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The Security Council and Global Security

The Security Council and Global SecurityThebelief that the United Nations Security Council should be theultimate arbiter of international security is a mistaken one,a Fletcher professor writes in a commentary.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.06.05] A recent report issued by a United Nations panel recommendedthat nations should seek approval by the U.N. Security Councilto defend themselves against non-imminent threats. But FletcherSchool professor Michael Glennon says such reasoning is flawedand speaks less to securing nations than to shoring up the powerof the Security Council.

“Thereason the panel's remedies are contradictory is that it misdiagnosesthe disease - or fails to diagnose it at all,” Glennon wrotein an opinion piece published in London’s FinancialTimes.

Glennon, aprofessor of international law who has focused on preemption inhis research and writing, charges that the argument by the U.N.’sHigh-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes is fundamentallyinaccurate.

“Thecentral problem is that the ‘global order’ positedby the panel is largely non-existent,” Glennon writes. “Notionsof justice vary from one culture to another.”

Glennon summarizesthe report’s argument that power must be yielded to theSecurity Council because allowing nations to engage in unilateralaction would pose a “risk to global order,” and adherenceto the just war doctrine will bolster the Council’s commitmentto humanitarian efforts.

Sticking tothis course, the Fletcher professor argues, would have precludedseveral positive actions in recent decades.

“France'sinvasion of the Central African Republic to end the murderousregime of Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia tooust the Khmer Rouge, Tanzania's invasion of Uganda that put ahalt to Idi Amin's bloodbath, NATO’s 1998 air campaign againstYugoslavia to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo – all wouldhave been forbidden under the panel's interpretation of the [U.N.]Charter,” Glennon writes.

The questionof genocide is central to Glennon’s argument, as he recountsthe panel’s assertion that “genocide anywhere is athreat to the security of all” but notes the contentionthat military might cannot be employed to halt it unless the SecurityCouncil gives its permission.

“Cheaptalk notwithstanding, states do not regard intra-state genocideas ‘a threat to all,’” Glennon writes. “Ifthey did, Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur would not be the tragic embarrassmentsto the UN that they have been.”

The panel’sfindings neglect to explore several key areas of possible developmentand improvement, Glennon adds.

“Indeed,it makes no effort to assess the effectiveness of the Charter'srules, whether the benefits of saving them are worth the costs,whether they still command international support, or whether alternativessuch as strengthened regional peacekeeping organizations mightwork better.”

If the panelhad dug deeper, he suggests, the results might have been morerewarding toward forging a framework for the Security Council’srole in global security issues.

”A littleempirical spadework, coupled with a little disinterestedness,would have gone a long way in lighting the way to a more peacefuland just world.”


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