Monday, July 10, 2006

Building a Big Stick

Over at Exploring International Law, my former professor Anthony Arend has a post about my post calling for a new international security framework in response to the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea. Arend asks:
What would this new apparatus look like? How would it be structured? And how would it be able to have the teeth necessary to impose effective sanctions?
My vision revolves around the pre-existing economic and political institutions that make up the backdrop of the international political system, and the western world in particular. Institutions like the WTO, IMF, World Bank, international banking systems, and so on are now critical and indispensable players in international politics. These institutions should be utilized as the "carrots" for forcing convergence towards international norms. Want to develop a clandestine nuclear program? Fine, but forget about admission into the WTO or being able to use international banks. Want to launch missiles towards your neighbors. Go right ahead, but forget about receiving any kind of international development aid.

Deterrence and coercion can only work when supported with both carrots and sticks. The stick, of course, is military force, but that is exceedingly difficult to use, politically, strategically, and tactically. UN sanctions are even more useless, as they're crippled by the political divides and weak institutional design of the Security Council. Moreover, as the EU-3 learned in their negotiations with Iran, no one other than the US really has anything to offer rogue states as rewards for abandoning their deviant behaviors.

Thus, it falls on the US as systemic hegemon to provide the carrots. It is incumbent upon the US to take the lead on this problem; doing so will not only provide improved options for dealing with rogue state crises, but will likely also go a long way towards rehabilitating an international image that has taken a severe beating.

The US should, as it did after World War II, begin knitting together as many international institutions as possible and predicate their benefits and membership on acceptable international behavior. Now, this should not, of course, be overused. States must still be allowed to do things their own way and such a system must not be hijacked for petty political debates; I'm only talking here about punishing gross violations of international norms, such as genocide, widespread massive violations of human rights, aggression, or wanton proliferation.

All states are, to some degree and some more (Iran) than others (North Korea) dependent on the international economic infrastructure and international institutions. Those institutions and the goods and service they provide should not be freely available. The United States can use its leadership and economic, political, and military power to create a system that can be used to express the international will, exert leverage, and punish those that choose to violate the standards of the international community.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that the best method to deter states from pursuing aggressive, non-sanctioned actions is to intially use sanctions or eliminate economic support. However, I'm wondering if your assertion that the dependencies of North Korea and Iran on international institutions really is a plausible point to justify these methods. Is it not true that most of North Korea's and Iran's military economic funding comes from regional allies (I refer mainly to Iran's partnerships with Russia and Syria and North Korea's major ally - China)? Don't these regional allies have something to gain from military build-up. Again, I agree that threatening sanctions is effective, but in the cases I've stated, how effective can this really be?

Seth Weinberger said...


Which do you think China would prefer, if forced to choose: Continuing to support North Korea, or participation in the WTO and the global trade regime? Yes, the regional allies stand to benefit from the arms build-up of their patrons, but the point is to connect that support to the other benefits sought from participation in the international system.