Saturday, February 19, 2011

Security Council Vetoes and Legacy Politics

Security Council Vetoes and Legacy Politics

Yesterday the US vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning continued Israeli settlement activity.  There are only two possible interpretations of this act which goes against international law, international consensus and the US government’s own professed opposition to new settlements.  Ambassador Rice’s justification that it is inappropriate for the Council to attempt to resolve the core issues between the parties is simply not convincing.  What other purpose does the UN have, if not to attempt to resolve problems that endanger world peace and establish principles of international law?  Either the US is unable to escape its legacy of supporting Israel come what may (a political position that began with its support for the establishment of Israel in 1948 and continued during the era of client states in the Cold War) or it is intent upon undermining the legitimacy of the UN once again.  So, President Obama has taken one more step towards compromising with the policies he inherited from previous administrations.

National and international diplomacy cannot be revised incessantly of course.  That would make for a very unstable world.  But there must be moments in time when a zero based reassessment of policies and alliances is warranted.  Surely a fresh analysis of US policy in the Middle East is in order following Israel’s resumption of construction on occupied lands despite the Obama administration’s plea to extend the moratorium on new settlements.  It would also seem wise to present a more balanced policy in the region given the popular uprisings across Arab countries.  Providing such blatant cover for illegal, Israeli settlements is certain to strengthen the hand of radical opinion on the Arab street against the rising tide of democratic, secular activism.  So much for President Obama’s pledge to bring a new global perspective to US foreign policy. 

While discussing such matters, could someone explain to me why the permanent members of the Security Council continue to retain their veto powers?  Those veto rights are themselves a legacy stemming from agreements at the conclusion to World War II.  As we move increasingly toward a multi polar global community (and with the G20 meeting ongoing in Paris) can it possibly be appropriate to exercise a legacy authority that is no longer justifiable?  Let us raise a banner in favour of the enforcement of international law.  Let us promote international institutions that recognize the emerging realities of the distribution of power in the world.  And let us accept the loss of legacy symbols of authority, such as veto rights within the Security Council.  Policies that diverge from such a reasoned approach are bound to augment risks to world peace.

David Hillstrom
Author of The Bridge

No comments:

Post a Comment