- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

If you can’t fix it, make it bigger. That seems to be the new conventional wisdom on restructuring the U.N. Security Council, at least to judge from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s remarks on the subject on Tuesday, and from indications of varying degrees of approval from the Russian, British, French and Chinese foreign ministers. The idea sounds about right to us.

In an interview with reporters in Brazil this week, Mr. Powell officially endorsed Security Council expansion. Although he declined to offer specifics, Mr. Powell seems likely to support adding a permanent seat for Japan and said he’d want to consider one for Brazil. Should a U.N. working group recommend broader changes when it issues its report in December, there may also be new seats for India, Germany, an African country and possibly a predominantly Muslim one like Indonesia. While there are currently five veto-wielding permanent council members and ten rotating temporary ones, the most expansive proposals would hike the number of seats to 21. The new seats aren’t likely to be veto-wielding ones. But they could induce a less unproductive mindset at Turtle Bay, and that’s a very good thing.

Clearly this is an idea whose time has come. The push to reform the Security Council long predates the recent acrimony over Iraq; for more than 10 years, a U.N. working group has been considering the matter. Now that permanent members like China, France and Russia have signed on in broad outline to the idea, it seems likely to gain steam. The United Nations can and should change the Security Council’s membership to reflect the realities of the global order.

Specifically, it’s time to fill the United Nations’ top offices with representatives of those who pay for U.N. operations, man them or suffer when they foul things up. That might help the United Nations to become more realistic about the projects it takes on. It might end some of its less useful preoccupations and help it live up to some of the great expectations its founders had when they christened it in San Francisco in 1945.

Of course, in the short term, the move will also dilute the influence of recalcitrant Security Council members who fancy themselves world powers but balk at the suggestion of taking action in difficult cases like Iraq. That’s not the goal of the Bush administration here. Nor is it a concern for reformers within the U.N. itself. But it could be a welcome unintended consequence of expansion.

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