- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

When the United Nations was created 59 years ago, statesmen hoped it would enhance the projection of American power by enlisting international support for Washington’s policies. But time and again, the reality has been far different. Too often, the United Nations acts as if it sees its function as preventing the United States from playing a leadership role in the world — particularly when it comes to using military force against rogue states that support terrorism.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the approach taken by a high-level panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to put forward a new vision of collective security for the world. The group, chaired by the former prime minister of Thailand, includes 16 distinguished statesmen, among them former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, former Chinese Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen and Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League and former foreign minister of Egypt. Unquestionably, they put a great deal of thought into the 95-page report. But unfortunately they have produced more or less what one would expect from a panel dominated by Western balance-of-power advocates and former Third World autocrats: a flawed series of policy recommendations that will empower U.N. bureaucracies while hampering America’s efforts to circumvent the United Nations when it proves incapable of responding to actual threats.

The group discussed some of the major threats facing the world today, including failed states, civil wars, poverty, organized crime, AIDS and nuclear weapons proliferation. But too often, its policy prescriptions appear to be so bland as to be useless or more of the same: negotiations to invest added authority in dysfunctional bureaucracies like the International Atomic Energy Agency; expanding the size of the Security Council; and breaking “the link between poverty and civil war.” We would have liked to see more in the way of substantive guidance on what current bureaucracies deserve to be eliminated. The report gives short shrift to initiatives such as the effort — supported by the Heritage Foundation on the right and and former Clinton U.N. representative Nancy Soderberg on the left — to build a U.N. democracy caucus.

Unfortunately, one of the most problematic aspects of the report is its rejection of the idea of preventive action, such as the U.S.-led coalition’s intervention against Saddam Hussein. The panel suggests that acting in self-defense is only acceptable after a country is attacked. Prevention is dismissed as “anticipatory self-defense.” The authors assert that to permit “unilateral preventive action” (“unilateral” is apparently defined as anything the U.N. doesn’t expressly approve) is deemed too much of a “risk to the global order.” We disagree. In a world in which terrorists seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and rogue-state enablers like France have veto power on the Security Council, it is the height of folly to insist that we have to get U.N. approval to take pre-emptive action or wait to be attacked before we can defend ourselves.

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