.

The WHO should be ashamed of their hypocrisy. Taiwan is doubly wronged here. First it is the victim of the Chinese government SARS cover-up which caused the SARS virus to spread more widely and brought more SARS cases to Taiwan as a result. Plus, it is the victim of a United Nations double standard that places a democracy beyond the pale while it embraces a dictatorial regime.

Compare the WHO response to the outbreak in Vietnam. A large number of infectious disease control experts flew into Vietnam at the WHO's behest and were able to entirely halt the spread of SARS in Vietnam.

On March 13, the Health Ministry set up a task force. Days later, a dozen epidemiologists and pathologists had arrived from Britain, the United States, Sweden, Germany, France and Australia.

"You need a heap of people to chase the cases, read the notes, find out what's going on, respond to new things, help set up new measures," said Aileen Plant, the WHO coordinator for the SARS expert team. "Are you following the contacts? Are you putting infection control in place? What are you going to do with a dead body? Can people breast-feed? All of these sorts of things, you've got to think about really fast

The WHO is one of the few UN-affiliated institutions that provides a useful service to the world. Yet it is just as willing to put political considerations in the way of fighting a disease outbreak as the Chinese government.

Update: The Taiwanese government hopes the SARS outbreak will help it to get WHO membership.

Taipei covets WHO membership, at least as an observer, because WHO is a UN organization, membership of which would give Taiwan some of the diplomatic legitimacy that it wants and Beijing does so much to deny it. It also feels that WHO is the international UN-related organization most vulnerable to Taiwan lobbying for membership both because of a moral argument - why should Taiwanese have their health endangered because of lack of access to medical know-how as a result of China's politicking? - and a practical one - everyone has an interest in making sure countries with killer diseases don't export them.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 05 09:48 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 22 Tuesday
China Sponsoring North Korean UN Human Rights Commission Membership

China is sponsoring North Korea to get one of United Nations Human Rights Commission seats reserved for Asian countries.

China served on the commission in 1947-63 and again in 1982-2002, then was re-elected last April for a further three-year term. It has now helped sponsor North Korea for one of the six vacant Asian seats.

Contrary to all the people who have been proclaiming Saddam's regime the worst regime in the world I think it is obvious that North Korea's regime has been the worst for a very long time. To have the North Korean regime being set up to become a member of the UN Human Rights Commission makes the UN HRC an even bigger mockery of its title than it already is. That China will take this action speaks volumes about the leadership of China as well.

On the bright side, even though current membership of the UN HRC includes a lot of oppressive regimes it has recently managed to pass a resolution censuring North Korea for human rights violations.

In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution today that for the first time censures North Korea for serious violations, including torture and public executions.

But even the United States doesn't use its UN HRC seat consistently to support human rights.

In this case, the stinker was the Bush administration's March 11 decision to forgo a resolution condemning China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. This was the first time since 1998, and only the second time since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, that a U.S. administration had gone to Geneva as a member of the commission and failed to take the Chinese to task.

What does the Bush Administration think it is getting from China in return for holding back?

As anyone who has been reading this web log for a while knows, I am not a fan of the United Nations. The problem with the United Nations is very simple: most governments in this world are bad and therefore an organization made up of the bulk of the world's governments is bad. Most of the world's peoples do not live in classically liberal democratic nation-states. Even if more of the governments in the world were democracies the UN would not improve drastically because in some parts of the world lots of people do not embrace the values that are the basic for liberal democracy in the West.

We are lucky that the UN is weak. Better to have a weak morally objectionable institution than a strong one.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 22 11:16 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 April 17 Thursday
Axis Of Weasels Refuse To Lift UN Sanctions On Iraq

Some things are so predictable. I never for a moment doubted that the Russian and French governments would use their leverage as permanent UN Security Council members to keep sanctions on Iraq unless they get favorable commercial terms for dealing with the new Iraqi government.

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- Russia, France and other key Security Council members set the stage today for a new battle over Iraq, signaling that the United States must give the United Nations a broader role in reconstruction efforts before sanctions can be lifted.

The French and Russians used their close relations with Iraq to get business from Iraq to the exclusion of other countries. They are now afraid the tables will turn so heavily and the very ability of a state to control where some contracts will go will be used against them. But it was alright when it worked in their favor. In the existing United Nations system for selling Iraqi oil the proceeds going into the UN Oil-for-Food fund which has a panel that decides how the money can be spent.

Claudia Rosett reports on the lack of transparency in how the UN doles out the money.

As for the program's vast bank accounts, the public is told only that letters of credit are issued by a French bank, BNP Paribas. Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, entitled to goods funded by 13 percent of the program's revenues, have been trying for some time to find out how much interest they are going to receive on $4 billion in relief they are still owed. The United Nations treasurer told me that that no outside party, not even the Kurds, gets access to those figures.

Of course the tens of billions of dollars of the fund are kept in the accounts of a French bank.

You have to love the reason Russian foreign minister Ivan Ivanov sites for not lifting the sanctions: we haven't discovered whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

"This decision cannot be automatic. It demands that conditions laid out in corresponding UN Security Council resolutions be fulfilled," Mr Ivanov said. "For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not."

So then should UNMOVIC inspectors be sent back into Iraq to tear the place apart for a couple of years before sanctions are lifted?

The Mexican government agrees with the Russians.

"The sanctions were imposed to assure that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction," said Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, the Security Council's president. "There is a great deal of interest in the council to finalize this issue."

George W. Bush's supposed buddy Vicente Fox continues to oppose US policy toward Iraq. Someone tell Karl Rove.

The existing UN Oil-for-Food program is another battleground where the French and Russians fight for advantage.

A virtual guerrilla war is going on in the UN sanctions committee, which decides which humanitarian contracts can be honoured, with the UK and US on one side, and Russia and France on the other.

Currently Kofi Annan plays the role in the Oil-for-Food program that the Iraqi government used to play in applying for food purchases and other deals.

Anticipating such difficulties, the Security Council adopted a resolution on March 28 — nine days after the start of the US-led invasion — authorising UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take over the running of the oil-for-food programme for 45 days.

There are a few problems here if the UN Security Council doesn't act. One problem is that Kofi Annan's authority will expire. Another problem is that the program itself needs to be renewed on June 3 and that mandate is what allows Iraq to export oil under the UN sanctions regime. Another problem is that technically it is illegal (to the extent that one really believes there is something called international law) to trade with Iraq or to bring in aid outside of the purchases made thru the Oil-for-Food program. The huge influx of aid by private organizations, the US government, and other entities can be argued to be a violation of UN sanctions.

Of course the regime in Baghdad that had sanctions brought against it is history. There is no real government of Baghdad at the moment. The fiction in international law is that a country is a nation is a state. But Saddam's regime was not a nation-state. It was the possession of a single man and it was the proper object of any sanctions passed by the United Nations. To treat the territorial entity called Iraq as legally equivalent to the regime that ruled it seems ludicrous.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 17 10:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 March 12 Wednesday
George Will On The United Nations

George Will thinks the UN is a bad idea.

Certain political phrases become, through mindless repetition, cant that bewitches the intelligence. One such phrase is "the international community," which is oxymoronic because "community" denotes unity based on shared political interests and cultural values. And beware of political entities absurdly named. Just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire, the United Nations is a disunited collection of regimes, many of which do not represent the nations they govern.

The United Nations is premodern because it is unaccountable and irresponsible: It claims power not legitimized by the recurring consent of periodically consulted constituencies of the governed. Inebriated by self-approval, the United Nations is grounded in neither democratic consent nor territorial responsibilities, nor independent fiscal means, nor the material means of enforcing its judgments.

Stanley Kurtz points out that shared cultural assumptions are what make trust and international collaboration possible.

Yet Huntington's players are civilizations, not nations. Shared cultural assumptions, Huntington believes, make informal social contracts based on trust and genuine international collaboration achievable. Yet just as surely, says Huntington, deep cultural differences make such trust and cooperation unlikely, thus forcing civilizational players back onto temporary and hardheaded calculations of military and economic interest as the only solution to conflict. Of course, Francis Fukuyama believes that something approaching a true worldwide "social contract" might someday be achieved, but only after the globe itself is converted to liberal democracy. In the meantime, we shall have to reckon with Huntington's civilizational state of nature.

The United Nations amounts to a case of putting the cart before the horse. The needed shared assumptions do not exist. The majority of the member states will not cooperate with goodwill toward each other. They have conflicting values and conflicting goals.

While the UN Security Council is a farce that is getting a lot of attention it is worth reviewing what has been happening in some of the other agencies of the UN.

Libya is now chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators.

Since its nomination by the African Union, Libya has indicated that it would invite U.N. investigators and international human rights groups to visit Libya. It has declared its intention to review the role of the grossly unfair Peoples’ Courts, with a view to abolishing them, and announced several amnesties for prisoners.

The EU is officially very supportive of the UN and other international organizations. Human Rights Watch says the EU thinks it is more important to make nice with the nastier regimes that are on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Even the European Union virtually stopped its traditional strong denunciation of governments by name on the floor of the Commission. Instead, EU countries confined such criticism to written statements, which are far less visible. European governments spent more time seeking to build consensus, both amongst themselves and with abusive governments, than galvanizing criticism where it was needed.

Back in 2001 the United States was voted off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights when at the same time France, Austria, and Sweden were voted onto it.

Sweden logically pressed for fellow EU member Austria to have a seat on the panel. And why not? But then Stockholm also moved to secure itself the remaining seat at America's expense.

A few years ago,despite its sizable contribution, the U.S. was voted off the equally crucial Administrative Committee on Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The Clinton Administration was baffled and it took a few years for the USA to regain its seat.

Then there is the UN Conference on Disarmament which will soon be headed by Iraq.

Later this year, the U.N.-established Conference on Disarmament will seat a new president: Iraq.

The nation under scrutiny by the world body for weapons of mass destruction will have control – for nearly four weeks – of the agenda of a committee established in 1979 as "the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community."

Of course the UN Security Council gets all sorts of repressive states rotating thru its membership.

Syria was then and remains today on the U.S. State Department's list of official sponsors of terrorism, one of seven countries so designated. Some 35,000 Syrian troops have occupied Lebanon since 1975, where they protect and support a variety of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Last summer, Syria assumed the temporary presidency of the Security Council, 20 years after the brutal suppression of an uprising in the Syrian city of Hama, where about 20,000 civilians were massacred.

The United States can either do what it needs to do to protect its national security or it can treat the UN as a legitimate institution. The forces in control of the UN are anti-democratic and anti-liberal. Some regimes are indifferent to threats to US security. Others positively support those who would attack the US and kill many Americans.

The biggest national security problem the US now faces is how to prevent terrorists from getting nuclear weapons and nuking US cities. A very aggressive strategy of preemption to prevent nuclear proliferation is the only strategy that has a chance of preventing US cities from being nuked. If the United States is going to pursue a strategy of preemption then it should withdraw from the farce that is the United Nations and cease to show the UN any respect as a decision-making body.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 12 11:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 February 23 Sunday
Some UN Supporters In Favor Of International Anarchy?

John O'Sullivan makes a very curious argument: some supporters of the UN are really supporters of international anarchy.

It is the United States that, having failed to solve these problems within the approved United Nations structures, now proposes to enforce the international rules on violators through its own leadership and alliances. And that alarms not only the Saddams of the international system but other less obvious groups--notably, both those powers that benefit from international anarchy and those international bodies and nongovernmental organizations that want to replace international anarchy with their own "governance."

The argument has a lot of appeal. The UN is unwilling to see many of its Security Council resolutions enforced. In spite of that, a large assortment of groups support the UN with almost religious zeal. Why is that? Because they do not really want to see rules enforced at an international level. They want anarchy. Some want anarchy because chaos has emotional appeal. Others want it because they see ways to use the conditions of chaos to their own advantage.

Many of the UN's supporters who oppose Security Council approval of action against Iraq are in the position of not wanting the US to enforce Security Council resolutions. This means they really do not mind what Saddam's regime might do or has done. They are not opposed to seeing brutes kill their own people or threaten others. If that is the case then they really do not favor international rules for the purpose of restraining or overthrowing bad regimes.

By Randall Parker    2003 February 23 01:48 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 January 23 Thursday
The Irony of the UN on Iraq

The Daily Telegraph quotes Mike O'Brien, UK Foreign Office minister who handles the Middle East, trying to placate the left of the Labour Party on Iraq.

"We have to draw the line on Iraq," he said, "If we do not draw the line here, the message to other countries such as Iran, Libya and North Korea is that UN resolutions do not matter. They will be encouraged to seek nuclear weapons and that will press other countries to seek a nuclear capability for their own defence."

The article discusses the poor prospects for a second UN Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the use of force in Iraq. It seems likely that the US and its allies will invade Iraq without a second authorising resolution. Some consider this to be a horrible undermining of UN authority and of international law (or at least of their reinterpretations of international law).

Here's the irony of the current situation: If the US and its allies do not succeed in preventing the development and spread of more advanced weapons of mass destruction throughout the Middle East and eventually into other parts of the world then the United Nations will become irrelevant. Nuclear armed states will have no need to obey UN Security Council resolutions because no state or group of states will be willing to use military means to discipline them. Already the North Korean regime has stated repeatedly that even economic sanctions against it will be treated as an act of war. That sort of threat has to be taken seriously because the North Korean regime may well already have a couple of nuclear weapons. Therefore even the use of sanctions may not be a usable option for the UN Security Council when dealing with a nuclear state.

It remains a Hobbesian world. Proponents of an idealized and expanded role for the United Nations willfully ignore the central role that force must play in the maintenance of any political order.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 23 12:22 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 December 17 Tuesday
Mark T. Clark says Collective Security Does Not Work

Collective security can work for a single nation because it has a process to reach a decision about when to defend its own interests. As Mark T. Clark (any relation to General Mark Clark of WWII fame?) argues, it took the US to make a unilateral decision to do something about Bosnia before the killing stopped. That was right in Europe, it is a small place, and still the Europeans couldn't bring themselves to decide to do something about it. Any group of nations sufficiently large in number is not going to come to consensus until a security threat has reached disastrous proportions.

But collective security has never worked in history, neither under the League of Nations, nor since the creation of the United Nations. It has not worked, nor can it work, because it ignores fundamental political realities.

The first reality is that nations pursue their own interests. During the peak of the Bosnia crisis, Germany supported Croatia, Russia supported Serbia, and the Muslim world supported Bosnia proper. Most members of the U.N. stayed out of the conflict because it didn't concern them, despite the theory of collective responsibility. And because there has never been any universal agreement on the culpability and punishment of those who breach the peace, there never has been any uniform response. That is the second political reality. The third is a bit more complicated.

Implied in the theory of collective security is the notion of unanimity or consensus. That is, because in theory every member of the collective pre-commits to maintaining peace, the organization should act in concert. However, because of conflicting national interests and disagreements about aggression, a strong dose of unilateral leadership is required to get the collective to act. This unilateralism necessary to kick start collective action is the bane of the collectivists. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 17 07:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 November 16 Saturday
The Problem With US Embrace Of The UN

Jonah Goldberg rants about the UN and some of the downsides for US negotiations with the UN Security Council members:

By pleading for U.N. approval, the no-blood-for-oil crowd increased the international trade in both blood and oil. In order to get the votes of Russia and China we had to give those countries a free pass at killing their Muslim Chechen and Uighur populations, respectively. We also had to promise the continuity of France's oil contracts, and of Russia's too. Whether these countries think we're right about toppling or containing Saddam is something of a mystery; what we do know is that they don't think our case is compelling enough to trump their own narrow self-interests. If it were, we wouldn't have had to spend the last couple of months haggling over what happens to Iraq's debt to Russia or France's oil contracts. Right? I mean, if the U.N. were half the thing it ought to be, our U.N. partners would have dropped those concerns the way Cincinnatus laid down his plow. And if the United States is as wrong and selfish as the anti-war crowd says, then the rest of the Security Council are just a bunch of whores willing to do the wrong thing if we pay them enough.

While the US certainly had to strike bargains with unethical governments I doubt that the Russian or Chinese governments would have been any fairer toward the Chechens or Uighurs had the US not bargained with them over Iraq. However, there are still big problems with the Bush Administration's embrace of the UN over Iraq:

  • Most of the UN member states are either undemocratic or at best partially democratic with real limits to speech and press and to civic life outside of government.
  • Not all the states that are democratic are classically liberal because the values of their peoples are not compatible with liberal democracy.
  • Even many of the liberal democracies do not value the security of the US as much as they value their own commercial and poltical interests.

It is folly to grant legitimacy to an organization whose members interests' conflict with the interests of America in ways that are incompatible with the legitimate national security needs of the United States. It is not only dishonest but ultimately counter-productive to pretend that the UN deserves to be treated as a legitimate institution whose members are motivated to help protect the security of other members. There are Bush Administration policy makers who know that the UN does not really deserve the role and legitimacy that its supporters claim for it. When these Bush Administration policy makers pretend that the UN does possess sufficient legitimacy to deserve a role in determining US actions these policy makers are basically lying. The problem here is that the short term advantages that the Bush Administration gains from telling lies about the UN come at the cost of making it harder to convince people to support policies whose necessity can only be recognized by those who know the truth.

In an astute analysis of the long term prospects for the Republican Party John O'Sullivan argues that President Bush needs to explicitly state that the US can not rely on international organizations and multilateralism to deal with crucial national security problems that the US now faces:

First, he must make the GOP the unmistakable voice and representative of the new patriotism. At present Republicans are no more than its lucky beneficiary. Thus far, Mr. Bush has shied away from fights over sensitive issues. He must now be ready to argue explicitly that the U.S. is better defended by a Republican policy of military strength than by the Democrats' diplomatic multilateralism-and that an America united by Republican ideas will resist terrorism more steadily than an America divided by Democratic ideology.

Aside: O'Sullivan also makes two other excellent points. The Republican Party is headed for demographic oblivion if it doesn't drastically cut the current rate of immigration. Also, we need to return to an embrace of a patriotic assimilationist ethos rather than let multiculturalism Balkanize the country.

Former Clinton Administration Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross argues that anything less than full disclosure by Saddam Hussein of his regime's WMD programs ought to be a trigger for war. But at the same time he admits that the UN will be unwilling to require that Iraq make full disclosure:

Hussein will certainly try to create the impression that he is complying with the resolution. No doubt he will turn over voluminous quantities of documents; he may even turn over materials he has heretofore hidden. But he will not turn over the crown jewels of his WMD programs -- especially in the nuclear and biological areas. He will count on the chief inspectors -- Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei -- not wanting to declare he is in violation of his obligations before they have even sent full inspection teams into Iraq. The temptation on the part of the inspectors will be to declare that Iraq has taken a step in the right direction and that they remain willing to work with it, but that it is of course up to the Security Council to decide whether Iraq is in compliance and what steps to take. Will France and Russia be willing to declare this is the moment for the use of force? Unlikely.

Ross is a former diplomat for an administration that at least verbally was a big supporter of the UN and multilateralism. Yet he admits that the UN Security Council's members will not be willing to back up the inspectors with enough support to ensure their success.

Charles Krauthammer argues that the US has a window to scale up preparations for war using the legitimacy granted by the UN Security Council resolution against Iraq.

This window of legitimacy also makes it easier for countries neighboring Iraq to cooperate with the United States in war planning. Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states have been hesitant to do or say anything too publicly. Now they can easily justify their cooperation: They too are acting in the service of the United Nations by giving substance to the "serious consequences" that might compel Hussein to comply and thus vindicate the United Nations.

But then Krauthammer goes on to state that the US is now in a trap set for it by the Security Council and that the US has to find a way to get out of it in order to succeed in disarming Saddam Hussein. This illustrates the problem with pretending that the UN deserves to be seen as legitimate. The US government has been unwilling to state that transnationalism is incompatible with the security interests of the United States Of America. Therefore while the US tries to find a way to reverse the developing threat it is simultaneously helping to promote a philosophy of international relations that makes it harder for the US to defend itself.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 16 02:31 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 14 Thursday
Will UNMOVIC Honestly Report Iraqi Resistance?

Paris-based Iranian writer Amir Taheri reports that many Arab and European officials believe Saddam will benefit from the UN resolution just passed:

Worst of all, an ambiguous grammar may take shape between Blix and Saddam, enabling the Swede to send optimistic signals while the Iraqi adopts the bikini tactic of showing everything except the essential.

The fact that Blix, recently described by his former boss as "a bit of a fool," is a man with absolutely no scientific expertise could make such a grammar more ambiguous. Remember that Blix, in his previous incarnation as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had repeatedly given Iraq, Iran and North Korea a clean bill of health with regard to their respective nuclear programs.

Saddam has made an even bigger gain: Now he is a partner for the Security Council in what Kofi Annan, the gullible U.N. chief, has described as "joint efforts" to resolve the crisis.

The problem for the US is that Hans Blix could just not report the evasions and roadblocks thrown up by Saddam's regime as material breaches.

According to US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the administration plans to take a "zero tolerance" approach to "the next material breach" by Iraq of Security Council resolutions. Yet the term "material breach" remains substantially undefined and open to interpretation. What's more, its definition rests largely in the hands of Unmovic chief Hans Blix, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency whose record as a whistle-blower is not encouraging.

During his tenure at the IAEA before the Gulf War, Blix adjudged Iraq's compliance with the agency "exemplary," even as the country secretly moved forward with its nuclear weapons' program. Then too, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, in 1993 Blix tried to muzzle former IAEA inspector David Kay when he went public with allegations (since confirmed) of North Korea's nuclear program. "The way that Blix has now chosen to intervene," wrote Kay in a letter to the Journal, "gives the appearance of an attempt at coercion and suppression of uncomfortable ideas."

Blix's questionable reliability is not the only potential obstacle to America's military designs. "Against the full resources of a nation state, with thousands of people and many intelligence and security organs, it was a hopeless endeavor," says Charles Duelfer, a former top UN weapons' inspector, of the inspections process.

Once it becomes clear that Iraq is putting up obstacles in the path of UNMOVIC inspectors and that UNMOVIC will not report these obstacles as material breaches will Bush be willing to tell the world that UNMOVIC and the UN Security Council are not acting in good faith and that the US will attack Iraq?

Update: The UNMOVIC team in Iraq will be headed by Australian Bill Jolley who comes from the Australian military:

Dr Jolley, from South Australia, is on leave from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and will be chief weapons inspector.

Up to another four Australian defence staff will join inspection teams under the Government's Weapons Inspection Roster.

This greatly increases the odds that there will be other channels thru which information will flow out of UNMOVIC about what is going on between UNMOVIC and the Iraqi regime.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 14 09:32 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 12 Tuesday
James C. Bennett On National Vs International Law

Anglosphere columnist James C. Bennett compares national and international law and discusses the reasons why international law has legitimacy problems:

Starting particularly with Woodrow Wilson, the past hundred years has seen a growing trend to, first, attempt to refound international law in morality rather than pragmatism, and second, fuse international and national law into a seamless worldwide instrument of personal jurisdiction.

Even the first trend is problematic, both because of the lack of a universal moral consensus that is anything but superficial, and because international law suffers from an attempt to impose the constraints of general principles and universal rules. This is because its numbers are so small that there is far less likelihood of good and bad outcomes evening out over time.

The second trend is also problematic: law binding individuals must, to be effective, be based in morality and have some form of legitimacy in the eyes of those who would be bound.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 12 09:14 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 11 Monday
Does Hans Blix Have The Right Stuff?


Ultimately, the American decision on whether to go to war could come down to a single locked gate in the Iraqi desert, or one door to which the key could not be immediately located. Blix, understandably, might be loathe to spark a bloody conflict over that kind of detail. Some old hands insist, however, such delays - often lasting a matter of minutes - are all that Saddam's officials need to spirit away key elements of his weapons programmes. One Unscom alumnus says he watched satellite footage of an inspection, "and you can literally see the Iraqis moving the stuff out of the side entrance while Unscom was at the front", negotiating over an absent key.

"Blix doesn't want to be blamed for going to war," says David Albright, a former IAEA consultant who participated in the inspections and is now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "But in my view, there's nothing wrong with having somebody there who can get through locked doors, and I'm not sure Blix would agree with that. You've got to use investigative techniques like the police do. Blix comes from an environment where the nation state is supreme, but this is a criminal state, Iraq, where you have to use lock-pickers, or people who can retrieve information from computers if it's just been erased."

The more interesting question is how will Bush respond when UNMOVIC carries out inspections in ways that make it easier for the Iraqis to get away with their cat and mouse games? Will Bush publically criticise and even eventually to go so far as to state that UNMOVIC is unwilling to do what it takes? The test for Bush is coming up.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 11 01:53 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 November 04 Monday
Amir Taheri on the French Plan To Prevent Iraq War

Will Colin Powell and Tony Blair manage to convince Bush to stay dedicated to the UN Security Council route for so long that Bush will turn out to be a suckered by the French?

On the basis of interviews with various sources in Paris, it looks as if the French leader's plan is devised in two phases.

The first phase consists of efforts to prevent the passage of a Security Council resolution that would give the U.S. a legal basis for removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Chirac wants the U.N. weapons' inspectors to return to Iraq and operate within a timeframe determined by themselves, not Washington.

Hans Blix, the Swedish diplomat who heads the team of inspectors says he may need up to 18 months before he could report to the Security Council.

Assuming that the inspectors are in Iraq by Christmas, the Blix timetable would take us into the summer of 2004. Even if he reports at that time that the Iraqis have not cooperated with his team, the issue would have to be raised by the Security Council so that a new resolution, authorizing the use of force, is discussed.

I see no reason to waste much time feeling anger toward the French leadership for playing this cynical game. The important question is this: Is Bush dumb enough to fall for it? I am not confident that he's not. He's already made many highly questionable concessions in the UN negotiations and just going to the UN in the first place makes no sense except as a way to help Tony Blair. The inspectors may end up going into Iraq and spending many months running around playing hide-and-seek with the Iraqis. The best chance for a regime change in Iraq would be if the French exercised their UN Security Council veto over the final US draft proposal and the US then responded by abandoning UN negotiations. Then the UNMOVIC games would never start and the US could attack at the time of its choosing.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 04 06:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Robert Kagan On The Fantasy France Is Living

The problem with the French fantasy is that we are letting them enjoy it at our expense.

The debate over Iraq, though, has been a special godsend. Seen through French eyes, the world is suddenly a wonderful place, at least for France: There is the United States, the rogue colossus. There is Tony Blair, America's poodle. There is Schroeder, impaled -- internationally if not domestically -- upon his unilateralist, "German way" pacifism. And then there is France, tougher-minded than the Germans, prouder and more independent than the British and, because of its seat on the Security Council, the only modern, civilized power in the world able to tame and civilize the American beast. It is a mission worthy of a great country.

Who would ever want to wake from such a dream? The real world of terrorists, tyrannical aggressors and weapons of mass destruction is a much less accommodating world for France than the legalistic, one-country, one-vote world of the Security Council or the postmodern paradise of the European Union. If the United States ever does invade Iraq, the French must either stand by helplessly or take their place by America's side, and that is not nearly as enjoyable.

The only possible benefit the US can gain from the extended dance with UN fools is that some part of the American populace is paying enough attention to the UN negotiations to dispel any illusions they might have about the UN and the so-called "international community". The US is not pursuing an aggressive stance toward Iraq for the sake of the glory of conquest or for some commercial gain. We are just trying to make the world safer for Western Civilization. That the French are willing to use their seat on the United Nations as they have been means we should say shame on them. That we are willing to let them get away with it means we should say to ourselves an even stronger shame on us.

By the way, has anyone else ever noticed that the United Nations is a totally Orwellian name for that organization? First of all, its members are not united about anything. Secondly, many of the member states are not really nation-states.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 04 05:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 November 03 Sunday
Powell, Rice: USA Will Not Be Handcuffed By UN

Sounds like the Bush Administration is saying that the UN will not be allowed to restrain the US from taking out the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq if the President decides it is necessary.

"There is nothing that we would propose in this resolution or we would find acceptable in a resolution that would handcuff the president of the United States in doing what he feels he must do," Powell said.

In an apparently coordinated public campaign, Condoleezza Rice, Bush's assistant for national security, also said "we'll not be handcuffed" by whatever decision the Security Council might take.

The United States is "determined to take action" if Saddam does not comply with U.N. resolutions, she said in an interview with Scott Hennen of KCNN in Grand Forks, N.D.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 03 08:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 November 01 Friday
No International Community For Collective Security

Here is Rudyard Kipling's Dane-geld:

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
    To call upon a neighbour and to say:—
“We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
    Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
    And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
    And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
    To puff and look important and to say:—
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
    We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
    For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
    You will find it better policy to says:—

“We never pay any one Dane-geld,
    No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
    And the nation that plays it is lost!”

William Hawkins, after quoting an excerpt of the above Kipling quote argues there is no international community that believes it has enough in common to feel any dedication to the notion of collective security:

However, between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Pyongyang's recent admission that it never halted its nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration has realized that the world is still a dangerous place that must be dealt with from a position of strength.

There is, however, still one lingering misconception about the world that is impeding U.S. action. This is the notion that there is an "international community" which is as concerned about terrorism and rogue states as is Washington, and which can be appealed to under the concept of collective security. President Bush has tried repeatedly since September 11 to summon a universal coalition to the U.S. banner, only to find that most governments are unwilling to substitute American priorities for their own traditional concerns.

Our problem is that too few governments recognize the size of the danger and of those who do not a few of them take the attitude that they do not have a responsibility to deal with it.

By Randall Parker    2002 November 01 12:02 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 31 Thursday
Six Words At Issue In UN Security Council Positions

Lets reduce this all down to pablum: The Bush Administration doesn't trust the UN Security Council to ever recognize that the Iraqi regime is not in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. That is because there are UN Security Council members that do not want to see the US attack Iraq under any circumstance. Therefore Bush Administration is right not to trust the Security Council. But isn't that exactly why the US never should have gone to the Security Council in the first place? By going to it the US government is effectively taking the position that the UN Security Council should have a say. But if the UN Security Council can't be trusted why take the position that its collective voice should matter?

The French of course don't see any point to having a Security Council resolution unless the Security Council is going to decide whether the war goes forward:

The question was how to decide if Iraq has failed to cooperate with new United Nations weapons inspections. France believes it should be a U.N. decision, and has proposed inserting the words "when established by the Security Council" into the operative sentence.

In the latest U.S. proposal, that sentence says "failure by Iraq to comply with, and cooperate fully with the implementation of this resolution [France would add its phrase here] shall constitute a . . . material breach" of its international obligations. The U.S. version doesn't say how the determination would be made or who would make it. France, along with Russia and China, suspects the Americans want to reserve the decision for themselves, all the better to launch a military attack.

The French government does not want the US to attack Iraq regardless of whether the Iraqi regime puts an end to its WMD development programs.

Meanwhile, the White House is digging itself an even deeper hole by pretending that inspection regimes can uncover all of Saddam Hussein's WMD development labs and weapons stores. Inspections can never work. Is Mr McCormack saying the following with a straight face?

"We want to see how we can make this work," said National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. "We'd like nothing better than to have peaceful, effective disarmament of Iraq through an inspection regime."

By Randall Parker    2002 October 31 12:37 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 29 Tuesday
David Warren: UN Disagreement Over Iraq Is Economic

If David Warren is right (and this argument seems very plausible) the disagreement between the US and France and Russia boils down to a question of money. France and Russia want guarantees of debt repayment and future business from Iraq that are too big for the Bush Administration to accept. The Bush Administration already faces an enormous economic and especially political and cultural challenge in rebuilding Iraq and has decided it can not afford to tie Iraq down too much with obligations to France and Russia:

They want clear but not public guarantees that they will be able to recover their own national interests, including vast debts owed them by Saddam, from any new Iraqi regime; and they want the right to participate as full partners, not in any invasion of Iraq, but in the fruits of such an invasion (i.e. their shares of contracts and influence in Iraqi reconstruction).

The United States will not give such guarantees, and does not believe it wise to mortgage the future of Iraq in such ways. At root, the United States has long-term ambitions for the reconstruction of Iraq as the first truly functioning constitutional democracy in the Arab Middle East, pour encourager les autres. The Bush people will not attempt this extremely difficult task -- similar in scope to the democratization of Germany or Japan after the last World War -- with their arms tied behind someone else's back.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 29 10:25 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
David Warren: Why Iraq First? Test The UN

David Warren lays out an interesting argument about why France and the US are arguing about "material breach" in the UNSC resolution on Iraq. He also claims the UN (really the Security Council) is being tested by the Bush Administration.

The answer is, because, in addition to its threat to deploy genocidal weapons, and its role in sponsoring, sheltering and fomenting terrorism both against Israel and farther afield, the Iraqi regime presents a special case. It is already in defiance of Chapter VII resolutions, and so it uniquely presents an opportunity for remedy through the auspices of the U.N. If the U.N. is going to have any role at all in the rest of the "war against terror", it must prove its resolve and ability to act in this case.

If, alternatively, the U.N. fails to vindicate its own resolutions on Iraq, the whole organization is as dead as the League of Nations before it. In that case, President Bush will not have destroyed it, it will have destroyed itself, and the U.S. and its allies can get on with the business of walking over it.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 29 07:33 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 28 Monday
France, Russia, the US, and UN legitimacy

Writing in the New York Times (free registration required) William Safire writes on the likely consequences if Putin and Chirac continue to oppose the US UNSC resolution on Iraq:

Should Vladimir Putin and Jacques Chirac lead the Council down the path of appeasement, Bush will undertake the liberation of the Iraqi people with an ad hoc coalition of genuine allies. And here is one pundit's assessment of the likely consequences:

After our victory in the second gulf war, Britain would replace France as the chief European dealer in Iraqi oil and equipment. Syria, the Security Council member that has been the black-market conduit for Saddam's black gold, would be frozen out. The government of New Iraq, under the tutelage and initial control of the victorious coalition, and prosperous after shedding the burden of a huge army and corrupt Baath Party, would reimburse the U.S. and Britain for much of their costs in the war and transitional government out of future oil revenues and contracts.

If Turkey's powerful army on Iraq's border significantly shortens the war, its longtime claim to royalties from the Kirkuk oil fields would at last be honored. This would recompense the Turks for the decade of economic distress caused by the gulf wars, and be an incentive for them to patch up relations with pro-democracy Iraqi Kurds fighting Saddam at their side.

Tim Hames, writing in The Times of London, points the finger of blame at Jacques Chirac for the failure of the UN negotiations on an Iraq resolution.

The United States has tolerated this risible spectacle so far because the White House is absorbed by the mid-term elections on November 5, while much of the media and public have been obsessed with the sniper saga. British diplomats, desperately looking for a form of words that will be accepted at the Security Council, have been unwitting beneficiaries of the killing spree in Maryland and Virginia. But with arrests on that front made, and the election campaign about to come to a close, the Americans will either expect an appropriate UN resolution to be embraced imminently or will decide, correctly, to deal with the situation unilaterally.

It is has been widely claimed that Mr Putin will, after the horrors of Moscow, feel compelled to co-operate with the Americans over Saddam. This is to assume that the Russians are the real problem at the United Nations. They are not. Mr Putin has legitimate commercial and strategic interests in the region and is entitled to drive a hard bargain with Washington. That is what he is doing and it is not resented. The grotesque recent grandstanding by Jacques Chirac is an entirely different matter.

There are two separate arguments to consider that frequently get made in discussions about this UN resolution on Iraq. The first argument is that if the US fails to get UN approval and then goes on and takes out Saddam's regime anyhow this will be a blow for the authority of the UN. I think that is certainly true. The argument that frequently follows from the first argument (made no doubt by UK diplomats to the Russian and French governments) is that the decrease in the luster and relevance of the UN would be a bad thing. Well, by contrast, I see that as the double bonus points benefit. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Chirac and Putin will stick to their guns in opposing a firm UN resolution with teeth. Please guys, don't let me down. We all know that an inspections regime would be a sham anyhow. I am guardedly optimistic that you will find it within your hearts to oppose US hyperpuissance. Go down fighting and put a nail into the coffin of the UN. Go France! Go Russia! Go China and even Mexico too!

(Tim Hames link from Iain Murray and William Safire link from Bill Quck)

By Randall Parker    2002 October 28 04:49 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
Vicente Fox Stiffs Bush On UN Iraq Vote

Will this convince Bush to stop trying to get a special Mexican immigration amnesty through Congress? This has got to burn: (NY Times free registration required)

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico, Oct. 27 — President Bush left a summit conference here today without a pledge from Mexico to support the American resolution in the United Nations Security Council to disarm Iraq.

Mexican officials made it clear that Mexico is siding with France in the debate at the United Nations.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 28 01:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 October 26 Saturday
Andrew Gowers on What Is The International Community

Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, has written an essay in the magazine Foreign Policy on just what is the international community:

It's one of those phrases that trips lightly off the editorial writer's keyboard: "The international community should consider…." "The international community should act…." But the phrase more often obscures than illuminates. It allows bien-pensants everywhere to propose optimal imaginary courses of action for the betterment of humankind to hypothetical enlightened actors. And the phrase makes it easy to avoid hard thinking about who might act, out of what motive, and to what effect. Its use, incidentally, is banned from the editorial columns of the Financial Times.

The rule that bans the use of those phrases in the Financial Times editorical columns demonstrates a wisdom that made me want to read the rest of the essay. Its worth a read. However, when he talks about the international community needing values and leadership its not clear what one should make of that. What countries should run the international organizations when most of the world's countries are members? Governance is always going to be bad as long most governments are bad.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 26 11:34 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 25 Friday
France, Russia, China may not veto UN Iraq Resolution

The Bush Administration is now lobbying the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Will Russia, France and China abstain or vote for the US resolution on Iraq?

The administration's decision to broaden the negotiations comes as senior U.S. officials have voiced increasing confidence that France, Russia and China will not veto a U.S. resolution. Publicly, at least, France and Russia continued to offer stiff resistance.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergey Lavrov, denied that Moscow had provided the United States with assurances that it will not block a vote in the council. Lavrov told reporters outside the council that Russia, France and China had two fundamental objections to the U.S. text. The first involves the inclusion of language that Moscow believes would constitute a "trigger" -- or "automaticity" in the words of French and Russian officials -- for military action.

The big remaining sticking point is the language over the inspection regime. The US wants the power to be able to recommend sites to inspect. Then if UNMOVIC doesn't inspect or Iraq refuses the right to inspect the US will have cause to claim the inspection regime has failed. The Russians and French are trying to avoid that event. The center of focus is about to move to Iraq and the inspection teams.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 25 02:36 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 24 Thursday
Iraq UNSC Resolution Timing And War

The US has the problem that it needs to start its war against Iraq by March of 2003 before it becomes too hot. The amount of time discussed for the inspection process might not allow the US to declare the Iraqis in violation of the inspections rules for over 3 months. That puts the start of the war into March. The US would be better off sticking with a strongly worded UN Security Council Resolution so that it would be vetoed by the French or Russians. That way the war could start much sooner:

The resolution's current timetable would require that Iraq formally agree to the terms of inspections within seven days of the resolution's adoption and file a "full and complete" declaration on the status of its weapons program within the following 23 days. The inspectors would then have an additional 15 days to resume their inspections in Iraq.

The chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, would then have as many as 60 more days before he would be required to report to the council. But he would not be prohibited from reporting Iraqi violations before the 60-day deadline.

I suspect the Bush team may not mind the delay caused by the current diplomatic negotiations because it gives them more time to get ready. But the problem is that if the negotiations result in a UN resolution that can pass with the language the Bush team wants about force then this could work against the US as too much time is built into the resolution.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 24 01:51 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 23 Wednesday
W. Post: Call Their Bluff At The UN

The Washington Post comes down in favor of moving for a vote in the UN Security Council rather than further weaken the resolution that the US is putting forth:

The Franco-Russian obstructionism cannot be understood as a response to the Bush administration's hawkishness on Iraq, its doctrine of preemption or its drift toward unilateralism. Paris and Moscow have been championing the cause of Saddam Hussein in the Security Council since long before the election of George W. Bush. The two governments now portray themselves as advocates of Iraqi disarmament and U.N. inspections; but for much of the 1990s, their explicit aim was to weaken or abolish U.N. inspections and remove all U.N. sanctions on Iraq -- positions that helped their businessmen to win lucrative new contracts and their governments to harvest popular acclaim in the Arab world, at the expense of the United States.

Presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia are still playing the same cynical game, only now they would strike a pose as the only restraint on the aggressiveness of the hegemonistic United States, and as champions of the rule of international law. Never mind that both countries have never hesitated to dispatch their forces for foreign interventions where their interests were threatened, with or without U.N. approval.

The part that troubles me about the UN negotiations is pretty simple: Why do we take the UN seriously in the first place?

By Randall Parker    2002 October 23 10:25 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 22 Tuesday
France, Russia Reject US UNSC Draft Resolution

France and Russia object to the wording of the latest US draft of a resolution for the UN Security Council on Iraq. Sounds like George W. Bush is ready to move against Iraq without UN support:

"If the United Nations can't make its mind up, if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace," President George Bush repeated during a mid-term election campaign stop. His spokesman, Ari Fleischer, was more explicit: "It's coming down to the end ... the United Nations does not have forever."

Is it better for the US for there to be a formal vote and rejection of the US text before the US attacks Iraq? Or is it better to just drop the effort to get UN support now and move on?

By Randall Parker    2002 October 22 02:15 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 October 21 Monday
Krauthammer: Call France's Bluff

I sincerely hope that Bush will do exactly what Charles Krauthammer suggests: Call France's Bluff:

No more dithering. Put the question to France. We are going to present our resolution to the Security Council. Will you veto it?

This would not be an easy choice for France. It certainly understands that if it vetoes the resolution, and if the United States goes ahead regardless (as it certainly will), and if the war is a success, this will mean the end of the Security Council as a serious institution.

The General Assembly, where every country has equal weight, is already an absurdity. No one takes anything that happens there seriously. But people still ascribe some importance to the Security Council, despite the fact that it is a relic of World War II. If, however, on the major issue of the day -- war and peace in the Persian Gulf -- France tests the authority of the council by casting a veto that is summarily brushed aside, then the emperor's clothes will be gone. The United Nations' irrelevance will have been irrefutably demonstrated.

I also hope that France will ultimately exercise its veto over whatever resolution the US puts forward.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 21 01:52 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 17 Thursday
Volokh on Mandatory Multilateralism and Avoiding Hatred

Eugene Volokh has written an excellent post on why a combination of a US strategy of mandatory multilateralism (ie allowing some other countries veto over our actions) and a strategy to avoid discontent and hatred on the part of countries which hold veto power over the US (most obviously UN Security Council permanent members or on the part of any countries who we effectively allow to veto our use of military force) would inevitably lead to disaster. Any country that holds veto power over US actions which also wants to avoid hatred directed at it for its own actions would have a strong incentive to veto any US action because otherwise to okay the action would bring hatred down upon it from US enemies. I strongly urge you all to read the full argument on the Volokh Conspiracy blog. As Eugene points out, there are already arguments being made (eg most recently by Australian Leftists in response to the Bali bombing; but countless others have made similar arguments since 9/11) that supporting US actions brings retaliation upon any country that does so.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 17 02:31 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
UN Security Council Iraq End Game

There are a number of wire service reports about growing Bush Administration impatience with UN Security Council negotiations over an Iraq inspections and war resolution. This first report says that Colin Powell is going to get tough with the French:

The United States is losing patience with slow progress on a United Nations resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

This second report details concessions the US has offered which have not convinced any of the opposing 3 permanent Security Council members:

In a concession to France, the new U.S. draft will give more credence to reports from U.N. arms inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction. But the United States still insists on one resolution and hopes its new language is vague enough for most countries to support, the diplomats said.

The Bush administration also has shown willingness to drop provisions in its draft that would allow key council members to join U.N. inspections and have troops open any routes that may be barred to the arms experts.

My personal preference for an outcome would be for the US to put forth a strong resolution, have one or more of France, China, or Russia veto it, and then for the US to just go ahead and invade Iraq. That way the UN gets relegated to a deserved irrelevance and the US is in no way constrained by the wording of a compromise resolution or by ineffectual inspection teams. The only problem with that scenario is that it will put Tony Blair in a difficult situation. Whether the UK would participate in a US attack on Iraq without a UN Security Council resolution is not at all clear.

Update: Once again, it is all about the Benjamins. This NY Times (free reigistration required) article has Russia and French wanting to be assured that they will continue to have business deals for the development of Iraqi oil fields after the war is over:

Many experts say France's potential economic interests in a future Iraq are a factor in its wanting eventually to be on the side of Washington if Mr. Hussein is overthrown. Russia also has strong oil interests in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 17 12:51 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 16 Wednesday
UN Security Council Deadlocked On Iraq

Its pretty simple as I see it: If the US goes along with the French proposal for two resolutions where only the second resolution authorizes force then the French, Chinese or Russians will veto the second resolution:

The problem, a diplomat said, is one of trust. The French do not believe assurances that the Americans will not jump the gun with an invasion if attack authorization is included in the same resolution as new inspections. The Americans, this official and others said, believe the French are simply looking for a way to slow down, and even stop, the logical result of Iraqi noncooperation.

If the US goes along with the proposal that the head of the UNMOVIC inspection team gets to decide when Iraq is not complying with the inspection terms then Hans Blix will probably find reasons to keep delaying the point of making that decision.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 16 11:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 10 Thursday
WTO moves to closer ties with UN

This is an unhealthy development:

But on the very first day of his mandate, Supachai announced that the WTO would work more closely with agencies like the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and especially the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

With respect to reaching a "real understanding" of the issues of interest to developing nations in various trade-related areas, Supachai said that it was UNCTAD that could fill the gap that the WTO would not be able to fill in the short term.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 10 11:32 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 07 Monday
James C. Bennett sees UN as fundamentally flawed

James C. Bennett joins the ranks of those who think the UN is a hopeless case:

More and more commentators are suggesting that the United Nations, like the League of Nations, is fundamentally flawed, and may need replacing. A new organization may fix some of the flaws in the United Nations' structure, as it itself was an improvement over the League of Nations. However, it may be the fundamental idea of an international organization that is both universal, in admitting any sovereign state, and effective, in that it may authorize specific actions by majority votes of various bodies, may be attempting to square the circle.

It may be that any attempt to reform or replace the United Nations will fail so long as it continues to mix members of very dissimilar characters. Roger Scruton has recently discussed a distinction between states with a "personal character" -- those that genuinely reflect a national community, and thus can represent at least from time to time a consensus of national opinion -- and those that are little more than structures for rule of an area by a particular dictator or ruling clique. (I have written about such a distinction in terms of strong, weak, or nonexistent civil societies.)

By Randall Parker    2002 October 07 03:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
David Warren on UN supporters

David Warren offers reasons why some people like the UN:

The other reason, for this strange infatuation with the United Nations, is more complexly ideological. It is what remains of "socialist internationalism", which never did make very fine moral distinctions. The belief is that the larger governmental unit is, by definition and always, more legitimate than the smaller -- and more "democratic", since it contains more people. Thus provinces are preferred to municipalities, the federal government to provinces, and "world government" to federal, for whatever purpose -- usually some social engineering scheme. And once again, the idea goes without thinking; for the implications of it are horrendous.

In his previous article David Warren discusses the motives of UN Security Council permanent members France, Russia, and China:

The first thing to know is that none of the five governments are in any doubt that the U.S. intends to change the regime of Saddam Hussein. And neither Paris, nor Moscow, nor Beijing is in a position to stop it, through the U.N. or otherwise. The question from each is, "At what price will we allow the Americans to escape from the appearance of unilateralism?"

By Randall Parker    2002 October 07 09:57 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 October 04 Friday
Mark Steyn on the Blessed Church of the UN

Mark Steyn draws attention to the fact that "the UN" is really shorthand for 3 UN Security Council permanent members with veto power: China, Russia, and France. Yes, the UN is an accidental relic of a previous era:

So instead the plan is to diminish US hegemony by spending zippo on defence and putting all your eggs in the UN basket. Structurally, the UN is a creature of the Cold War. It formalised the stalemate of East and West: it was designed to prevent rather than enable action; it tended towards inertia, which was no bad thing given the potentially catastrophic consequences of the alternative. But we no longer have a bipolar world, and so the vetoes only work one way — to restrain the sole surviving superpower. England’s clergy have redefined the Christian concept of a just war to mean only one blessed by the Security Council, which is to say the governments of France, Russia and China: it will be left to two atheists and a lapsed Catholic to determine whether this is a war Christians can support. Even more perplexing, The Spectator feels the same way: our editorial last week declared that ‘only UN authorisation’ could provide a justification for war.

Just as a matter of interest, how many countries does George W. Bush have to have on board before America ceases to be acting ‘unilaterally’? So far, there’s Australia, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Turkey.... Romania has offered the use of its airspace to attack Iraq. The Americo-Romanian Coalition Against Iraq has more members than most multilateral organisations. But no matter how multilateral it gets, it doesn’t count unless it’s sanctioned by the UN. If France feels the need to invade the Ivory Coast, that can be done unilaterally. But, when it’s America, you gotta get a warrant from the global magistrate.

Along the way Steyn alludes to the Battle of the Some and Europe's experience in WWI as a cause of Europe's view about American war fighting. Steyn does this in the context of dismissing European and American left-wing complaints about the unwillingness of the American leadership to put at risk large numbers of ground troops in an attack in either Afghanistan (the critics don't seem to understand the logistics limitations in that case - but never mind) or Iraq. Well, there's something curious thing about Europe's lessons from the First World War: European intellectuals were alienated from the very idea of war because of the massive casualties suffered by so many European nations. But the modern American way of war employs such accuracy and high speed mobility that the casualties are drastically reduced even in the ranks of our enemies. So while fear of massive casualties is the reason European intellectuals became so averse to war (no matter how just the cause) they have so internalized this aversion that now that the original reason for the aversion has been removed they are angry that the US is conducting its war fighting in a way that will avoid the massive casualties.

The other phenomenon at work here is the irrational belief in the efficacy of international institutions as virtual secular saviors. This belief is held in the face of abundant empirical evidence to the contrary. The belief finds its support in a poorly constructed and highly imaginary mythology of supposed accomplishments of the international institutions. The size of this mythology effectively imbues the UN and supporting institutions with a religious aura.

The assertions that international bodies and treaties have prevented WMD proliferation or prevented wars are just that: assertions. The reality of the treaties and international institutions is rather disappointing. Treaties have worked against governments that had no plans of breaking them in the first place. But no sooner was the ink dry on a treaty banning biological weapons development that the Soviet Union had secretly embarked on a massive program to develop a large assortment of biological weapons. Nuclear weapons have spread to more countries. Export controls by the US and its allies helped slow the spread of WMD for many years. But these export controls were not coordinated thru the UN. Beyond those export controls the only effective restraints on WMD spread have come from the Israeli strike against the Osirik reactor and the Gulf War to expel Saddam from Kuwait. To the extent that UNSCOM partially worked it was because Iraq was badly weakened by the Gulf War and US and British warplanes were ready to launch airstrikes. Even here UN involvement was not really helpful. US and UK inspectors working without a UN mandate would have been more effective since they wouldn't have been harmed by the lack of support the UN Security Council provided to UNSCOM (France, Russia, and China of course worked to negotiate a series of compromises with Saddam that weakened and undermined UNSCOM).

This is another first class essay from Mark Steyn. Be sure the read the whole thing if you like the except.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 04 07:06 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 October 01 Tuesday
David Warren on UN Resolution Bargaining Chips

David Warren, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, argues that the negotiations about UN Security Council Resolutions on Iraq is not chiefly about whether there should be one or two resolutions or even about the authorization for the use of force on the second resolution. The real secret discussions with China, France, and Russia are about what they might gain or lose by a fall of Saddam's regime.

The French, Russians, and Chinese, each among Saddam's major trading partners, and each owed billions by the present Iraqi regime, are thus each in a position to lose heavily if Saddam falls. It is among the reasons they feel uncomfortable with a resolution that Saddam could not possibly comply with -- since they know as well as anybody else that Saddam indeed harbours weapons of mass destruction.

From this I deduce that even more effort is being put into the terms of secret buy-offs, than into the exact configuration of the resolution text. If each of the veto powers are satisfied that their interests in Iraq can be transferred to any new regime, then it will be "all aboard". If they can't be satisfied, then one or more will pull the emergency cord before the train can leave station.

Russia in particular is looking for a green light from the Bush Administration for the invasion of Georgia (the one in the Caucasus of course). This is the business as usual at the international community's favorite institution that they want to use to restrain US cowboy unilateralism. Why do so many fools have more respect the UN as a legitimate institution to exercise power internationally than they do for the duly elected government of the United States? The UN is a creature of its membership. Most of its member states are at varying degrees of unfree, corrupt, and despotic. Even out of its 140 members which are nominal democracies only 82 are in any sense liberal democracies and that is by the UN's own reckoning.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 01 03:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 28 Saturday
France, Russia, China make UN a mockery

Fareed Zakaria examines the history of how France, Russia, and China gutted attempts to use UN resolutions to sanctify efforts to restrain Iraq (why anyone should consider the UN as a source of moral legitimacy in the first place is beyond me - but fools do). The most important thing to know about the United Nations is that it is a fatally flawed organization masquerading as something lofty:

The record is not encouraging. For the past 10 years France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest. They have used multilateralism as a way to further unilateral policies. The dust from the gulf war had not settled when the French government began a quiet but persistent campaign to gut the sanctions against Iraq, turn inspections into a charade and send signals to Saddam Hussein that Paris was ready to do business with him again. “Decades from now, when all the documents are available, someone is going to write an eye-opening book about France’s collusion with Saddam Hussein in the 1990s,” says Kenneth Pollack, who worked at the CIA and the NSC during those years.

Keep in mind that 3 out of the 5 permanent UN Security Council members are France, Russia, and China:

Moscow also led the charge against the appointment of Rolf Ekeus as the chief weapons inspector in January 2000, a campaign that is worth recalling. After Russia and France had vetoed about 25 names, Kofi Annan decided to put forward someone whose qualifications he thought were unimpeachable. Ekeus had headed up the original inspections team to Iraq after the gulf war. In that role, he had been patient but clever, finding more Iraqi weapons programs than any expert had imagined. Russia, joined by France and China, vetoed the appointment.

The people of France bear special moral responsibility for this because they have a real functioning democracy. In the case of China and Russia one can blame the actions on small ruling elites that are little restrained by their citizens. But the French government more closely represents the will of its people.

But the real story here is that it demonstrates the unconstructive role that the UN plays in the world. Had the US never sought UN approval in the first place the US could have used military force to make the Iraqis allow inspections by teams chosen by the US for their effectiveness.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 28 01:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 27 Friday
France, China Oppose Force Against Iraq

If, as seems likely, France and China stick by their positions then the UN Security Council will not approve a use of force against Iraq under any likely scenario. This puts Tony Blair in a difficult position:

Reports from Paris say French President Jacques Chirac has told US President George W. Bush that France remains opposed to any United Nations resolution on Iraq through automatic use of military force, if Baghdad fails to cooperate with UN demands.

There is some ambiguity in France's position:

France has opposed President Bush's request for a quick and sole U.N. resolution to authorize military strikes if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not allow new inspections.

Under President Chirac's proposal, the first resolution would demand the return of the inspectors to Iraq after a four-year absence.

If Iraq continues to refuse the inspectors, France would then agree to a second Security Council resolution to allow military action.

Under wording that China and France would approve (and remember they took Iraq's side when UNSCOM was denied access to sites) how much access would they require and long will Saddam be given to comply? How soon would the second vote be? Would China vote for the second resolution? I honestly don't think China or France want that second resolution to ever come up for a vote.

So the question becomes this: If China, France, and perhaps even Russia block a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force what will Tony Blair do? Will he tell the left wing of the Labour Party that he gave his good faith best efforts with the UN and that the UK should participate in the attack on Iraq without UN authorization? If so, will he face a rebellion large enough to threaten his position as PM?

I think the world will be a better place if China or France (or better yet both) veto a stronger Security Council resolution and the US (preferably with Britain) goes ahead and takes out Saddam's regime and brings out all Saddam's WMD stores and development equipment for all the world to see. The UN is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Please China and France, play your predictable roles and help more people come to see that.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 27 03:38 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 26 Thursday
A British MP on multilateralism vs unilateralism

Here. in a nutshell, is the question the multilateralists ought to answer:

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): The Prime Minister knows that action against Iraq that is supported by the authority of the United Nations would be acceptable to the vast majority of Members of Parliament across the House. Does he agree that those MPs who oppose independent action must explain why something that they believe to be right and justified when undertaken by many nations together becomes wrong and unjustified if we should act alone?

Tony Blair's response of course totally sidesteps the question:

The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is exactly why the United Nations must be the way of resolving the issue. That is why I think that it was right that President Bush made it clear to the UN General Assembly that the United Nations was faced with a challenge. That is why it is important that that challenge is met and the UN resolutions are implemented.

(found on Stephen Pollard's site)

By Randall Parker    2002 September 26 11:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 21 Saturday
On the UN, Democracy, and Dangerous Regimes

Over on Winds Of Change Joe Katzman does a good job of finding interesting discussions happening between blogs (or even within one blog with just one guy talking as he did with my own posts on deterrence vs preemption) and collecting up a bunch of links you can click open and read once a series of posts has neared completion. It makes it easy to come in after the fact and more quickly follow an exchange without having to wait for each next post.

Well, Joe traces a debate about democracy, terrorism, and culture between Oxblog and Michiel Visser. I personally find more merit in of Michiel's arguments. However, I'd like to start out quibbling with some of Michiel's arguments:

Michiel states: "Unless the four 'terror states' ( per Michael Ledeen) of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are dealt with, the West cannot be safe." My quibble here is that label of "terror states" is really an incomplete statement of the problem. It is important to state the three different reasons why states cause problems for us because each reason is cause for an effective response on our part. First of all, some states are a threat as a side effect of their policies and actions. A state like Saudi Arabia does not support terrorism against the US in order to accomplish its objectives against us. The Saudis may teach their kids things (like, say, hate the unbelievers) that lead to a much greater chance that their kids will become terrorists. The Saudis actively export the hostile Wahhabi version of Islam. The Saudis may (as has been credibly claimed) pay terrorist organizations large amounts of protection money that then gets used for attacks against the US. But the intent on the part of the top Saudi leaders is not actually to cause attacks against the US. The Saudi rulers have even let their private citizens donate to organzations hostile to the US and the West. But there are other things they do not do that other states do that create threats to us. The second reason states become a source of threats to us: States that hate us fund and train and provide support for terrorists who hate us. Iran is currently the top state that does this though they are not alone. Finally, the third cause of threats is that some states hostile to us are working to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). So while Ledeen or Michiel may list Saudi Arabia and I agree its a very big problem for us it differs in important ways from those other states listed. Also, if we consider development of WMD as a reason for concern then Libya and North Korea become important to consider as well. Some states end up being a threat to us for a combination of the above reasons.

Another quibble with Michiel: He states: "To bring about liberal democracy in the Middle East is both necessary and incredibly difficult. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deeply mistaken." Well, I agree that bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East would be incredibly difficult. I would even go so far as to say that if liberal democracy comes to the Middle East it won't be any time soon. To have a functioning liberal democracy requires a change in attitudes and a development of a civil society that takes at least decades to achieve. Turkey is quite instructive in this regard and still hasn't firmly made the transition. However, where I disagree with Michiel is as to the necessity of bringing liberal democracy to the Muslim countries in the Middle East. There are many regimes in the Middle East that are not liberal democracies, that are not even illiberal democracies, that are not a threat to the US or to the West as a whole (lost any sleep lately worrying about Bahrain?). The same is true of some regimes in other parts of the world. Lack of liberal democracy does not automatically make a regime a threat. We are lucky that this is the case since establishment of liberal democracies (and by liberal I think its implied secular as well) is so hard to do.

I'd like to quibble with some of David Adesnik's arguments on Oxblog. Adesnik states: "The real question is whether states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt can move straight toward democracy without first experiencing a fundamentalist interlude which discredits the brutality of radical Islam." Well, David, simple question for you: In what ways would a fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia differ from the current regime? Think they'd make women wear veils in public? Oh, wait they already do that. Think they'd ban women as drivers? Oops, again that's already been done. Or how about chopping off hands and other aspects of Sharia Law enforcement? Darn, they've already been doing that for a long time. How about making most of higher education into Islamic theology studies? Oh wait, been there, doing that already. Its going to be tough for fundamentalist replacements of the Princes of Saud to find some new novel ways to rule the people in a more fundamentalist fashion. This is the irony of the "rule by fundamentalists will make the people sick of Islam" argument. Yes, it seems to be working with Iranian culture (not that we have a way to poll the Iranian masses to discover how widely secular desires are spreading). But in Saudi culture the schools teaching that non-believers are inferior and not to be trusted seem to be rather successful in transmitting those ideas while at the same time a rather strict enforcement of rules of behavior is pursued. Could there be a cultural difference that explains the different response of the people in Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Adesnik talks about people who overthrow dictators and remain committed to democratic reform. He cites Chile as an example. Huh? Pinochet allowed the elections that drove him from power. Also, the use of the word "overthrows" isn't an accurate fit for some of the other countries mentioned. The US government has applied pressure in some cases (especially after the Cold War ended - and this was little noticed by the American public) to get military dictators among allies and in Latin America to step down and let elected leaders replace them.

The histories of revolutions as models to usher in democracies do not strike me as great historical examples to invoke. Few revolutions usher in democracies and not all of those democracies are sustained or develop into the more liberal, less corrupt, and more open and free variety. Also, in some regions of the world revolutions from below simply do not happen. Since the Shah was overthrown in Iran (with a far worse regime taking its place) can someone name a single mass movement revolutionary regime replacement in an Islamic country? Maybe in Yemen there was one since it was wracked with war for a long time. Certainly one can cite Pakistan as an example of where the military periodically takes power. But those Pakistani coups are not revolutions and instead are just periodic attempts by the military clear out some of the corruption. Pakistan is more like Turkey in the role that the military plays in attempting to prevent elected civilian leaders from ruining their nations - but with the important difference that the Turkish military is committed to a secular state and therefore acts to keep religious people out of the government. So what other Islamic country could be cited? There was a regime change in Indonesia that had some popular support. Whether that was a success that will lead to an evolution toward liberal democracy remains to be seen (I'm not optimistic).

Also, getting back to David Adesnik's examples, is Cambodia a country where democracy works well? How about the former Khmer Rouge leader Hun Sen who rose to become Prime Minster? (and I think Hun Sen is still in power) Is that a promising sign of a budding liberal democracy? Read this gushing nauseating description of Hun Sen's achievements and golfing prowess. The UN Human Development Report 2002 (warning: its in PDF format) gives Cambodia ratings for political rights and for civil liberties (lower is better) of 6 where 7 is the worst. For a press freedom score (again where lower is better) Cambodia scores 61 out of 100. See page 54 of the PDF. El Salvador scores better but still only manages a 37 out of 100 (again, lower is better) for press freedom. These are examples of successful transitions to democracy?

I find the UN's own document to be a serious indictment of the very UN member nations that the internationalist crowd thinks should be able to sit in judgement and decide whether the US should take out the Iraqi regime. The UN bureaucrats wouldn't want to admit this but this document undermines any claim for moral legitimacy of the UN as a decision-making institution. Why should its member states have influence or power over what free liberal democracies decide to do? How can such a membership list of governments be considered to have enough moral legitimacy to pass judgement on the actions of the United States of America?

This rather dismal view of the UN member states makes Adesnik's Good Cop/Bad Cop analogy for the UN and US seem backward. We really have the US as Good Cop, UN as Corrupt Judge, and Saddam Hussein as Outlaw Menace. In this scenario the Corrupt Judge wants the Outlaw Menace to be left to his own devices in his mountain cave complex as long as we can't prove he's about to come down and raid cities. An even better analogy is Orrin Judd's For I Must Kill Frank Miller Dead essay. Gary Cooper in High Noon is a great model for America.

Coercive Inspections: This idea strikes me as something cooked up by people who are too clever for their (or our) own good to avoid the most straightforward and certain solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein. Once again, I would urge anyone who hasn't done so to go read Brink Linsdsey on the futility of inspections against Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 21 07:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 15 Sunday
The UN Human Development Report 2002 and freedom

You can download the full 292 page PDF of the UN Human Development Report 2002 here. It is worthy of a discussion.

When I saw that only 82 out of the 140 democracies in the world were rated as truly free I began to wonder which 82 countries made the grade and what the criteria were for making the grade. I had a sneaking suspicion that there were not really 82 countries that fully respected the rights of their citizens. So lets go thru the data and see if the UN is holding too low a bar for what constitutes a free society.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 15 07:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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