Monday, July 14, 2008

Just How Useless is the Security Council?

A few days ago the UN Security Council considered a resolution applying sanctions to Zimbabwe including an arms embargo and personal restrictions on Mugabe and a number of his cronies. This sounds like a very sensible thing considering the shit that went down during the last election. Indeed the resolution got nine votes for compared to four against with one country, Indonesia, abstaining.

Notice I didn't say the resolution passed nine votes to four. That's because it didn't pass. Two of the four countries that voted against the idea were Russia and China, both of which are permanent members of the security council with the power of veto. And because of them, international pressure on Mugabe to actually stop being a dickwad has been greatly reduced.

The justification the Chinese and Russians gave for the decision not to support sanctions against Zimbabwe in the wake of their so-called elections is that so far it has been a domestic issue, and so a Security Council resolution, which is meant to deal with international issues, is inappropriate.

While the matter is certainly so far a purely domestic issue, I still think the Security Council is within it's jurisdiction to apply pressure in this situation. Firstly, it is one of the few international organizations with some teeth that is able to do so. This is not a particularly great reason, but it does place some responsibility on the council, and particularly the permanent members to be responsible members of the community of nations.

Secondly, action needs to be taken against Mugabe to prevent the precedent he appears to be setting. If other tin-pot dictators see that they can use such tactics to ensure that they retain power with little or no real consequence, they will be much more willing to do so. And then when we have a bunch of countries run by power mad crazies with little or no concern for anything or anyone but themselves, I can almost guarantee there will be international problems. Action needs to be taken against Mugabe to show that his antics are not acceptable in the modern world.

China's track record on such matters is particularly poor. Their position of non-interference in internal affairs means that a number of less than savory administrations have gotten a lot of necessary support when it would have been better for everyone concerned if they were under pressure to change their ways.

Combine this with the Security Council's somewhat outdated voting system and China is causing a lot of hassles for those of us who want to encourage unpleasant governments to change their ways. If someone is giving away carrots for free and stopping others from using the stick, it's a lot harder to have a positive effect.

End Post
Writing time: 45 minutes
Time since last post: a while
Current media: Arrested Development

1 comment:

Hewhoblogs said...

I was at a party with left leaning types recently and wanted to get a bit of a rise out of them. I said, in response to this very point, "Do you remember when John Bolton said that if ten stories were removed from the UN building then nothing would change? Everyone said, 'Look at how arrogant and out of touch the Bush administration is.' No! Look at how calm, measured and sensible the Bush administration is! Fuck the UN!"

No one took the bait.