This Thursday I will be at a Model United Nations Conference, debating, and also filming for a short “docusoap” that I will work on when I have the time. Over the past couple of years I have been excited about being involved with debate and Model UN. This summer I’m going on a trip to an EU study abroad program. But I have become enamored with the United Nations. I can trace this back to the Oil for Food Scandal, which completely shocked me and took me off guard.
The greatest criticisms I have are reserved for the UN Security Council, the defining emblem of intrastate diplomacy. This impotent body of delegates has shown utter stupidity an inaction with regards to the Iranian Nuclear Programs crisis. Also, in Darfur, which the AU has recently taken up. Because each of the five permanent members of the Security Council have a veto, and because they often disagree, many times no action can be agreed upon. Just this last summer, during the Israel-Lebanon Crisis, no action has been taken to enforce the provisions of Resolution 1559 or 1701 to disarm non-governmental militias such as Hezbollah. These resolutions are meaningless, since when they are broken, the UN only stipulates indecisive and vague consequences.
Annan, when he was in office, devised a plan, called “In Larger Freedom”, to increase the membership of the Security Council by 24 permanent and non-permanent seats. There is also talk of expanding these seats to more countries, the G4 countries: Japan, Germany, India and Brazil. The US is opposed to Germany and India entering, presumably because they did not support the 2003 Iraq Invasion. Condoleeza Rice welcomed Japanese membership because as she said, “Japan has earned its honorable place among the nations of the world by its own effort and its own character. That’s why the United States unambiguously supports a permanent seat for Japan on the United Nations Security Council.” Japan is also the second largest contributor the UN’s regular budget–one reason why they have “earned an honorable place” in the UN. Colin Powell objected to Japan, and rightly so, because Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution forbids it from going to war, (which is allegedly what the Security Council is all about.) Article 9 was a clever move by the US government, which crafted that constitution after World War 2.
Germany. Germany is the 3rd largest contributor the UN’s regular budget. So obviously it should have a spot on the Security Council. Jacque Chirac would like to see Germany in the Council. President Bush, thus, does not. Everything the French like, Americans dislike, it seems. Brazil is likewise one of the more economically prosperous countries in Latin America. Its membership is blocked by Argentina and Mexico, the next most influential countries in the region. Why is India a candidate? Perhaps because it has the world’s second largest population. But perhaps even more because it has the world’s second largest military force. Thus India is the UN’s largest contributor of troops to UN-mandated peace-keeping missions.
Adding more members to the Security Council would be futile. A body that is already plagued with too many indecisive entities will be multiplied by 24 more indecisive entities. The goal is, of course, to make this body more democratic. But if that’s the goal, then why not add every member state onto the Security Council? This would never happen because the 5 states with veto power are cautious to preserve their own power on the council by selecting carefully. This is why the United Nations is not, in fact, democratic. It only admits members onto prestigious committees, like the Security Council, who have demonstrated a certain kind of “honor” as Rice says. A better word to describe this process is “meritocracy”, albeit here there is a particular kind of merit involved.
Why not admit an African country onto the Security Council? After all, Africa is the second-largest and second-most-populous continent behind Asia (in which China already has a seat and Japan and India are already petitioning). Africa also has more UN member states than any other continent. Africa, as a whole, is seen as militarily non-threatening. Sure it has internal problems. But unlike the Middle East, Africa is not seen as a major threat to outsiders. African problems are somehow less important to the G4 and G8 countries. Despite several G8 conferences regarding aid to Africa, it is consistently and systematically left out of party-talks. Why not admit a country like Nigeria, which has the largest African population, and played a leaeding part in fighting against South African apartheid? The Nigerian military for the past 50 years has been a peace-keeping force, aiding regions all across Africa in places like the Ivory Coast (1997-1999), Liberia (1997), Sierra Leone (1997-1999), and presently Sudan’s Darfur region. Gay Marriage and sex is an imprisonable offense, and environmental degradation is horrid, however. Crimes, of course, unheard of in American culture.
Other enlargement possibilities include adding the EU as a veto-power, and absolving the seats of France and the UK. However, the EU is not a state so this would require either a change to the UN Charter or that the EU become a state.
The United States has expressed its views on the matter. According to the Department of State, which is known as the “foreign ministries” in other countries:
“The United States is open to UN Security Council reform and expansion, as one element of an overall agenda for UN reform. We advocate a criteria-based approach under which potential members must be supremely well qualified, based on factors such as: economic size, population, military capacity, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, contributions to UN peacekeeping, and record on counterterrorism and nonproliferation. We have to look, of course, at the overall geographic balance of the Council, but effectiveness remains the benchmark for any reform.”
This comes from a department whose interests are to protect US business interests abroad, which I have no qualms with, (I think all bussiness interests should be protected) but I disagree with the way they go about doing it. The US advocates a “criteria-based” approach under which members that fit US criteria will be admitted to the UNSC. It’s interesting that one of these criteria is a commitment to democracy. But as we can see it’s not a commitment to democracy, but a commitment to meritocracy. The US has no respect for democracies necessarily. (Ahem, Haiti, for example.) Should we count the democracies it has pushed over in favor of more meritable candidates?
Economic size, sure; population size, sure. But what, really, is the criteria of the Department of State? It is an ideology similar to the United States. The US knows that countries with similar economic sizes and similar commitments to democracy are just more words that mean similar ideologies to the United States. In fact, ideology is underlying reason why any country is either favored or disfavored for membership into the UNSC. Japans is not popular with China because of ideological disputes. In late April 2005, large-scale anti-Japan protests broke out in mainland China and South Korea. The reasons for the protests are varied, including Japanese history books backed by the government, annual visits by former Prime Minister Koizumi to the Yasukini Shrine which houses 14 class-A war criminals, and territorial disputes of islands claimed by both China and Taiwan. Other Asian countries that support Japan are either big lenders to Japan or receive Japanes FDI.
No country, besides the US and Pakistan, is really against India’s bid for the UNSC seat. That’s obvious. Pakistan and India are still in a tiff over nuclear proliferation. India sees itself an ideological neutral wedge in world politics, beginning with Nehru’s founding the Non-Aligned Movement in 50s. The US does not support India’s bid for ambiguous reasons. Perhaps its too pacifist?