"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Obstructing Kofi's Vision

Two weeks ago, Kofi Annan released his plan to update the United Nations for the new century. It builds on the foundation laid by an international panel that included Brent Scowcroft, mentor to Secretary of State Rice. Scowcroft's imprimatur was supposed to grease the skids in Washington. But then the White House nominated John Bolton as U.N. envoy. Traci Hukill unpacks Annan's report and predicts Bolton's devastating response if he wins confirmation this week.

Traci Hukill, peviously with UNWire, is a freelance writer living in Monterey, Calif.

Kofi Annan has a plan for making the world a safer and more humane place for its 6 billion inhabitants. He knew he'd have to compromise with the United States on terrorism and Israel, and he did. But he didn’t think he’d be facing John Bolton.

Annan released his report on revamping the United Nations on March 21 in a report called In Larger Freedom . Annan did not limit himself to finding ways to improve the U.N.’s transparency and efficiency. Quite the opposite. The secretary-general delivered a blueprint for the biggest overhaul in the United Nations 60-year history. The 65 recommendations he came up with are united under the banner of securing peace, human rights and relief from poverty for all people—a visionary new mission for the organization.

The White House was not so keen. The administration expressed its distaste for Annan’s competing global vision by nominating the swaggering U.N. critic Bolton to be its chief envoy. Under Bolton, the U.S.-U.N. delegation will no doubt welcome the select few proposals that are of use to America. But Bolton’s blind unilateralism, the national preoccupation with terrorism and the Congressional unwillingness to share money or agree to constraints on U.S. behavior mean that many of the most meaningful reforms will meet their demise.

Of course, Bolton will keep what serves his narrow objectives. One such recommendation is Annan’s call for a global effort to fight terrorism. Ending a long-running battle of semantics at the United Nations, Annan finally offered an official definition of terrorism as the deliberate targeting of civilians in order to compel a government’s actions—and declares that nothing justifies it, a key phrase that mollifies Israel and the United States because it doesn’t let freedom fighters like the Palestinian militants off the hook.

That’s not the only present to the United States. Annan's plan calls for all nations to sign all 12 U.N. treaties against terrorism and against organized crime, and the State Department, from which Bolton takes his orders, backs the U.N. chief on this.

State has also expressed support in theory for a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention, but here is where the problems begin: Annan’s five-pronged approach to fighting terrorism contains a provision—“defending human rights"—widely viewed as censure of the torture, rendition and indefinite detentions that the United States has practiced in the name of counterterrorism.

Similarly, Annan’s recommendations on stemming WMD proliferation will run up against old roadblocks, several of them bearing Bolton’s fingerprints. Annan suggested strengthening the Biological Weapons Treaty, but as chief arms negotiator, Bolton deep-sixed a measure in December 2001 that would have beefed up compliance, saying it would have jeopardized U.S. bioterrorism programs. Likewise, Annan’s recommendation to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty—signed by the United States but never ratified—will never win support under this administration. This broad call to restart disarmament is a pipe dream as long as the administration has bunker busters and missile interceptors in its eyes—projects Bolton has avidly defended.

Some of Annan’s recommendations pertaining to more conventional weapons and warfare will have a hard time passing muster with Bolton, too. It’s been said the world’s real weapons of mass destruction are Kalashnikovs and the other light arms that fuel civil wars. Annan wants a treaty on the illegal trade of these weapons, but Bolton spectacularly sandbagged this effort four years ago, declaring that Washington would abide no regulation of firearms.

As for the Security Council, which Annan wants expanded to include more developing nations, the United States remains noncommittal except for its support for a permanent seat for obedient Japan—not, by the way, a developing nation. And Annan has suggested the Security Council set out principles for the use of force, including “just war” criteria on necessity and proportionality. The principles—which originated in Augustine’s time—are championed by human rights activists as a good way to put limits on what ought to be a last resort anyway, but last month a senior State Department official scoffed at them, saying Washington has little use for such abstractions; in a political body they’re impractical, he said.

The most challenging section of Annan’s report is called “Freedom from Want,” and it is likely to get the shortest shrift of all from Bolton and the rest of official Washington, because it seeks money. This is also where Annan’s radical side reveals itself. The secretary-general wants drastic and immediate debt relief for the poorest nations. He wants a dramatic rise in foreign aid from donor nations, to 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2015 (the United States gives 0.15 percent of its GNI as foreign assistance). He wants full funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to $10 billion a year, which would mean the United States tripling its donation to $3 billion a year. This will never happen. Bush can’t even get funding from Congress for his own meager foreign aid project, the Millennium Challenge Account, and the religious right will never tolerate funneling more righteous U.S. dollars to an anti-AIDS effort that dares to go beyond preaching abstinence.

Annan’s goal of peace, human rights and decent living standards for all is an inspiring global rallying cry, but it’s also inspired because it stands up for the principle of enlightened self-interest. Global threats are interconnected; you can’t have peace when people live in grinding poverty, you can’t be safe from distant epidemics in an age of air travel and you can’t ignore failed states where terrorists are setting up ropes courses. Improving life for the rest of the world is the best insurance policy against America’s multiple nightmares becoming reality.

But the Bush administration has chosen a different path. With Bolton at the negotiating table, the United States will pursue its narrow, neoconservative national interest. The enlightenment, it seems, is dead.

Traci Hukill
April 05, 2005
© 2005 TomPaine.com ( Project of The Institute for America's Future )


Post a Comment

<< Home