Some questions asked by Winds-of-Change of the Anti-War crowd.
Q1: What would have been the best, most legitimate way for Iraq to achieve democratic elections? Can it be applied to Burma, North Korea, Iran, and other dictatorships?
The best way to achieve democratic reforms is through political and economic pressure combined with support for native opposition groups within the country. War is only justified if the country in question *truly* (undeniably, no question) poses an imminent threat to its’ neighbours, has already invaded or attacked a neighbour or another country, or is involved in genocide or other war crimes within its’ borders. Forced regime change is rarely an efficient or desirable way of bringing about democratic reform. Afghanistan worked because the Taliban had a very tenuous grip on central power… they dissolved quickly. The Iraqi example is still evolving but has shown just how difficult it is to overthrow a strong government and impose a new one while still avoiding a power vaccuum and failed state scenario. That scenario could not be avoided in Iraq, and we have 2 years of chaos and casualties (civilian nd military) in much of the country to look to as proof of that. Only now, after the elections has there been renewed hope and momemtum for the Iraqi people to actually take control of their country again.
The only reason War was an option in Iraq was because there was already a military presence in the ME, Iraq had little to no air defenses, especially in the no-fly zones, and no control of Northern Iraq. Plus, the military as a whole was still depleted from the Gulf War.
All-out war simply is not an option with any other of the major “abusers” of human rights in the world. An attack on Iran would without doubt lead to attacks on Israel… plus Irans defenses are formidable. North Korea is the same if not worse. The collateral damage in Burma would be extensive… the only option in these other countries is the UN, through political and economic sanction, and the support of opposition groups. There is a huge population bulge in the 20-30 range in many ME countries including Iran, Syria, Egypt and SA. Iran especially is seeing serious opposition to the authoritarian regime… and while it has lost momemtum of late, we must do everything we can to support the younger generation while they still believe in their ideals.
Q2: If your answer to this question involves the UN, address the UN’s corruption with the Oil-for-Food scandal, sex slaves in the Congo, and the inability to prevent the Rwandan genocide. If the top dogs of the UN are profiteers for the containment of dictators like Saddam, and their representatives trafficking sex in the countries they purport to peace-keep, how can the UN be a legitimate force for democracy?
The UN, WTO and other International bodies are the only ones through which internation sanctions can be applied. It is our worst and best tool. We must make it work. The talk of corruption in the UN is a misnomer and frankly naive because we see corruption in all levels and all examples of government. You cite Oil-For-Food, I cite the CPA and Bremer “misplacing” $9 billion dollars after the war, sex-slaves in the Congo?, Abu Graib and the Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia, Rwandan Genocide?, how about the ongoing Aids epidemic in Africa. Every bureaucracy, every democratic instititution has examples of futility and corruption… the UN is simply the biggest of all bureaucracies and as such commands the most attention. While the Oil-For-Food inquiry continues, we see how all countries, including the US, participated in what can only be deemed as purely political, self-serving acts. Since the UN is really just a conglomeration of the worlds governments and bureaucracies, the only way to improve it is to demand reform and transparency from our own officials and politicians. We must make our politicians embrace change and reform rather than fear it. It is ironic that Kofi Annan was favoured by the US when he was appointed to the UN because he was seen as a reformer. Now, when Annan presents his proposals on reform, the US is his biggest detractor. Go figure.
As for peacekeeping and the military role of the UN. I believe it must be expanded and clarified, if not simplified. The UN has a Responsibility to Protect (something I’ve talked about on my Blog previously) and I hope that the reforms presented and supported by Canada and Japan and others, will help to expediate action from the Security Council in times of need and crisis.
The huge advantage the a UN peacekeeping force has, and must continue to demonstrate, is impartiality. While there will be times when offensive action will be required, like the Gulf War. The vast majority of the time, UN forces are there to either seperate warring parties, or protect the innocent from harm. And that must continue to be their modus operandi. The UN must always be seen as an impartial observer, and enforcer, if needed. It cannot be seen as a tool used by one or a few powerful countries to exert or spread influence…. it cannot be used to “spread” democracy, only to promote and support existing, native, efforts.
Q3: Are tyrants defeated with soft power, or merely contained until they fade away? Is contained fascism simply the unstated and accepted cost of soft power? If it is, should Hitler have been opposed?
This comparison is frankly ludicrous. First, yes, tyranny and oppresion can be contained and is an accepted cost as long as the regimes in question to do inflict huge loss of life on their citizens, the country is sovereign and as such must be allowed to develop naturally… with the continued support of democratic and reformist forces inside the regime. While I beleive genocide is far too high a bar to set to initiate serious action against a country, I do believe that the sovereignty of that nation, and more importantly of the citizens of that nation must be respected. The UN cannot, ever, simply go around invading and replacing regimes. It just isn’t feasible or acceptable.
As far as Hitler is concerned. Again, the comparison is ludicrous… it was clear what the Nazi regime had in mind, and once they launched their campaign it was clear what the Allies had to do.
Q4 What can corrupt soft power?
Not to be overly simplistic… but pretty much anything. It’s a political process, and as such is open to be fully corruptable… again, the only way to mitigate that is to make it very undesirable for our own politicians who represent us to do so. Currently, the Hall of Power are quite free from public scrutiny.
Q5 Are there any circumstances where hard power is warranted?
Of course. Imminent threat. Self Defense. Civil war. Genocide, and other atrocities and acts that seriously threaten civilian populations.
G6: If the UN is too corrupt and impotent, and the US is too sovereign to represent the world, what organization would you propose instead?
This is a question you should be asking yourself. Currently, there is none… it’s clear that the alternative to the UN is uniltareral action. No matter what the US continues to say about their “Coalition”, it is clear that the impetus was from one country and one country alone. That is not healthy for the world. It brings back memories of Imperialism. The only option we have right now is reform of the UN.
Q7: Would a ‘UN-D’ — a variation or branch of the United Nations, except the members are all democracies — be a better legitimizing force for democracy than either the United States or the current United Nations?
Great… another level of bureaucracy. Just what we need. No legitimicy is not gained by everyone wearing the same T-Shirt. It’s gained by action, and support for human rights and democratic reform.
Q8: If you had to wear a uniform and be put in harm’s way, but could choose the flag you fought for, which flag would it be: Your family crest; your town’s flag; your state’s flag; your country’s flag; your religion’s flag; the UN, NATO or EU flag; or an NGO flag. Why?
Canadian Flag on my shoulder with a blue helmet on my head. Because while I believe strongly in true multilateralism, I am also extremely patriotic. The two DO NOT automatically cancel each other out.
I would also like to donate my time with an NGO at some point in my career… I see their role ideally, as complimentary, rather than competitively to the UN.