Sunday, September 26, 2004

Multilateralism forever 

The saga of UN reform continues. Now it's the turn of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to be in a fighting mood:
"The Security Council is the main organ responsible for peace in the world, but if we want its decisions to be accepted as legitimate and put into practice, we have to expand it, increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members to make it reflect the strategic and geopolitical reality of our times."
This begs an important question: is Fischer therefore implying that the Security Council's decisions are not currently accepted as legitimate, and if so, by whom and why not? The whole UN/Iraq debacle has led me to believe that just about everyone in the whole wide world supports the United Nations as the ultimate international arbiter of peace and security, with only the United States and a few other unilateralist renegades that do not. Fischer surely does not mean that adding Germany, Japan, Brazil and India as permanent, veto-carrying members to the Security Council will make the body's decisions more acceptable to the US. Does he mean, therefore, that despite their pious protestations and chest thumping, many good international citizens, such as Germany, don't consider the Council's decisions to be quite legit because they personally don't have a bite at the blue-and-white cherry? Wouldn't that, if true, be a gross hypocrisy?

I'm also curious about the argument that in order for the Security Council's decision be "put in practice" the Council's membership needs to be expanded to better "reflect the strategic and geopolitical reality of our times"? Is Fisher saying that the UN is currently an impotent joke because countries like Germany, Japan, Brazil and India are merely on the outside looking in? Would the UN not have put in such a spineless and toothless performance on Iraq in 2003 if Germany was then a Security Council member? Are tens of thousands dying in Darfur every month because the Security Council doesn't "reflect the strategic and geopolitical reality of our times"? The answer to all these questions seems to be "hardly." Most of those clamoring to get onboard the Council bandwagon are hardly more determined than most of the current members to actually make the UN do something aside putting out worthless, unenforced resolutions. To a cynical eye, it all seems more like an ego trip for some regional powers and international would-be players rather than a genuine attempt to reform the organisation.

That's probably why Fischer's real anger seems to be reserved for Italy, whose government is currently trying to block Germany's ascension to the dizzy heights of the Security Council: "Following the criteria accepted by everyone, the other regional groups, overcoming divisions and difficulties, will have a new representative on the expanded council. We Europeans won't. Why? Because Italy doesn't accept the German candidacy, but doesn't offer itself as a candidate. I say sincerely, candidate yourself, it would be a true competition between two countries that are friends and allies," says Fischer.

This argument is rather disingenuous on two accounts; firstly, since other "regional groups" are in actuality hardly putting a more united front than the Europeans, with many South American nations unhappy about Brazil's push, China trying to sabotage Japan's campaign, and Pakistan India's. Secondly, Italy running directly against Germany for the extra "European" permanent Council seat is hardly going to be better for the friendship and alliance between the two countries than Italy merely trying to prevent Germany from getting there. Not only that, but truth be told, Germany would hardly be happy to see the generally more pro-US Italy take what it considers to be rightfully its place on the Security Council.

What's the solution? Oh well, we'll just keep talking about it.


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