Site Note: I really am hoping to get some feedback on this one, but since it's the weekend, traffic will be down. Because of that, I'm going to keep bumping this back to the top occasionally for the next couple of days so it can get more play.
Kofi Annan is afraid that the UN is losing relevance. Ed. Losing? How about long since lost? He's calling on member nations to think of ways to reform the institution.
UNITED NATIONS, New York A mood of skittish uncertainty has descended on the leaders of the United Nations. They are eager to overhaul their institution, but worry whether any change can give it the freedom it needs to survive without being seen as either a lackey of the United States or an easily swattable gadfly.
Of course there's always the, "do the right thing no matter what people think of you approach." What am I thinking? This is the UN we're talking about.
Annan, who will outline plans for reform as the annual General Assembly gathers next week, has said that only "radical" revisions in the institution are likely to preserve it.
So what, exactly, is the problem?
"The worst fear of any of us," said Shashi Tharoor, an under secretary general whose entire career has been spent at the United Nations, "is that we fail to navigate an effective way between the Scylla of being seen as a cat's paw of the sole superpower and the Charybdis of being seen as so unhelpful to the sole superpower that they disregard the value of the United Nations."
It's too late. Too many of us already see the UN as being worthless.
On another note, few things illustrate the problems with the UN more clearly than the fact that, according to this story, this guy has never had another job.
Look, here's my view. The UN is beyond reform. It's time to throw it on the dung heap of history.
We need a new body with a new vision. The problem with the UN and the League of Nations can be found without looking past their names.
First we had the League of Nations. It was a weak and worthless body that prized talking above action. When action was necessary, the League was incapable of acting.
Now we have the United Nations. To hear people talk about the UN, they appear to think that the only valuable thing is that the UN acts together. What the UN does seems to be of secondary importance.
The problem with both bodies, from my point of view is the desire for cooperation, irrespective of whether the object of the cooperation was worthy or not. It's because of this way of thinking that the whims of petty dictators are seen as co-equal with the expressed will of democratic peoples. We need a new body; we need a body dedicated to a higher ideal than diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy.
I propose a new international body: The Association of Free States. The emphasis here is squarely on the word "free." This body should be formed with the aim of protecting, preserving, and promoting freedom, liberty, and self-determination.
If I had my way, the US would leave the UN and begin to negotiate a treaty that would form the basis of a new international body with a core of allies who are all dedicated to the promotion of liberty. At first, this should be a relatively small group of nations, not to exceed 10. I would say that this core group should definitely include the US, Great Britain, and Australia. Until recently, I would have said Canada, but they've gone wobbly lately. Other possibilities would be Japan, India, Spain, Israel, Italy, maybe even Poland. (Poland has certainly shown a strong dedication to freedom over the last few years.)
I'm quite open to the overall makeup of this group as I don't think that the who is what will make the difference; the important thing about the nations chosen is that they will all have to be able to agree on a standard of political, religious, and economic freedom which can be determined on a relatively subjective basis. More to the point, they should be able to agree on two sets of standards: Level One, and Level 2.
These standards of freedom would be very important because they will form the basis of membership in this body. As I see it, this body should have two tiers of membership. The higher level would be composed of full members and would initially be composed only of the core nations who drafted the agreement. The second level would be composed of conditional members.
Any nation wishing to join the AFS would have to subject itself to a freedom audit. Once the audit is completed, a report would be submitted to the full members for a vote, or maybe 2. The full members would first vote on whether the applicant nation meets the Level One standards. If 2/3 of the nations agree that that the applicant has met the Level One standards, the nation would be accepted as a full member. If the applicant failed to be accepted as a full member, the members would take a second vote; a nation could be accepted as a provisional member if 60% of the members believed it had met the Level Two standards.
Full members would have voting representatives in the Assembly. Provisional members would have representatives who would be allowed to participate in debate and serve on committees, but would have no vote on decisions of the Assembly. Nonmember would have no official standing. These nations would have no permanent ambassador to the AFS and would be able to speak only upon the sufferance of the full members.
Provisional members would be allowed to apply for full membership once every four years, following a new freedom audit. Nations who fail to gain even provisional membership would be able to apply again every five years, also following a subsequent freedom audit.
One of the primary agencies of the AFS would be designed solely for the purpose of providing advice and assistance to nations who fail to gain full membership. This agency would provide as much assistance as possible to help these nations make the appropriate reforms in order to achieve the minimum freedom standards.
Also, full member states would be accorded full sovereignty. This is not to say that no member nation would be able infringe on their territory, but there would be a high burden of proof in order to justify such a move. This is because full members, by nature of being full members, would have a presumption of innocence against any accusations that might justify any move against it. Except in cases of imminent threat, this presumption could only be overturned by a 2/3 vote of the Assembly.
Provisional members would be accorded limited sovereignty. Such nations borders would normally be respected. However, any full member nation would be allowed to engage in military actions inside a provisional member's borders upon evidence that a threat to the acting nation, or any nation existed inside the nation's borders. Such a threat would not have to be caused by the government of the provisional member, just inside it's borders. Such a threat would exist, barring imminent threat, when 40% plurality of the Assembly said it did. Provisional members could also act in this fashion, but only if sponsored by at least one full member.
Nonmember nations would be accorded no sovereignty at all. Member nations, and provisional members with one sponsor, could take action against a nonmember if they, in the sole judgement of the member nation, believed it to be necessary. The member nation would be required to lay it's case before the Assembly, but the Assembly's consent would not be required.
I would hope that this structure would limit voting to nations which have a strong dedication to preserving freedom and representative government while encouraging other nations to aspire to an equal level of freedom. Further, varying levels of sovereignty would give both the responsibility and the right to member nations to act against threats to freedom.
Also, I do not like current UN system of one nation, one vote. I would like to develop a system that accorded nations varying levels of representation based on population and economic size and freedom. This system might even involve a bicameral house, but I really don't even have a bare sketch of this part worked out.
There are reasons for all of the ideas I've laid out here, but I'm not going to try to defend it all now. Hopefully I'll be able to address that in later in posts as well as flesh the whole thing out some more.
I'd be dishonest if I claimed that I thought this all up myself (The idea of varying levels of sovereignty I know I read somewhere else.), but I honestly don't remember any of the people whose ideas might have contributed to this concept. If anyone knows of anyone else whose made proposals like this, I'd love to hear about it. Also, I'd love any comments on this one, especially any possible improvements. If you do want to try to improve the plan, remember that the idea is to maximize freedom.
Update - Jack Rich has a post on why the UN was doomed to fail from the beginning. I think he has diagnosed the inherent sickness of the UN very well. In the conclusion to that post (which he also left in the comments here), he states:
My first reaction is that such an organization is doomed, simply because it must, by the very nature of institutions, place its own institutional survival ahead of its stated mission. My cynicism is born of the hard truths of working in the national security apparat in the United States, where we prevailed over the Soviets in spite of how we were "organized."
I've got to admit that I have similar fears, even if I'm not as cynical about the whole thing as he is. I would hope that such an organization would have sufficient checks and balances to make it functional, despite the problems of any organization with large numbers of politicians. I have no illusions that any degree of checks and balances could make it efficient, but would like to think it could at least be functional. Of course, I may be overly optimistic.
Another Update - One of the criticisms of this post has been the countries that I listed as possible core members. (Those that would initially define the organization.) Mark Byron correctly stated, "if we want this to work, this needs to be a little bit more than just a codification of the Coalition of the Willing." It's certainly true that the countries involved should not be chosen simply because the happen to line up with the US at the moment. Freedom is the issue, not conformity.
As I mentioned in the comments below, I wasn't really trying to say who I thought should be in; I was just listing possibilities. That was probably a mistake. I've been doing some research though, and I'm ready to list some possibilities. I've also started to think that 20 nations would be a better upper level than the 10 I had previously stated. We might even be able to go a bit higher, but I don't think so. If we start asking countries in just for the sake of being inclusive or having bigger numbers, we would risk diluting the definitions of freedom in the treaty.
The countries I've come up with are not listed in any particular order. I came up with this list after reviewing information from Reporters Sans Frontières (an organization I have serious doubts about, but it doesn't hurt to include different views in this analysis), The Heritage Foundation, Freedom House, and the CIA Fact Book. I don't pretend that this is any kind of scientific analysis, and even though I used some organizations freedom rankings, it is still arbitrary in places.
Anyway, here goes:
- Finland - Uruguay - Iceland - The Netherlands - Canada - - Ireland - Germany - Sweden - Denmark - Australia - - United States - Chile - Czech Republic - United Kingdom - Czech Republic - Switzerland
Belgium and Norway would also be possibilities. If possible, I'd like to find a couple of African nations as well, but I'm having trouble finding any that would qualify. South Africa, Botswana, and Namimbia seem like possibilities, but my own knowledge of these countries is sketchy.
If anyone's got any comments on including other countries or tossing any on this list, especially in regards to Africa, please weigh in.
Yet Another Update: Thanks to Brian for pointing out the error in the headline.