- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

“Human rights cannot be performed by States that lack a demonstrated commitment to their promotion and protection.” Secretary General Kofi Annan could read that statement in a report on U.N. reform issued recently by a high-level panel. It highlights the fact that the United Nations is lenient toward dictatorships.

Two examples: China is a permanent member of the Security Council and its veto power allows it to block any kind of initiatives to free the oppressed Tibetan people. Not long ago, Libya was presiding over the U.N. Commission for Human Rights; it would be hilarious if it was not so serious a problem. The United Nations may be unfit to face the challenge of terrorism — which requires it to take a hard line against dictatorships.

Founding a new international organization is a priority, to which the United States could give decisive impetus. Instead of refurbishing an old, exhausted organization, the international community should work on building a new one comprised of forces committed to freedom.

Such an organization must be built on the principle of “democratic discrimination.” A stronghold of democracies committed to the spreading of the ideas of freedom, free trade and the development of free and open societies worldwide must be created. North American, European and Asian democracies, Israel and new democracies around the world would be the core of this alliance of liberal democracies, which should preserve and spread our values and ensure our security.

Getting rid of rogue states would be an essential mission for two clear reasons. First, their will to acquire weapons of mass destruction is threatening the balance of nations. Second, they are fueling terrorist groups — either with weapons or money or both. Attacks against military or civilian targets are launched, with the aim of frightening democratic nations by showing that they are unable to protect their own populations.

Since terrorists are not a part of any state, the government of a country that has been attacked has no one to speak to. It is therefore difficult to find a concrete target to retaliate against. But the failure to retaliate can leave the impression of being weak. This can shake the political structures of nations, and in some newly free nations it could result in the collapse of democratically elected governments.

The international community cannot afford to tolerate rogue states entering a flip-flop game of compliance with inspections or providing documents.

That is why a “big-stick policy,” which includes retaliation against countries suspected of hiding or training terrorists, is necessary. This puts more pressure on dictatorships that support terrorists, making them aware that they will not be let off the hook.

The alliance of democracies should also renounce dictators’ debts, once a democracy has replaced them. This is common sense: Should a people who have just been set free from brutal dictatorship and started moving towards democracy be penalized by having to pay the debts of a brutal regime? Moreover, such money, borrowed without the people’s consent, is often used to buy weapons, set up oppression structures, or corrupt Western political elites.

Thus, odious debts should be forgiven once a despotic government is toppled from power. This would send a strong signal to democratic governments tempted to lend money to despotic regimes. It would certainly be much more efficient than most embargoes and do less damage to civilian populations.

Building a stronghold of democracies, defining a big-stick policy and making the doctrine of odious debt an international law — these are three proposals that should help lay the foundations of a democratic alliance that is able to stabilize a democratic world order.

Sylvain Charat is director of policy studies for the French think tank Eurolibnetwork.

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