That the Secretary-General’s In Larger Freedom document could have broached one of the crucial topics that it does, under III.E, “Use of force,” namely, the need for a Security Council resolution to establish binding principles that cover “when and how force can be used to defend international peace and security” (pars. 122-126), shows us something.
Exactly what it shows us is another matter. As yet undetermined. And open to debate.
Tomorrow, the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program (a.k.a. the Volcker Committee) will release the second of its Interim Reports into the old UN program from which it takes its name. At worst, the Volcker Committee is expected to “fault both Mr. Annan for his management practices and his son, who it will say was paid nearly $400,000 between 1996 and 2004 by Cotecna Inspection Services, the Swiss-based company that had a contract to monitor the humanitarian goods that Iraq bought under the $65 billion program,” the New York Times reported on Saturday, following up a Wall Street Journal report on Friday, itself following up a Financial Times report two days before. Nevertheless. In anticipation, today’s newspapers have carried dire warnings that a “palpable atmosphere of dread has overtaken the UN headquarters,” as “Kofi Annan’s reputation, as well as his ability to carry on as United Nations secretary general, will be on the line tomorrow,” here quoting The Independent. “Officials hope the report will exonerate the secretary general of direct wrongdoing,” The Independent‘s report continues. But the “suggestion even of managerial incompetence or blindness to nepotism on the part of Mr Annan will take a toll on him at a time when he is already beleaguered by other scandals and will almost certainly prompt new calls for his resignation.”
Of course, what the actual findings of the Volcker Committee‘s second Interim Report turn out to be, and how these findings play out, ultimately, around the centers of world power—and within one power in particular—also are separate matters.
To share just one example with you: The U.S.-based Heritage Foundation, a strong advocate of unbridled American Power and one of the stalwarts behind the current regime in the White House, maintains what it bills as a “research project” dedicated to the study of International Organizations—how to make them more subservient to American Power, to be honest about it, and how to undermine them if they aren’t. As you may have guessed, a major part of this project covers the United Nations. (Including a glowing commentary on how the White House’s nominee to be the next UN Ambassador, John R. Bolton, “will be good for the UN“!) Looking over Heritage’s UN-related papers, we find Heritage attacking Kofi Annan over his statement in September 2004 that the American invasion of Iraq was “illegal” as well as his early November, 2004 warning that the then-imminent U.S. assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah should respect the laws of war; we also find Heritage attacking Kofi Annan for allegedly “meddling” in the American presidential election, and trying to “influence” its outcome; and we find Heritage calling on Kofi Annan to resign as well as for the White House to give him a boot out the door. What’s more, we find Heritage using the various inquiries into the UN Oil-for-Food Program or the conduct of the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the fact that the UN has never fielded a peacekeeping force for the Darfur states of the western Sudan to cast aspersions on the viability of the United Nations as an organization. But not to cast aspersions on the conduct of the UN’s principal Member States, note well. Least of all to cast aspersions on the conduct of Heritage’s favorite state.
But no matter what the Volcker Committee reports tomorrow—and I’m confident that over the course of the past week, the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times already have reported the worst of it—certain quarters in the States are going to play up the findings as damning for the Secretary-General and daming for the United Nations—and damning for the various proposals outlined in the Secretary-General’s document. And if In Larger Freedom puts forth one single proposal for which the Heritage Foundation-slash-Bush Administration-slash-anti-multilateral zealots of American Power are the most desperate to kill, surely it is the call for a UN resolution governing when and how force can be used to defend international peace and security.
“In recent years,” the Annan document notes, “this issue has deeply divided Member States.”
The document continues (excerpting Par. 122 and Par. 126):
They have disagreed about whether States have the right to use military force pre-emptively, to defend themselves against imminent threats; whether they have the right to use it preventively to defend themselves against latent or non-imminent threats; and whether they have the right — or perhaps the obligation — to use it protectively to rescue the citizens of other States from genocide or comparable crimes.
When considering whether to authorize or endorse the use of military force, the Council should come to a common view on how to weigh the seriousness of the threat; the proper purpose of the proposed military action; whether means short of the use of force might plausibly succeed in stopping the threat; whether the military option is proportional to the threat at hand; and whether there is a reasonable chance of success. By undertaking to make the case for military action in this way, the Council would add transparency to its deliberations and make its decisions more likely to be respected, by both Governments and world public opinion. I therefore recommend that the Security Council adopt a resolution setting out these principles and expressing its intention to be guided by them when deciding whether to authorize or mandate the use of force.
Officially, In Larger Freedom was released on Monday, March 21—a day which included an address by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly. The very same day, Adam Ereli, the Deputy Spokesman of the U.S. Department of State, was asked whether he could “say anything at all about the proposal for some sort of Security Council resolution on the use of force and preemptive action.” Ereli responded (March 21):
Our general feeling on the subject of a resolution is that, frankly, we’re skeptical that any kind of resolution on the use of force would be helpful. Certainly, we’d want to discuss it further with others. The Secretary General’s report makes it clear that states don’t need to wait until they’re actually attacked in order to use force and self-defense. This is a fundamental element of the charter, and in our view, that’s — the charter deals with the issue sufficiently.
An immediate follow-up question asked whether he was “reluctant to sign on to such a resolution because [he thought] it’ll tie U.S. hands if it needs to take preemptive action?” To this, Ereli responded that
As a general matter, what I would tell you is that it’s — that the charter and the Secretary General have made clear that anticipatory self-defense is something that is part of the UN system, is accepted by the UN system, and therefore further actions in terms of a resolution, I think, would have to be looked at carefully to see what they added and what positive contribution they could make.
What the meager 425 words (slightly less, actually) that the text of In Larger Freedom devotes to this topic shows us, I think, is this: These days, the postwar cornerstone of the United Nations, the peoples of this world uniting to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” with each Member State surrendering to a multilateral, rule-governed body that part of its sovereignty which deals with the right to wage war, is so radical an idea that it can only be spoken of in whispers, lest the wrong somebody overhear.
As of March, 2005, we are left with a United Nations in which two of the permanent, veto-wielding members of the very organ granted the “primary responsibility” by its Charter for the “maintenance of international peace and security” not only were able to launch a war of aggression two years earlier, in direct violation of the Charter, and with nothing more than the sheer pretext of self-defense to hide behind—but there is nothing the United Nations or anyone else can do about it. Not then. Not now. Not six months hence, when the UN’s 60th session convenes in New York City.
All in all, a pretty impressive display of power, I think.
But also dangerous.
And not likely to “transform the United Nations into the effective instrument for preventing conflict that it was always meant to be.”
An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-Keeping (A/47/277-S/24111), Report of the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali et al., June, 1992
An Agenda for Development (A/48/935), Report of the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali et al., May, 1994
Supplement to An Agenda for Peace, (A/50/60 – S/1995/1), Report of the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali et al., January, 1995
(Please note that all three of these documents are electronically archived by the United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)
The Responsibility To Protect, Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun et al., September, 2001 (For the HTML version of the same.)
United Nations Millennium Declaration (A/55/L.2), UN General Assembly, September 8, 2000
“We the Peoples”: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, Kofi A. Annan et al., United Nation, 2000
UN Millennium Development Goals (Overview with links)
UN Millennium Project (Homepage)
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Anand Panyarachun et al., 2004 (For the complete PDF version of the same.)
Investing in Development: A Practical Plan To Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Jeffrey D. Sachs et al., 2005 (For the complete PDF version of the same.—Also see the accompanying Media Release.)
In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All, Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for decisions by Heads of State and Government in September 2005 (A/59/2005), Kofi A. Annan et al., United Nations, 2005 (For the PDF version of the report.)
“Cotecna link to Kojo Annan under scrutiny,” Claudio Gatti, Financial Times, March 23, 2005
“Annan son received Dollars 300,000 in Cotecna payments,” Claudio Gatti, Financial Times, March 23, 2005
“Panel To Criticize Annan for Lapses in UN’s Oil-for-Food Program,” Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2005
“Report Expected to Fault Kofi Annan’s Role in Oil-for-Food Plan Payments to His Son,” Warren Hoge and Judith Miller, New York Times, March 26, 2005
“Annan faces new calls for resignation over his son’s role in UN oil-for-food scandal,” Philip Sherwell, Sunday Telegraph, March 27, 2005
“Annan Fate To Be Sealed by Oil-for-Food Scandal Report,” David Usborne, The Independent, March 28, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” I, March 20, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” II, March 21, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” III, March 21, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” IV, March 22, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” V, March 25, 2005
“In Larger Freedom” VI, March 26, 2005