Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Using the Big Stick

Anthony Arend has responded to my post responding to his post responding to my original post about creating a new institutional framework to deal with issues of international security outside of the United Nations. Arend seems to agree with my (admittedly rudimentary) suggestions, saying:
This makes sense to me. I do worry that the U.S. may have lost so much credibility of late that the time to do this may not be now. I think, however, if U.S. leadership were exercized as part of an overall re-engagement with multilateral institutions, it could happen. For me, such re-engagement would include steps such as these:
  • An explicit reaffirmation of the Geneva Conventions (including the acceptance the Supreme Court's interpretation of Common Article 3) , the Torture Convention, and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • An genuine expression of willingness to work multilaterally on questions relating to global climate change.
  • An declaration to work toward addressing concerns with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in order to facilitate eventual U.S. ratification.
  • A commitment to work more closely with the international community through the United Nations Security Council. (I know Professor Weinberger is likely to disagree on this, but I think the United States-- through changes in its leadership style-- could help make the Council much more effective. This is not to say that the Council is a panacea, but rather that the United States is not fully taking advantages of the role the Council could play in promoting international peace and security.)

I don't disagree that the US should adhere more strictly to the Geneva Convention (note that doesn't mean that I think the people in Camp XRay are POWs; they're not. But they should be given a hearing to determine their status). I'm still in the skeptical camp as regards global warming (Let me explain. I'm not a real scientist and I don't understand, and won't debate either way the science of climatology. But I do know two things: One, whenever people claim that there is total consensus and no disagreement on an issue, I get skeptical. Case in point: A recent issue of Discover magazine featured an editorial claiming that the dispute over whether humans are to blame for rising global temperatures is over. In the same issue was an interview with the chief hurricane expert for NOAA who argued that he does not believe humans are responsible for global warming. Fishy, no? Second, if global warming is in fact human-caused and serious, I don't trust government to regulate a solution.) so I don't think the US needs to, or should, take the lead seeking international climate change solutions.

Getting the US into the ICC would be a good idea, but only if it can be done in such a way so as to not hamper the ability of the US to project force abroad. It's one thing to prosecute, for example, soldiers accused of rape, torture, or murder if the host government refuses to do so. It's another to prosecute the leaders of a country for killing civilians while conducting a military operation intended to save people from genocide. If such guarantees can be built in, joining the ICC would be great for the US.

Tony is right that I still dismiss the UN. I don't think the US should spend one iota of energy or capital (real or political) to improve the UN Security Council, because it can't be improved. The UN protects sovereignty first and foremost, and so long as countries who see the world differently than does the US and the West, like Russia and China, possess a veto, the UNSC will be little better than useless. The UN can and should continue with its peacekeeping and nationbuilding roles, but hoping that the UNSC can play a serious role in international security is a pipe dream.

Taking some or all of these steps would likely go a long way to assuage hurt feelings and fears of domination and improve the US image to the point where the US could begin building an alternative institutional security framework. And today, we have an excellent example of how that might work. Today, the US announced that it may be willing to sign a deal clearing the way for Russia to enter the WTO. The sticking points were over typical trade issues like whether foreign banks could open branches in Russia, how Russia would approach bringing its intellectual property rights laws up to standard, Russian agricultural subsidies, and whether Russia would open its insurance markets. Why couldn't the deal include some expectation of Russian behavior regarding international security? If you want to participate in the western economic markets, stop protecting genocidal regimes in the UN. Stop cooperating with Iran's nuclear program. And so on. As I mentioned yesterday, such demands must be strictly controlled. If states could be punished every time they disagreed with the US, the entire trade regime would collapse. But I don't see why Russia, or China, should be allowed to reap the benefits of free trade with the US and the Western powers without paying some commensurate political price. Tying institutional memberships such as the WTO into security-related behavior could provide the carrots and sticks so desperately missing from the UN's arsenal, and allow the US and the West to apply pressure when and where it's needed.

No comments: