Annan's suicidal plan on the use of force

David Rivkin and Lee Casey:

...

The most fundamental problem with the recommendations is that they continue to call for the U.N. Security Council to be the exclusive venue through which legitimate decisions about the use of military force should be reached when a threat is gathering but not yet "imminent."

Whether the U.N. Charter supports this notion is highly arguable. The charter originally forbade force only when it was used for specific disfavored purposes, such as conquest or colonization; other than that, it preserved the inherent right of states to defend themselves. No doubt some of the charter's drafters would have liked to limit that right to cases of imminent attack — but they lost that argument.

Today, as Annan candidly admits, there is no consensus among U.N. member states, and especially among the permanent members of the Security Council, on when the use of military force is legally justified.

In fact, the Security Council has rarely reached a consensus on the use of force, even in responding to the gravest international crises. Only twice in its history has the U.N. "authorized" the use of force — in response to Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and to North Korea's 1950 invasion of South Korea. And even in those cases, it did so by acknowledging the right of United Nations members to act in self-defense, rather than invoking the "collective security" provisions of the charter.

In the post-Sept. 11 world, requiring democratic, law-abiding states to have the Security Council's blessing before they can prevent grave, but not imminent, threats would be suicidal. Even on the issue of genocide in Darfur — where the interests of great powers are not implicated to any great extent, and where the moral imperatives for an international action are compelling — the Security Council has failed to act.

Annan's report also discusses how the world should respond to rogue governments' domestic atrocities separately from how the world should respond to terrorism. This subtle but symbolic distinction — between intervening to protect the citizens of another country from their brutal rulers and using force to protect one's own nationals — makes neither legal nor policy sense. It does, however, reflect the United Nations' clear bias in favor of humanitarian interventions and against self-defense-driven uses of force.
The problem with humanitarian intervention such as not in Sudan and Somalia is that relief thwarts the slow genocide of famine which is an instrument of war by one side of the conflict. Those providing the relief becomes targets in much the same way that supply lines are attacked in more conventional wars. By not recognizing that the famine itself is an instrument of war, the UN fails to solve the underlying problem.

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