Tuesday, January 20, 2004
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For those who would disparage the U.N., part II...
Beyond helping Carmen Electra, the United Nations does have one commodity that is valuable to the United States right now -- legitimacy. Like it or not, the rest of the world confers a status to the United Nations such that their imprimatur on a course of action resonates with publics and governments.
Fareed Zakaria argues today that exercising power without legitimacy is costly and difficult:
Zakaria's thesis finds support from the Financial Times:
Developing....posted by Dan on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM
But did the UN forfeit a healthy part of its legitimacy when it pulled out of the country last Summer? That remains to be seen.
The UN may have legitimacy with Sustani. In the current situation, that's what matters. But will they have an independent legitimacy if Sistani disagrees? Somehow, I don't think so.posted by: appalled moderate on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Interesting. Wasn't it just a month or so ago that members of the Governing Council were lambasting the UN in NY ? And how does it help to retain legitimacy when the UN ran out with their tail between their legs at the first car bombing ? I'm not sure the UN brings legitimacy to the table so much as a way for all involved to help Sistani back off without losing face. Fingers crossed that that's what happens.posted by: fingerowner on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Maybe Sistani needs to come to the US to see how we run our political campaigning. Yes, the way they will do it will not be the same way that we Americans do it, but it should be very instructive that you just have to have some form of rules set for an effective elections.posted by: Lola on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Why does the UN have legitimacy with Iraqis, of all people? Or is Dan arguing that the UN has legitimacy with Sistani, and Sistani has legitimacy with the Iraqi people? Confusing.posted by: Al on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
"Maybe Sistani needs to come to the US to see how we run our political campaigning."
Or maybe we can just send him copies of this morning's papers if he has any doubt about the political efficacy of caucuses.posted by: Al on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Some seem frightened by Sistani's positioning. I see it as a thing of beauty. Hordes of citzens debating their fates, peacefully marching in the streets... I would say it has the feel of, well of, democracy.
The Iraqis are not just asking that we return their sovergnity. They are demanding it and on their terms; and democratic terms at that. If they continue to bargin hard, reasonably, and peacefully, we should willingly give in to most of their demands. Instituting self-rule under such circumstances establishes legitimacy for the new government and lifts some of the humiliation felt by the Iraqi people.
There are many pitfalls to this route of forming a new Iraqi government. The first government will have a number of extremists, institutions will stumble serving the people; all and all kind of messy. Still, I sense that the Iraqis have found their voices and that they will muddle through intent on keeping them.posted by: JP Sobel on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
The UN is an alternative to American power but it does not bestow legitimacy - not if you believe in the consent of the governed. The UN is the friend of process and status quo but not transparency or democracy per se.
Sistani has a powerful argument because it's the argument that Bremer should be making the case for to the Iraqi people, not fighting against. If Sistani was advocating a dictatorship far fewer would be rallying to him.posted by: mark safranski on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Damn, if only someone would have only brought up the opinion, last March, that invading Iraq without the support of the international community might cause some problems. Oh well, 20-20 hindsight.posted by: Stu on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
"...the United States does have one commodity that is valuable to the United Nations right now -- legitimacy."
Corrected for truth.posted by: Sam Barnes on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
I'm not sure exactly what Sistani is aiming for. I have a guess what he is afraid of.
This would be assassination, directed at him personally and at his associates among senior Shiite clergy. Immediate acceptance of an American plan for Iraqi self government, no matter how sensible the plan was, would in some Iraqi eyes make him look like an American stooge and would therefore make him and his allies vulnerable (less dramatically it would yield a critical debating point to their rival for leadership among Iraqi Shiites, the young cleric Sadr. But his followers have been suspected of using violence to promote his cause before).
Sistani appears to be betting that Standing against the initial American plan and later responding to UN suggestions would avoid this danger. I'm not clear how good a bet this is. Such legitimacy as the UN has in Iraq is likely to last only as long as it avoids promoting ideas one faction or another in that country violently dislikes, and it cannot do this indefinitely. Moreover, after last summer's bombing UN officials will be heavily dependent on the Americans for security; the distance between the UN and the US military that UN officials (and possibly Sistani) see as key to the UN's image as an impartial authority is going to be difficult to maintain.
Having said that, though, if I'm right about the reasons Sistani and his associates want UN involvement on this question the obstacles Sistani is raising may not be quite as formidable as they seem. Much depends on how constructive UN officials are prepared to be, however.posted by: Zathras on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
So, Sistani thinks the very organiztion that would have kept Hussein in power has legitimacy?posted by: garyc on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
"Such legitimacy as the UN has in Iraq is likely to last only as long as it avoids promoting ideas one faction or another in that country violently dislikes, and it cannot do this indefinitely."
I don't agree, Zathras. Seems to me that the U.N. has avoided principaled behavior for about 50 years now.
I used to believe in world government. Sigh.posted by: mark on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Seems to me that the U.N. has avoided principaled behavior for about 50 years now.
March 1986, the UN security council tries to issue a declaration of condemnation of Iraq for using chemical weapons. The only member country voting against it was the US.
Pot. Kettle. Black.posted by: Stu on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
“But Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy. (This is something well understood by anyone who has studied the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.) Belatedly it recognizes that the United Nations can arbitrate political problems without being accused of being a colonizer.”
Nonsense. The United Nations is little more than a scam operation run by anti-Americans and anti-Semites. It is laughable to objectively talk about its so-called legitimacy. Why is Fareed Zakaria ignoring the UN’s constant attacks on Israel? A rational person would easily conclude that the United States is far more decent and fair. Unfortunately, the UN has the liberal media defending it on a daily basis. Thus, what is the real lesson? It is this simple fact: you are essentially screwed if the dishonest and morally corrupt “mainstream” media is hostile toward you.
Would I be hitting below the belt to question whether Zakaria is anti-Semitic? Am I possibly pushing the envelope? If so, why he is so anxious to push the bizarre fiction, if not outright lie, that the United Nation is some sort of reputable organization. Shouldn’t he know better?posted by: David Thomson on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
“Some seem frightened by Sistani's positioning. I see it as a thing of beauty. Hordes of citizens debating their fates, peacefully marching in the streets... I would say it has the feel of, well of, democracy.”
Gosh, you would have loved the the situation in Iran when the “hordes of citizens” opted for Ayatollah Khomeini and the dictatorship of the Muslim extremists. It also initially had “the feel of, well of, democracy.”posted by: David Thomson on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
The U.N. legitimate?
What a dreamy world it is...at least for some.posted by: DennisThePeasant on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
“The U.N. legitimate?
What a dreamy world it is...at least for some.”
Fareed Zakaria is a member of the Harvard University crowd---and so many of them are ashamed of the United States. They find any silly excuse to suck up to the Old Europeans and other Anti-Americans. True virtue and intellectual brilliance are inevitably found outside, according to these folks, of the “capitalist” and “imperialist” United States. John LeBoutillier, a Harvard graduate, wrote an insightful book some years ago, “Harvard Hates America." The title is admittedly a bit exaggerated, but not by too much. It’s worth a quick read.posted by: David Thomson on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
"if only someone would have only brought up the opinion, last March, that invading Iraq without the support of the international community might cause some problems."
Stu, what you and your cohorts totally fail to address is the problems that would exist right now had we chosen NOT to do so.
Just a couple....
1) We would STILL be camped out in Saudi Arabia, acccomplishing exactly nothing.
2) Make no mistake, every passing day would be seen in the Arab world as a victory for an avowed enemy of the US. (The War of Terror is a PSYCHOLOGICAL battlefield as much as any, although Bush's ever-so-brilliant critics seem singularily unable to grasp that concept.)
3) Qaddafi's reforms? Syrian cooperation? Musharaff cracking down? Israel preparing to cut loose territories when the wall is done? Scratch it all. Every bit of it. Why the hell would any of them do any of that, if they know they have nothing to fear from an aroused America, unless the Grench, Belgians, and Russians all agree, which they won't? Don't kid yourself.
4)Scratching all that, what future ARE we looking at right now for the Middle East / Gulf, the CORE of the War on Terror. What? What changes? What advances? What growth? What? What? What? What is EVER going to happen that did NOT happen between 1991 and 2002, or anytime before. What? Nothing, that's what.
Bush's peanut gallery has some questions to answer.posted by: Andrew X on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
I don't know what Fareed Zakaria was smoking when he wrote that, but it sure as hell is on the DEA list of illegal substances.
Ask the Bosnian Muslims about the the difference in "legitimacy" of UN peacekeepers versus American peace makers.
Heck, look what James Dunnigan has to say on UN Peacekeepers:
PEACEKEEPING: The UN and the Peacekeeping Racket
January 20, 2004: The United Nations warned of a crisis in getting enough peacekeepers for Africa in 2004, unless the member nations focus now on staving off death and suffering in the continent's conflicts. Noting that the United States wanted to expand the military in Iraq, in mid-December UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan complained to the press that America has been petitioning the same countries that he was for troops.
While the 43,500 UN soldiers and police currently on 14 different missions is just over half the 1993 highpoint of 78,700 deployed to the Balkans, Cambodia and Somalia, the UN thinks their mission load will only increase. In addition to the Congo and Liberia, there could be missions to the Ivory Coast, Sudan and Burundi. However, money and troops available for UN ventures have dropped since the mid-1990s. UN missions in Sierra Leone and East Timor are winding down but this would not compensate for what might be needed in Africa in 2004.
About 30,600 UN Peacekeepers are in Africa alone (in the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara and on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border). Another 10,000 troops, observers and police might be required in 2004. African nations and developing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are increasingly providing the ground troops, but the UN claims that developed countries were needed for specialized attack helicopters, engineering, field hospital and logistical units.
While Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Gueehenno noted that he wasn't asking European members to match the troop contributions of the developing nations soldier for soldier, he did point out that they needed to provide tangible assistance.
Reading between the lines, the United Nations inefficiency at running economical operations is at the root of the problem. There are decades-old accusations that UN peacekeeping operations are merely pocket-lining exercises for certain individuals, with tangible results a far secondary goal. The United States, which pays 27 percent of the UN's peacekeeping costs, is wary of approving new missions while Japan, the second highest contributor, recently expressed concerns about the expanding UN budget. Europe is dragging it's heels, with Germany already involved in Afghanistan and France ready to pull out of the Ivory Coast. - Adam Geibel
Look I'm no great fan of the UN either, with stars in my eyes for the Blue helmets. But there's a fundamental problem with all this "anti-UN" criticism. The problem is that stuck between a rock and a hardspot, going to the UN is now being adopted by the Bush Administration. Obviously, they must think it's a good idea and better than what they were doing. This is completely ironic since multilateralists have been saying for over a year that bringing in the UN with help insulate the US from charges of favortism and help them credibly deal with the locals.
It's just like the stupid "coalition of the willing" arguments many of these same posters were making earlier when me and others were arguing to bring in other countries. Like say South Korea, reconstruction troops from Japan. People here were saying it was "completely unrealistic" or undesirable. Well guess what - the Bush Administration did it. Now they got troops from Thailand in there.
Oh the wanking idiocy and rush to judgement. You don't like it, come up with a better idea to stuff this genie back in the bottle. Dan was the one all gung-ho for democracy. Now suddenly with the conservative Shiites in the INC pushing through a repeal of women's rights, Sistani demanding direct elections that'll let the Shiites seize a super-majority, and the Kurds muttering about how they had a better deal under Iraq - don't believe me, read about it:
So with all your plans falling down about your head, all us old fogey don't rush in half-cocked conservatives are suddenly looking pretty smart aren't we? Bah. Every generation people think they got everything figured out, but what they ain't figured out is that the one thing that ain't changed ever is human nature.
Like Mark Twain said, the difference between a man and a dog is that after you feed him a man will bite your hand. There are allot of people here who should learn that one by heart.posted by: Oldman on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
The UN's imprantur? Would you have meant to write imprimatur at all? I am not familiar with the word imprere, nor I am sure who 'they' are whom the UN would declare are to be impreti. But then, it has been many years since my schoolroom Latin, and I might well be wrong.posted by: Mrs Tilton on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Quoting the UK Independent about Bush Administration problems in Iraq is roughly as credible as quoting the NATION or a NY TIMES presidential popularity poll on the same subject.posted by: Trent Telenko on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
But Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy.
Wiping away tears of laughter at that one. I would say the UN lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals - the 4th Infantry Division.
We are the only game in town, and Sistani and the rest know it. They are negotiating with us, not the UN, after all - hell, they couldn't negotiate with the UN if they wanted to - the UN cut and run already.
The UN doesn't have legitimacy - it has convenience. It is a convenient front for opposing Americans. That is the sum and substance of what the UN brings to the table.posted by: R C Dean on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Yes, the US lacks legitimacy. But when the UN's legitimacy is based on a "suggestion" that one important person will respect its decisions, I'd go with the US and Co.posted by: maor on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
>>Gosh, you would have loved the the situation in Iran when the “hordes of citizens” opted for Ayatollah Khomeini and the dictatorship of the Muslim extremists. It also initially had “the feel of, well of, democracy.”
The Islamic revolution in Iran involved the overthrow of a murderous dictatorship for a totalitarian theocracy. An open political process was not available to the Iranian people before the Islam government took power. The Iranian revolution never had the feel of democracy; it had the feel of a coup d'etat.
In Iraq, the masses are chanting "Yes, Yes to Elections". The masses are openingly expressing their hopes and fears. I don't believe that they will relinquish these newfound freedoms easily. And there are no greater checks on authoritative power that free speech and elections.
Sistani is calling for a return to sovergnity via a method which installs a government representative of its people. If his true goal is a Islamic theocrary, he, at least, seems ready to subject his ideas to an open politcal process.posted by: JP Sobel on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Legitimacy, it seems, is at least as much accorded from the outside and gained from the inside.
I mean, it's not like the USSR, Mao's China, Pol Pot or any of the rest of those who sat in the UN had had elections or anything to justify their governments.
More to the point, the UN has accorded legitimacy to far more bloodthirsty regimes than even the US.
Are we sure, then, that we want to accord the UN more legitimacy?posted by: Dean on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
> Nonsense. The United Nations is little more
posted by: Marcus Lindroos on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Whether you claim that or not, plenty of Democrats out there will, indeed, say that if you oppose affirmative action, then you're a racist.
Beginning w/ some of the commentators in the blogosphere who noted that Bush's opposition to the Michigan case was, in and of itself, reflective of his hatred of blacks.
So, there's more truth in that comparison than, I suspect, you'd care to admit.posted by: Dean on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
“So, if I am opposed to Ariel Sharon's policies, that automatically makes me an "anti-Semite?"
Why do you say something so absurd? Do you disagree with all of Ariel Sharon’s policies? Why do you fail to make any distinctions? My guess is that you are an “Oslo” Jew who essentially is willing to sell out his own people in order to suck up to the liberal establishment. The Palestinian militants are dedicated to destroying the Israeli Jews, but you seemingly prefer believing that they are victims of the so-called capitalists and imperialists. Ironically, I mostly share the views of Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. What do you have against him?
So, if "Harvard intellectuals" and "Old Europeans" like myself dislike the neoconservative foreign policy of this Administration, we must be "Anti-American"?!
Yup, I think you are starting to get it! You are in your heart of hearts ashamed of being an American. The Old Europeans are supposedly more humane and sophisticated. Far too many graduates of Harvard University and the other “elite” schools are not taught how to follow a logical argument. Instead, they learn how to stick their wet finger in the air and see which way the liberal zeitgeist blows. By the way, I have long advocated affirmative action policies. My central difference with the liberal establishment is that the nudge should go the minority candidate only when everything else is equal.posted by: David Thomson on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
The Kurd disatisfaction has been reported on many outlets around the world, though I note that it hasn't been prominently reported in detail on many US outlets. During the war allot of people were going to the BBC for coverage, because it was better than the US coverage.
If you reject an entire argument even though the facts can be sourced elsewhere, then you truly are a victim of partisan wishful thinking! I note that you fail to address the issue of why if the UN can grant so little legitimacy, why the Bush Administration itself is turning to them. I also seem to recall you in particular objecting to the "ridiculous" possibility I suggested of South Korean troops and Japanese reconstruction "peacekeepers". Now the Bush Administration has not only got them, but they got Thai troops too. You are a victim of your own deluded prejudices and are incapable of facing up to it when even the "side" you advocate turns your argument on its head by doing exactly what you condemn as undesirable or improbable.
Wake up Trent, bile may be satisfying in its bitterness but it hardly accords with THE REAL WORLD. You might want to try it sometime.posted by: Oldman on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
Would UN approval have given 'legitimacy' in a way that would be useful in Iraq. I'm skeptical. If the Iraqis really hate invaders as much as is claimed, I don't see that they would care if the invaders had the blessing of the UN or not. What about Kosovo?posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
"There are decades-old accusations that UN peacekeeping operations are merely pocket-lining exercises for certain individuals, with tangible results a far secondary goal."
About 30 years ago in the back of the newspaper I remember reading-That the US has stoped paying it's UN dues because of the corruption in the UN by the 2nd and 3rd world members.
About 15 years ago in the back of the newspaper I remember reading that there were two branches of the WHO. One financed by the US the other by the UN and European countries. Why? Because of the Corruption in the WHO by the 2nd and 3rd world members.
If America were to go to press with this news, it could destory the UN. But the UN does do "some good" (small amount for lots of money), sometimes.posted by: Jim Coomes on 01.20.04 at 11:24 AM [permalink]
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