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Selwynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 04:44 PM
Original message
Giving Bite to the "Toothless Lion" (long - but feedback desired!)
Edited on Sun Apr-18-04 04:48 PM by Selwynn
Ok, this is the first draft of the article I said I was writing in a pervious thread. All comments greatly apperciated and extremely welcome.

Multilateral Governing: Giving Bite to the Toothless Lion
by Andrew L. Yoder

So much attention has been (rightfully) focused on the mistakes, deceptions, and failure of our foreign policy under the current administration most specifically our handling of Iraq - that many people of a more progressive point of view have forgotten or deliberately ignored a larger problem: the international community's policy towards Saddam Husseins regime prior to U.S. invasion was utterly ineffective and this failure is indicative of a larger problem with the United Nations itself and the concept of multilaterist governing on the whole. As we move continuously toward a more inter-related world, serious questions concerning more effective global governing and policy making must be honestly addressed by all sides.

Stating this fact is not an apology for the horrific bungling of policy and mismanagement of the country under the Bush Administration. But it is an honest acknowledgement that there is much to criticize when one reflects on the policy of the United Nations and the international community when it comes to Iraq. More conservative and more hawkish individuals are not completely wrong about everything. Life would be so much simpler if this was true, but it isn't. One of the biggest problems with an organization like the United Nations and with united multilateral global government in general is that it is an amazingly beautiful idea in theory, and so far a totally ineffective idea in practice.

Consider specifically the subject of Iraq: there is fairly solid evidence for example, that Saddam Hussein was indeed violating UN resolutions, and deliberately withholding and hiding information from UN inspectors. In fact, UN Resolution 1441 specifically lists all the ways in which Iraq was in material breech of previous resolutions, and there were many. * ) The Bush administration was not totally without point when it expressed frustration at global toleration for Iraqs longstanding pattern of undermining, ignoring or outright defying UN resolutions. Tragically however, the Administration chose to compound wrongs in taking unilateralist action exclusively for radical political self interest and not primarily for any of the formal justifications given security, liberty or enforcement of UN resolutions.

These specific problems in dealing with Iraq are reflective of broader problems suffered by the United Nations. First, it is painfully bureaucratic. The United Nations functions not as one body, but as 185 individual nations concerned with their own self interest and not much else. In order to get agreement, the pace is inevitably slow, and when that agreement is gotten, it is invariably toothless. Naturally every individual member comes with its own specific and self-interested agenda. There is clearly not yet any real spirit of a united global government, but rather 185 different representatives reflecting selfish interest. Having said, that there is clearly an even larger problem that permanently undermines the effectiveness and legitimacy of the United Nations: the UN Security Council. But we will return to that point later.

For now, lets consider practical examples of the UNs ineffectiveness. Remember that in November of 2002, the UN passed Resolution 1441, which called on Saddam to meet certain conditions, but fell short of defining use-of-force consequences for non-compliance. Some of the specific conditions were:

Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above {which stated that Iraq was in material breech of previous resolutions}, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council
Decides that, in order to begin to comply with its disarmament obligations, in addition to submitting the required biannual declarations, the Government of Iraq shall provide to UNMOVIC, the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems
Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraqs obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below;
Decides that Iraq shall provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect
(Paragraph 11) Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;
(Paragraph 12)Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security...

Clearly the decisions listed in 1441 are good and valid. However, this resolution follows more than a decade of continuing non-compliance by Iraq with multiple UN resolutions (660, 686, at least four different sections of 687, each from 1991, and 1284 from 1999). How can the United Nations avoid conservative criticism of being toothless and ineffective with this kind of history? Is not ten years more than excessive patience in waiting for compliance? How is any political body expected to maintain credibility if resolutions have no real meaning and can be simply ignored. (Clearly another important example is UN Resolution 242, which has been ignored for generations and will likely continue to be ignored forever.)

The answer of course is that the UN did take some action: its action took the form of economic sanctions; the chief weapons of the United Nations and one that is extremely unjust. With the backing of the United States and Britain, the UN imposed economic sanctions on Iraq for at least the last decade. Those sanctions did nothing to punish Saddam Hussein or his Regime in the slightest, but they did cause massive pain, suffering and starvation to the Iraqi people.

The UN Security Council imposed comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq on August 6, 1990, just after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. When the coalition war had ousted Iraq from Kuwait the following year, the Council did not lift the sanctions, keeping them in place as leverage to press for Iraqi disarmament and other goals. The sanctions remained in place thereafter, despite a harsh impact on innocent Iraqi civilians and an evident lack of pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. A UN "Oil-for-Food Program," started in late 1997, offered some relief to Iraqis, but the humanitarian crisis continued. The US and UK governments always made it clear that they would block any lifting or serious reforming of sanctions as long as Hussein remained in power. (Global Policy Watch, )

Clearly the United States supported the policy of economic sanctions, and demanding their continuing enforcement. And the United States deserves harsh criticism for this fact. However, the point remains that the only action the United Nations undertook over a period of more than a decade to enforce its Resolutions were sanctions that clearly proved ineffective.

In light of this, it is understandable on the surface that the Bush administration was justified in expressing frustration at what many felt would be a "toothless" resolution. In the months leading up to the U.S. Invasion, the Bush administration indicated it would support a UN resolution like 1441, if it included a clear definition of use-of-force consequences for any further non-compliance. But other members of the Security Council were unwilling to support that element. Instead, 1441 states simply that any non-compliance will be referred back to the UN for another resolution. This ought to cause great frustration for anyone, from the strongest supporter of multilateral government to the strongest proponent of unilateralism. There can be no denying that the United Nations has a long and detailed history of complete ineffectiveness.

The points illustrated here emphasize problems of the UNs ineffectiveness, and warrant further examination. Unfortunately many people have pointed to the failures of the United Nations as proof that a more unilateral imperialistic U.S. policy is needed and justified. Put simply, the UNs ineffectiveness has done its part to foster a strong movement which believes that the U.S should unilaterally rule the entire world by force if necessary. However, I reject the notion that any critique of the United Nations rationally leads to a justification the United States subsequent change of policy to unilateralist preemption, nor to justification of the invasion of Iraq. The reason for that is because the mounting evidence against the administration all but makes it explicitly clear that an invasion of Iraq was the plan of the Administration from the moment it took office, prior to 9/11, and having nothing to do with current weapons inspection concerns.

In short, the Bush Administration capitalized on the ineffectiveness and weaknesses of the United Nations as part of the smokescreen for its longstanding agenda of removing Saddam Hussein from power and strategically controlling economic and political assets in the Middle East. The second leg of this smokescreen was the appeal to fear via disinformation and deliberately false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. The third leg was an appeal to pity via emotional rhetoric about justice and liberation for oppressed Iraqi people a promise we had no intention of honoring if and when it conflicted with our primary interests, which have always been profit and power. The Bush Administration did not act because the UN did not the administration rejoiced in the UNs ineffectiveness because it provided yet another potential smokescreen masking its real motivations in the Middle East.* (See FOOTNOTE)

But the focus of this writing is not on the long standing agenda of the current administration or the ways it seeks to justify its actions. The focus here is on how the continual ineffectiveness of the United Nations contributed the conditions on which the current administration would be able to capitalize, and what can be done to change that ineffectiveness. I remain staunchly convinced that the only thing more ultimately ineffective than the multi-national cooperative approach to world affairs is an isolationist, totalitarian, unilateralist one.

The evidence is compelling: as we look at the current effects of the United States current unilateralist policy, we see a country strongly alienated from the rest of the world. We see extremely vehement anti-US feelings pervasive in even the most open and tolerant places of Western Society. We see the debacle and tragic disaster that Iraq has become, we see a massive increase in instability throughout the Middle East and the world, making everyone less not more secure. We see the dramatic, almost staggering increase in US hatred among extremists, as well as clear and compelling evidence that a whole new generation of terrorists are becoming passionately inspired to take up arms against the US and its interests.

Clearly unilateralism, at least the type of unilateralism demonstrated by the Bush administration (one motivated almost exclusively by radical political and fiscal self interest) is not more effective than multilateralism. And this is the heart of my argument - that multilateralist organizations like the United Nations have been historically ineffective, but they nevertheless remain the best, and only hope for greater peace, prosperity and stability in the world. The question becomes, how can we give teeth to this Lion?

There are no absolute answers. There is no quick fix that can make things perfect. But there are places where we could start. First, a key to hope of greater UN effectiveness lies in its autonomy. One of the greatest things that could happen to the United Nations is to remove its headquarters from the heart of the largest superpower on the planet, and establish a more neutral locale elsewhere. Perhaps this seems arbitrary or insignificant to some, but others believe it would go great lengths to removing the perception of other Nations that the UN is committed to doing the bidding of the United States alone. Part of the reason the United Nations is ineffective is because the United States deliberately keeps it that way. Part of the way the US accomplishes this is through political pressure, and that pressure is only compounded by having the UN headquarters in New York City.

A second key would be in greater restrictions of behind the scenes deal making between various countries, particularly between the United States and other members of the Security Council. It amounts to little more than bribery or extortion with the United States promises to either reward countries that do our bidding in the United Nations or punish countries that do not. It is next to impossible to have an effective multinational governing body while this kind of back room intimidation runs rampant. However, we cannot be nave there is no clear way to prevent this sort of thing from being common place other than the committed self-governing of individual nations, something which seems unlikely to happen while the United States, the chief offender, continues to care primarily about its own radical self interest at the expense of the rest of the world, and thereby use the United Nations in manipulative fashion to accomplish its will.

The third key is possibly the most important of all: the effectiveness of the United Nations clearly depends on the revision and revolution of the Security Council. One point that has not been sufficiently underscored thus far is the fact that the United Nations is often deliberately made more ineffective than it could be by the frequent use of veto power by the permanent members of the Security Council, namely the United States. Global Policy Reform describes the problem succinctly:

The Security Council today still reflects the global power structure of 1945, though its membership has been expanded from 11 to 15 in 1965. The five World War II victors have held on to their privileged status - they are "permanent" and can each veto any Council decision. This arrangement makes the Council both undemocratic and often ineffective. The few powerful members dominate UN policy and frequently veto widely accepted decisions in order to further their own interests. Despite the geographical representation of the ten elected members, the Security Council remains imbalanced in favor of the industrialized North. ( /)

One need only review decisions of the Security Council to clearly see a long standing pattern of single powerful countries vetoing resolutions for which there was broad international support for reasons that are exclusively selfish and often unjust. For more information on the problems of the Security Council as well as some suggestions for possible reform, see the Global Policy Reform website ( ).

As progressives we must not let our rightful (and righteous) condemnation of current US policies and actions blind us to larger and long standing problems of multilateral government. We cannot not only condemn the tyranny and injustice of the current administration. Our stance must also include honest criticism of multilateral institutions as well as a clear plan for reform. It is not enough to be against unilateralism preemption and for multilateralism. We must advocate our belief that even with the problems and shortcomings of the past, multilateralist cooperation in world affairs represents the only chance for greater peace, greater justice and future hope. And we must begin to develop a clear and coherent plan of reform that does not simply advocate the same ineffective approaches of the past, but instead champions radically new international policies and charters that reflect more honest representation, cooperation and disseminated/shared power.

There is an amazing lack of awareness that the claims made here are not fantasy, but rather clearly documented. In a piece by Alternet, Kari Lydersen writes:

"The incredible lack of public knowledge of the US plan for total global domination, represented by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) represents the media's biggest failure over the past year. The PNAC plans advocated the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and other current foreign policy objectives, long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Chillingly, one document published by the PNAC in 2000 actually describes the need for a "new Pearl Harbor" to persuade the American public to accept the acts of war and aggression the administration wants to carry out. "But most people in the country are totally unaware that the PNAC exists," said Peter Phillips, a professor at Sonoma State and major domo of The Project Censored Project, "and that failure has aided and abetted this disaster in Iraq."

"According to Project Censored authors. "In the 1970s, the United States and the Middle East were embroiled in a tug-of-war over oil. At the time, the prospect of seizing control of Arab oil fields by force was considered out of line. Still, the idea of Middle East dominance was very attractive to a group of hard-line Washington insiders that included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol and other operatives. During the Clinton years they were active in conservative think tanks like the PNAC. When Bush was elected they came roaring back into power. ( )

Further resources on the Project for the New American Century: American Pearl Harbored A New Pearl Harbor needed: Project for Empire

Research done for this article:
This is an opinion piece; however for the interest of accuracy I did conduct some light research:
Read the entire UN resolution 1441, available online
Researched information on Iraqs Weapons report, submitted to the UN (via US) in compliance with 1441, via multiple sources and news articles.
Read sections of A Feminist Ethic of Risk by Sharon D. Welch that were relevant to this article
Read Kari Lydersen's article on Alternet, which included discussion of PNAC as well as many other "censored" stories.
Reviewed the Iraq war timeline, researched and complied by
Read a summary of the United Nations history of economic sanctions against Iraq, at the Global Policy Forum, a UN watch group ( /)
Read summary of proposals for reform of the UN Security Council from Global Policy Forum
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Selwynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 05:17 PM
Response to Original message
1. kick- I know its long, but complex subjects usually are...
And I'd really love some feedback.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 06:41 PM
Response to Original message
2. I don't think your suggestions would give the UN teeth
so much as get its brain working properly. Looking at the case of what should have been done about Iraq, we're left with the fact that the UN had decided on a course of action after the first Gulf War - the sanctions. So then, the Security Council wasn't a hinderance. The problem was that the sanctions didn't force Hussein out of power, or make him change his internal policies much (they did weaken him externally, so that he wasn't a significant threat to other countries - as his neighbours agreed before Bush Jr. invaded, and Rice and Powell said in 2001).

What we need is a different weapon for the UN than this kind of sanctions. And I don't know what that is. It's possible that a fairer Security Council would have more respect around the world, which might make sanctions easier to enforce (while trying to avoid the humanitarian disaster they casued in Iraq in the 90s). But I'm not even convinced of that.
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Selwynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-18-04 07:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I think you both need a different weapon and SC reform...
There is a long history of the US vetoing practically everything that goes through the security council. There are a lot of other reasons why SC reform is critically important as well. I agree however, ecnomic sactions are another part of the problem - there has to be some other kind of tool to enforce international law...
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