Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Chance for the UN to Show Its Quality

Things are looking pretty bleak in Zimbabwe. In the wake of the March elections in which opposition parties won more votes than the ruling ZANU-PF party, President Robert Mugabe has sunk to new, depraved lows in his efforts to hold on to power. Opposition parties have been arrested and charged with treason, rallies have been attacked, supporters have been killed, and there are accusations that the ZANU-PF has set up "torture camps" to systematically terrorize any who dare oppose it. This week, just days before the run-off election forced on the country by Mugabe, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch Embassy and, on Sunday, withdrew from the race, claiming he would not subject his supporters to violence and even death when their votes would not matter. The UN has disparaged the election, which ZANU-PF has announced will take place this Friday regardless of Tsvangirai's withdrawal, international accusations of electoral fraud and intimidation, and the mounting violence, saying that they will lack legitimacy.

However, though, ultimately, it doesn't look like there's much hope. As the Washington Post editorialized yesterday, "Only concerted and aggressive intervention by the United Nations and Zimbabwe's neighbors can now prevent this crime, brazenly carried out in front of the world, from going forward" and that doesn't seem likely to happen. As the Post notes: "While the United States and Britain have repeatedly condemned Mr. Mugabe's terror and have tried to inspire action by the UN Security Council or the Southern African Development Community, they have been blocked by Mr. Mugabe's allies -- foremost among them Thabo Mbeki , South Africa's lame-duck president."

This blog has already called for the US and the Europeans to sanction South Africa if it refuses to play a responsible role in forcing Mugabe to accept the results of a free election. But that doesn't seem likely to happen either. The situation calls for stronger measures.

I hereby call upon the UN to expel, or suspend, Zimbabwe from the General Assembly and the community of nations. A state whose leader openly says that he would go to war before accepting defeat at the polls cannot be considered a legitimate state. Zimbabwe's legal international sovereignty should be immediately suspended, and Zimbabwe's membership in every international organization should end. Until Mugabe and the ZANU-PF end the campaign of organized electoral intimidation and publicly pledge to accept the results of the election, until the election can be monitored by independent third-party observers, and until the people of Zimbabwe are given the opportunity to have their voices counted, Zimbabwe does not deserve to be a member of the community of nations.

There is little chance that the UN will take such a principled stance, wedded as it is to sovereign equality. But this is a real opportunity for the UN to move beyond its stultifying addiction to treating every state equally. Until the UN is ready to make judgments about countries, to criticize them for openly subverting the will of their peoples, there is no hope for the people of Zimbabwe, let alone those in Darfur or anywhere else people are tormented by their authoritarian rulers.

8 comments:

PRODOS said...

The United Nations currently has 192 Member States.
http://www.un.org/members/list.shtml

Less than half of those members even resemble anything like a democracy.
http://www.eyeontheun.org/facts.asp?1=1&p=16">

Israel and the USA are in the top 5 most condemned and criticized states.

Israel is at the very, very top of the list of course, with a whomping 121 actions initiated against it.

The USA has had 39.

Compare this with ...

China: 28
Iran: 21
Syria: 13
Cuba: 6 (!)
Zimbabwe: 12

Permanent members of the UN Security Council include China and Russia.

Both are classified as "not free" states.
http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=365&year=2007

Then we have current non-permanent Security Council members such as Libya and Vietnam.

On the Committee on Information: China

On the Commission for Social Development: North Korea

On the Commission on the Status of Women: Qatar, Togo, United Arab Emirates

On the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Libya, Russia

And this is only the tip of the farcical iceberg.

It's difficult for the UN to raise a big stink about lack of democracy.

The brutality currently happening in Zimbabwe seems to be a reaction against those demanding democracy.

But would anything less brutal be inflicted on the wretched citizens of other "not free" UN members states if they were to demand representation and the ending of their enslavement?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Marinella said...

Great Posting Prof. Weinberger:

Although the UN will never reach perfection, (and anyone with common sense knows this), the lack of quality enforcement on such issues raises very important questions regarding the UN’s long-term potential and/or purpose. When it comes to its largest, most difficult dilemma – whether to protect the sovereignty of nations or to punish those nations involved in laying waste to their own public’s opinion – the UN has proved itself to be inadequate time and time again.

It is scary to think about the possibilities which would arise if action is not taken to curb the despotism of Zimbabwe’s current regime. The gradual collapse of the Versailles Treaty anyone? Although quite different in some ways, the common breakdown of any viable enforcement has proven difficult to recover from after absolute chaos has already been unleashed because of the initial inaction.

When countries whom are directly involved in the community of nations violate the very core of that community’s belief (i.e. the rights of humanity), harsh punishment is most certainly warranted. Not only for those citizens in the nation whose leadership is deplorable – like many countries today – but for potential leaders who may seek to fashion their political design to similar tactics in the future.

In short and perhaps uneducated speak, it is vital the UN “grow a pair” if they are to develop into a less hypocritical, thus more competent, organization.

***It is true that the US has many international complaints logged against it. No doubt, many of them are legitimate. However, because the US is and must be involved in many activities all over the globe, it is the world’s nature to attempt to weaken her at every turn. As Prof. Weinberger taught me a few years ago, this is the basis and thought process inherent in realpolitik.

PRODOS said...

Responding to marinella ...

It is true that the US has many international complaints logged against it. No doubt, many of them are legitimate.

Can you provide a couple of examples and/or a source for this claim?


However, because the US is and must be involved in many activities all over the globe, it is the world’s nature to attempt to weaken her at every turn.


I can agree that there are particular entities and even blocs of such entities which seek to weaken the USA.

But I don't see how it can be claimed that this is in "the world's nature".

Can you please clarify?

Marinella said...

Prodos – Thank you for the questions:

The nations of this world will always seek to balance themselves vis-à-vis other nations. Even if the 'balance of power' concept is supposedly looked down upon in today’s world, countries continue to play by the rules of it (i.e. realpolitik).

As far as the "examples" you ask for...you wrote yourself that, "Israel and the USA are in the top 5 most condemned and criticized states." I was simply agreeing with you. That yes, it [US] is condemned and criticized often. However, some of those instances are attempts to stand up to the US in the international arena, simply to do so. Nations, like people, generally distrust those possessing more power relative to their position. This is obviously a very broad subject, but it is true nonetheless. Please don’t confuse this, I am not saying this is the right or proper view, or that nations today should do this, but it is merely the nature of international politics. States are most interested in, well, their own interests.

PRODOS said...

Responding to marinella ...

As far as the "examples" you ask for...you wrote yourself that, "Israel and the USA are in the top 5 most condemned and criticized states." I was simply agreeing with you.

What I am addressing is this part of your statement:

It is true that the US has many international complaints logged against it. No doubt, many of them are legitimate.

i.e. You seem to claim that many of the complaints against the USA are "no doubt" legitimate.

I am requesting examples and/or sources that illustrate what you consider to be instances of legitimate complaints against the USA.

Nations, like people, generally distrust those possessing more power relative to their position.

I'm finding it difficult to follow this.

What about nations which are approximately equal in power? Are they less distrustful of each other than they are of more powerful nations?

What about the relationship between a nation like my own (Australia) and that of my wife's (The USA)?

Australia's economic and military power is far less than that of the United States. Yet, there seems to be an enormous amount of trust, good will, and cooperation between those nations.

(For a superb discussion on the extent and depth of US-Australian cooperation, I recommend Greg Sheridan's book, The Partnership: http://tinyurl.com/55gtkh )

Even if it's true that less powerful nations may distrust more powerful nations, isn't it also true that powerful nations can be highly distrustful and wary of some smaller nations?

I also wonder how this fits into the fact that after World War 2, the United States did a lot to help rebuild Germany and Japan, to the point where they are now two of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Although, I do note they are severely restricted militarily.

... States are most interested in, well, their own interests.

I wonder if that's actually the case.

Marinella said...

"...States are most interested in, well, their own interests."

I think it is unfortunate that this (is) the case.

I fear our back and forth could go on for an eternity Prodos. Quite simply, without writing a very lengthy argument (in anyone's case and on any given subject), it is impossible to close all ends of a discussion cleanly. Whatever answers I give you may be turned into, "what about this thing, or that." And vis-a-versa.

PRODOS said...

Responding to marinella ...

I fear our back and forth could go on for an eternity Prodos.

In response to your statement that:

marinella: "It is true that the US has many international complaints logged against it. No doubt, many of them are legitimate." [my emphasis]

... I requested:

prodos: "... examples and/or sources that illustrate what you consider to be instances of legitimate complaints against the USA."

That seems like a pretty simple, straightforward, and not unreasonable request to me.

I haven't asked for an exhaustive list of examples and/or references.

Just a few or even a couple of the "many" you've claimed exist, will do.

You wrote:
Quite simply, without writing a very lengthy argument ... it is impossible to close all ends of a discussion cleanly. Whatever answers I give you may be turned into, "what about this thing, or that." And vis-a-versa.

I don't expect any "very lengthy" arguments. Nor do I think this is required in order to address (or even partially address) some of the issues I've raised.

I hardly think 2 or 3 posts constitute first steps towards "an eternity" of back-and-forth.

I don't expect you to be an expert in this field or to have all the answers.

Marinella said...

Prodos - I think you confused my point when I wrote:

"It is true that the US has many international complaints logged against it. No doubt, many of them are legitimate..."

I am, of course, bias towards the U.S. in the international arena. I think it is unfortunate that more Americans do not feel/think in the same way.

I tend to agree with most things the U.S. does and/or pursues. I think MOST complaints in the UN against the US are illegitimate and simply serve as actions taken by weaker (generally adversarial) states to, in essence, weaken America’s position internationally.

Here is one example of a plausible international wish or complaint against the US:

The 12th consecutive vote by the UN to have the US embargo against Cuba eliminated.

Although I don't see the situation as many Cubans do, as "tantamount to genocide", I do think it is possible that a vote of 179 to 4 is reason to look in a new diplomatic direction regarding CUBA. Especially since Cuba is less of a threat than, oh I don’t know…CANADA.

globalpolicy.igc.org

Again, this is one of many complaints and/or votes against the U.S., but in my view, most are NOT legitimate.

I can see how you took my initial comment about “complaints logged against” the US to be unfair or anti-US. That is not how I view this nation.