The UN has proposed sweeping changes to its structure and its regulations based on the long-anticipated report from Secretary General Kofi Annan’s blue-ribbon team. Those changes include enlarging the Security Council and reforming the Human Rights Commission, but also requires nations to get UN approval before taking pre-emptive action to protect themselves:
The United Nations on Tuesday proposed the most sweeping changes in its history, recommending the overhaul of its top decision-making group, the Security Council, and holding out the possibility that it could grant legitimacy to pre-emptive military strikes.
In this case, however, “granting” legitimacy involves arrogating unto itself all authority to grant permission for action in the first place:
But it acknowledged that a new problem had risen because of the nature of terrorist attacks “where the threat is not imminent but still claimed to be real: for example, the acquisition, with allegedly hostile intent, of nuclear weapons-making capability.”
It said that if the arguments for “anticipatory self-defense” in such cases were good ones, they should be put to the Security Council, which would have the power to authorize military action under guidelines including the seriousness of the threat, the proportionality of the response, the exhaustion of all alternatives and the balance of consequences.
Apparently in anticipation of objections from Washington over that requirement, the report said, “For those impatient with such a response, the answer must be that, in a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of nonintervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all.”
In other words, bring your case to the Security Council, where we will take your time-critical situation and debate it endlessly. If you’re still alive when we finally get around to a vote, we’ll authorize the use of force, as long as France, Russia, and China don’t veto it. If they do — well, it sucks to be you.
It’s the John Kerry global test, minus Kerry’s charm.
The rest of the report hardly sounds encouraging, either. While it does attempt to codify terrorism as attacks primarily targeting civilians in an attempt to persuade a government to commit an act or to abstain from one, the text appears so broad that the missile strikes on Iraq in 1998 could conceivably fall under its definition. As I recall, the claim that these strikes equated to terrorist bombings in Haifa pizzarias was endlessly repeated by Islamofascist apologists at the time. Now they would have this questionable clause on which to base their smokescreen allegations.
The changes proposed to the UNSC provide another broadened path to irrelevancy. The panel recommended expanding the Council to 24 members, creating six new permanent seats to the five existing original members. While the new members would not have a veto under the proposed changes, even the New York Times hints that the General Assembly would likely grant the veto when it comes to a vote:
One alternative would add 6 new permanent members – the likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt and either Nigeria or South Africa – as well as 3 new two-year term members. The other would create a new tier of 8 semipermanent members chosen for renewable four-year terms and one additional two-year term seat to the existing 10.
The right to cast vetoes, a power coveted by the nations seeking permanent status and one they are likely to press for, would continue to be limited to the 5 original permanent members.
The expansion only deepens the likelihood of stalemate on the UNSC, as the divergent aims of dictatorships assuming the extra seats on the council will aim at keeping any positive action for democracy at bay. Can anyone imagine Egypt, for example, supporting the expansion of voting rights and multiparty elections in Southwest Asia?
The fundamental problem with the UN comes from its constituency of oppressors and kleptocrats. Any structural changes in their committees and regulations only amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.