THE GRAND FLAW IN THE UN

Foreword: In the interest of providing some alternative views on national security we are inviting new views on our topics from a diverse group of individuals who can contribute to a healthy and creative debate on key international issues of our day.  One such contribution is below.


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.

By: Chuck Woolery, Guest blogger

Recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged member States to recommit to “collective security” and human rights. He claimed the UN prevented another war but those who suffered from the lethal consequences of the Cold War or the current violence and loss of human rights as a result of an ongoing and predictably endless global war on terrorism might disagree.

 

Peace, or the absence of war, particularly a nuclear war, was the original motivation for the creation of the UN. But it’s increasingly clear to those who deal with threats to individual and national security, and others concerned about human rights and the environment, that effectively protecting human security, national security and the environment will require more than just “peace”.

 

What the vast majority of ‘we the people’ of the world really want is security without the loss of the freedom, and the prosperity that comes from maximizing both freedom and security. Threats like Ebola, Climate Change, violent extremism and WMD proliferation in a world where the rights of nations remain superior to the rights of ‘we the people’, will never see nations, people or economies free from threats and violations of the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Encouragingly, the UN Secretary General specifically stated that UN Member States needed to fortify a sense of unity on the meaning of the term ‘collective security’, which he stressed was the core purpose of the organization. He also noted that Nation States have been falling short of their responsibility to prevent conflict, something the UN Charter is very clear on. What he didn’t mention was the grand flaw of the UN’s original design of giving sovereign equality to all member states with absolutely no means of enforcing that equality, short of war, or sanctions — which can be more deadly than war. And, worse yet, the universal protection of human rights is only an afterthought. A grand gesture with absolutely no muscle other than words (in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), accusations (frequent UN reports), powerless courts (ICC and ICJ) and noble promises (R2P).

 

There should be no doubt that violations of human rights eventually weaken state sovereignty and national security. But not a single organization in the world is actively demanding or even offering solutions to resolve this grand flaw. If anyone is looking for such solutions, a new book lists them along with detailing rational means for achieving them. The book is titled “Transforming the United Nations System” written by Joseph E. Schwartzberg and endorsed by former UN Secretary General as “an essential reference work for all…concerned…”.

 

Ban states “In today’s world, the less sovereignty is viewed as a wall or a shield, the better our prospects will be for protecting people and solving our shared problems…” But, in fact, it is the belief that national sovereignty is the key to protecting national security and human rights that is the grand flaw in the current UN system.

 

Human rights abuses kill, maim, and displace people, divide communities, undermine economies and destroy cultural heritage. Ban called for “a conceptual shift” in international understanding of UN human rights action in order to transform the Security Council’s role in peace and security. Yet, no organization today boldly takes the stand in support of such needed transformation.

 

Ban said “We must ask whether, for example, earlier efforts to address human rights violations and political grievances in Syria could have kept the situation from escalating so horrendously.” He went on to say “We must be willing to act before situations deteriorate. This is both a moral responsibility and critical for the maintenance of international peace and security. We cannot afford to be indifferent.” Anyone adding up just the economic costs of our indifference would have to agree.

 

Noting that the distinctions between national and international were beginning to disappear, Mr. Ban cited commerce, communication, public health and climate change as areas of transnational concern. Terrorism and extremism were also serious issues and he highlighted the need to respond decisively, and to combat extremism without multiplying the problem and with full respect for human rights. What he was saying without actually saying it is ‘we need enforceable international laws’ (i.e. the ‘force of law’ instead of the ‘law of force’ for dealing with our individual, religious and national differences.)

 

Regarding many other important issues of international concern, the UN’s 70th anniversary should serve as a chance to seriously reflect on nation states’ common enterprise and to take transformative actions like those detailed in Mr. Schwartzberg’s book. And high on any list should be the newest, laudable, affordable and achievable goals soon to be affirmed for sustainable development and climate change. But we must recognize that any hope of actually achieving these vital goals will require three fundamental tactics.

 

  1. A holistic and global approach. (global enforcement of UDHR)
  2. A new source of secure and adequate funding (a global financial transaction tax)
  3. The context of national security and protecting fundamental human freedoms in advocating for both of these.

 

The world still awaits an organization (or movement of organizations) that will stand for and passionately advocate for any or all of these fundamental prerequisites to having the world work for everyone.

 

The bad news is that time is not on our side. Those with the power to make such change appear to be emotionally detached from actual deaths, torture, diseases, disabilities, pain and other suffering of hundreds of millions of innocent men, women and children. Some would say there is a lack of political will to do what is humanly doable. I’m beginning to think it is a lack of empathy and courage.

 

We know what needs to be done. We know it’s the moral thing to do. We know we cannot bare the economic cost of not doing it.

 

Nearly 40 years ago I attended a presentation on climate change. The title of that talk was “Is there intelligent life on earth?” In hindsight, knowing of all ‘smart’ technologies we have at our finger tips and the massive “intelligence agencies” our government funds, I would have to answer “yes” to that question. If asked “is there wisdom in our application of that intelligence?” The answer would be as self-evident as our God given universal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We Welcome Your Comments!

2015: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNKNOWN CHALLENGES GOING FORWARD?

DANGERS, OPPORTUNITIES, AND CHOICES IN 2015 AND BEYOND

By: Harry C. Blaney III

After looking back at 2014, which was in so many ways a time of change and a time of conflict and tragedy for many around the world but there were also moments of active and sometimes productive diplomacy and renewal that transpired. In some areas of the world, it was lamentably much of the same. The sad questions that remain: Was the globe well served by its leaders? Did the citizens of each nation take the lessons of our times with renewed understanding and engagement? Did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?

Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.

In the “macro” or what some call the “geo-strategic” level, and what I have also called major global challenges, we are indeed facing the kind of significant risks and dangers which are among the most confounding and complex, along with not as easily understood barriers to progress. We often see across-the-board disruptive forces that impact much of the rest of the specific regional and functional issues we face.

Looking forward, there are two important issues. First, what are the underlying landscapes and trends that are shaping our global system? Second, what can the United States, our allies and friends, do to improve global security, poverty, and reduce violence and secure well being as we move forth into 2015 and beyond?

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S “SECOND WIND” ON GLOBAL ISSUES AND SECURITY

 One of the most important new developments is a tougher, more focused and more innovative stand by President Obama in foreign affairs including national security. This policy is still created with great deliberation, but also with more of a will to act “out of the box” than it did before the November election.

                 

Already, there are several examples of this development. One example is the agreement with China regarding a climate change limitation of greenhouse gasses that bypasses Congress. Another example that has great importance is the decision to open negotiations with Cuba, creating the ability to establish diplomatic relations and to relax decade’s old failed sanctions, overall promoting closer and a more intense engagement. His immediate action to deal with Ebola showed when prompt action was clearly needed he would act.  The very recent decision to continue to negotiate with Iran over their nuclear program as well as to start a quiet dialogue on broader issues, like how to handle ISIS, has also become another signal of this new development.  All show a new tendency to take political risks at home to achieve key American objectives.  

 

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama made it clear that he would be more active in taking the lead on a host of outstanding and difficult issues abroad. As our world grows more conflict prone, he is more assertive to make our best efforts to try to mitigate the worst consequences of upheaval, humanitarian disasters, global health dangers, the rich-poor poverty gap, terrorism and its repercussions, and last but not least the so called “rise” of China and Russian aggression. Presidential meetings in Saudi Arabia and India indicate a game-changing mode. But his caution and deliberation are likely to continue.

 

It is clear that the White House, Department of State, and Department of Defense are all currently going through a “re-thinking” of American strategy to account for the fast moving changes that are developing around the world. Included in this reassessment are relations with Russia; especially dealing more actively with the escalating Ukrainian-Russian conflict. This is extremely relevant as this conflict not only touches the security of our NATO countries, but also shows a perspective for a long-term diplomatic modus vivendi with Russia. But, as this is being written, there is a building consensus on both sides of the Atlantic that some added assistance to Ukraine is necessary.

 

Look for new instruments and modalities from Obama to shape the foreign affairs agenda and debate in the coming months. Also look for Secretary John Kerry to be even more active in setting the stage in places like the Middle East, China, Africa, and India.  Expect a host of added initiatives over the coming months and even into 2016. President Obama is clearly laying a more active and innovative American agenda in the foreign affairs field, even beyond his term in office.

 

A second installment of this post, looking forward into 2015 and beyond,  specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy will follow in the coming days.

 

We welcome your comments!

UPDATE ON EBOLA CRISIS: PRESIDENT OBAMA URGES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO DO MORE

U.S. military personnel boarding KC-130J Super Hercules in order to deploy to West Africa (Photo: Department of Defense)
U.S. military personnel boarding KC-130J Super Hercules in order to deploy to West Africa (Photo: Department of Defense)

By Erik Ruiz

In a video conference on Tuesday, October 14, with leaders from 21 countries, President Obama stressed that the international community was not doing enough to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

“As I’ve said before, and I’m going to keep on repeating until we start seeing more progress, the world as a whole is not doing enough…. There are a number of countries that have capacity that have not yet stepped up.” – President Obama

That same day, the World Health Organization warned that we could start seeing as many as 10,000 new cases of Ebola per month. Although WHO’s official tally puts the death toll at 4,447 out of 8,914 reported cases, Dr. Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general of WHO, suggested that there may be more deaths that have not been officially recorded.  

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YES, EBOLA AND THE SPREAD OF DISEASE ARE NATIONAL SECURITY PROBLEMS!

USAID workers in Monrovia, Liberia.
USAID workers in Monrovia, Liberia.

By Harry C. Blaney III

“As I’ve said from the start of this outbreak, I consider this a top national security priority.  This is not just a matter of charity — although obviously the humanitarian toll in countries that are affected in West Africa is extraordinarily significant.  This is an issue about our safety.  It is also an issue with respect to the political stability and the economic stability in this region.
And so it is very important for us to make sure that we are treating this the same way that we would treat any other significant national security threat.  And that’s why we’ve got an all-hands-on-deck approach — from DOD to public health to our development assistance, our science teams — everybody is putting in time and effort to make sure that we are addressing this as aggressively as possible.” – President Obama after meeting with several senior officials and staff on the U.S. Ebola response

On Friday the White House had a high level briefing for the media on the question of the danger of the spread of the Ebola virus. One of the briefing’s takeaways was that Ebola is indeed a national security risk for the United States.  Present at the meeting was the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Commander of AFRICOM.  Another message was that with the advanced medical and scientific infrastructure we have in America it is highly unlikely that it would be a major risk for Americans and could and would be contained even as the first American based case occurred in the Washington DC area and several other new cases are under observation and treatment. 

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