Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Democrats' Kosovo Problem

A constant critique of the Bush Administration advanced by Democratic presidential candidates and their foreign policy advisers, not to mention “blue-affiliated” pundits and think-tank experts, is “unilateralism.”

Take Senator Hillary Clinton’s defining foreign policy speech of last October. [A speech, on a separate note, where she favorably mentioned the work of Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman in developing the concepts of “ethical realism”.]

She said, “We can turn our back on international institutions, or we can modernize and revitalize them, and when needed get about the hard work of creating new ones. …

"We got it drastically wrong when a small group of ideologues decided we didn't need those institutions, or alliances, or diplomacy or even the respect of other nations."

A standard refrain now heard is that President Bush went to war with only a cosmetic “coalition of the willing”—without a specific mandate from the UN Security Council or even the legitimizing cover of a major regional international body or grouping (in contrast, say, to Ronald Reagan having a formal request from the Organization of East Caribbean States for the United States to intervene to restore order on Grenada in 1983). Democrats proclaim that they, in contrast, will work with others—the United Nations, allies, partners—so as to avoid the dreaded sin of “unilateralism.”

Given the difficulty that the UN Security Council sometimes faces in finding consensus among its five permanent members, some Democrats have demurred from embracing the position that only the UN Security Council can authorize particular actions. So then we come to a point raised three years ago by two leading members of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment: Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay. They wrote in the Boston Globe:

… in the real world, states have an alternative to going it alone or doing nothing when the UN Security Council cannot agree on action. And that is for like-minded states -- especially the world's great democracies -- to band together and act when the UN will not. Of course, every effort must be made to get Security Council authorization for using force to uphold international order. But when such authorization is blocked by a few states -- especially by states like Russia or China that do not share the values that unite democracies -- then the responsibility to act must devolve to the democratic states that depend on maintaining a just and secure world order.

Final status for Kosovo may prove to be the first case of America’s willingness—and especially of the Democrats—to continue to embrace the “coalition of the willing” model. Let me explain.

Yesterday, Greece’s ambassador Alexandros Mallias spoke at the magazine about the common EU position on final status for Kosovo: it should be based on the parameters outlined in the plan presented by Marti Ahtisaari, and it must be ratified by an appropriate UN Security Council resolution.

China is not enthusiastic about the plan but all indications are that Beijing would abstain from what it perceives to be a largely European issue. Russia, of course, is another story. Moscow has serious objections and in the worsening climate of U.S.-Russia relations may not feel any need to accommodate American preferences.

It may be that the Democrats will dodge a bullet, that the Russians will compromise, especially if Nicolas Sarkozy is able to broker an understanding, and we will have a UN resolution.

But the United States has threatened that, in the absence of a UN resolution, it would be prepared to recognize an independent Kosovo. The European Union, however, remains bound to a common position that a new resolution is required to define the final status of Kosovo, given that there is an existing resolution which cannot be superceded except by a new one. This position would prevent the EU (and, by extension, NATO), from supporting the U.S. position as collective bodies. Washington would most likely be able to gain support for its stance from a number of European states—beginning with Britain, but it remains to be seen whether France and Germany, while both supporting independence for Kosovo, would nonetheless want to undermine the very notion of European unity which is at the heart of the European project.

So, in support of Kosovo independence, would leading Democrats endorse another “coalition of the willing” without specific UN sanction, and without the cover of any regional body? How many “leading democracies” would have to support such action? France, Germany, India? [Again, on a separate note, this intellectual exercise points also to the difficulties of getting even a “League of Democracies” to act, given that India, South Africa and a number of other democratic states have also expressed reservations about any imposed settlement for Kosovo.]

We might end up with a situation where “unilateralism” really is in the eye of the beholder—where the thirty or states, including a number of European ones “cherry-picked” to support the war in Iraq was an example of dangerous and reckless behavior, but where something similar for Kosovo (or Darfur) is an example of leadership.

So where’s the difference?

If the Iraq war was going better, how many of these Democrats would be endorsing Iraq as an example of "democracies working together" to achieve results? Seems then Clinton, Edwards et al would be touting their foreign policy credentials.
Nick, you were with me at that dinner in London with the "high-level" British personage who admitted that in the eyes at least of Blair a Kosovo resolution at the UN that has a Russian veto, Chinese abstention and African/Asian no or abstain votes would not be seen as reflecting the "will of the international community." They want something that will be 13 votes for, and 2 abstentions from Beijing and Moscow. Don't think we are anywhere near that yet.
So if we say the un security council doesn't work because of russia and china, or like what anne marie slaughter says, without germany brazil india japan and south africa it isn't representative and if we can't get consensus in eu or nato, what is sufficient coalition. dems seem to think us australia uk poland was not enough. so we need france germany basically eu 3 plus us equals appropriate coalition?
The difference is, Democrats have learned how to cut their losses in a bad war by making a deal. Clinton accepted it when the Russians intervened, ending the war on very different terms from what we tried to dictate at Rambulliet. Dubya and "Deadeye Dick", or any given Republican presidential candidate, haven't got that much sense, so are still holding out for "Free-Market Democracy" in Iraq.

See the difference?
Well that's a useful distinction for getting out of bad situations, but what about how we get into them? Doesn't seem to be much difference there.
The permanent members of the UNSC must be able to project power abroad economically, politically, and militarily in a sustainable manner.

They have to be able to smother global dissent when that is a threat to the international system. That is if you accept the premise that UNSC is there to reduce the chance of war among major powers and not as another rubber-stamp for the latest fantasy project that comes out of the US & EU Jacobin Club.

Brazil and India do not fit the bill since they do not yet have the political, military or economic powers requisite for such tasks.

Japan & Germany could but they are both semi-sovereign and were losers in WWII.

UK & France in combination can do something but not singly.

So we are in a situation that the possible replacements for UK & France are not yet ready (India and Brazil) while Japan & Germany are not viable.

About Brazil: I cannot see US going along with the emergence of a major power in the Western Hemisphere - but may be it is just me.

India, on the other hand, is perceived as a threat by both PRC and Australia.

And is India to project power in the Persian Gulf? We already have Muslims, Jews, and Christians slugging it out in that part of the world; do we really need to inject Hindus into that as well?


This process of reform of UNSC seems to be rather complicated
When we do international institution venue shopping i.e. if we can't get UNSC approval, we go to NATO; if we can't get NATO support we put together an ad hoc alliance, etc., is that getting the support of international institutions or not? Sounds like both to me. Perhaps it depends on what the meaning of “is” is…
If Obama wants to show he is serious on terrorism he should not support Kosovo independance. Why is American money proping up a corrupt and largely terrorist ispired state? Not to mention the human organ trafficking and drug dealing. Don't we have enough problems with fiscal policy that to commit ourselves to propping up a failed and unfunctional fractured state?
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