July 14, 2003


European leaders refused today to endorse the Canadian-backed International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty's plan that would put more guidelines on international intervention in civil war situations.

The ICISS report, which came out in December, 2001, is a curious artefact of the pre-Sept. 11 time. It was originally meant as a way to fill the gap in prior peacekeeping practice that the Kosovo military intervention had created, when the U.S. and NATO acted in the absence of any UN mandate, in an internal insurrection situation. Many at the time thought this created an uncomfortable precedent, including many Canadians, whose policy even after is that a Security Council affirmation should be necessary for all military interventions.

The ICISS report called for two things, basically: a General Assembly declaration that, for the first time since the UN was created, acts of genocide internal to one state (such as Rwanda or Kosovo, or arguably Iraq vis a vis the Shiites and Kurds) would be recognized as within the UN's authority to intervene to stop, as well as conflicts between states. And secondly, that the veto powers on the Security Council would be enjoined from blocking any country's proposal to intervene in such cases, provided that the situation met certain pre-agreed conditions: in particular evidence of real or planned mass killing, and also a sort of neo-Augustinian "just war" acid test (last resort, minimum necessary force, etc.).

Whether it made it more powerful or not, the changes to UN procedure would certainly have made the UN more relevant. The trouble is, it's foundering on the practicalities of the post-Sept. 11 world. As we know, there are only three Security Council members with the logistical base and philosophical bent to intervene in another country's civil war for humanitarian reasons: the U.S., Britain and France. The policy was drafted to liberate the three countries, and by extension, NATO, from the threat of Russian or Chinese vetoes. But the drafters could not have guessed how bad Anglo-US relations with the French were going to get in the meantime. Speaking practically, the US and Britain are still unlikely to ever veto each other, nor are they likely to ever object to French unilateral interventions in their former colonies or what have you. So all this really amounts to now, in short-term realpolitik terms, would be limitations on France's ability (and to a lesser extent, Russia and China's, whom it was originally aimed at) to veto resolutions supporting American or British military interventions.

Canada's motives in pushing this here seem, as usual, almost entirely altruistic. UN hum-hawing has led to a lot of dead people over the years, and the plan would increase the UN's ability to at least address internal genocides within some kind of precedental framework. But Germany and France, who would have supported this two years ago, are now the big objectors. And without their support, it seems doomed to enter the history books as yet another "worthwhile Canadian initiative."

Posted by BruceR at 06:08 PM


In today's entry of the Trent Telenko Watch (who really does add something... I'm not sure I can describe what, to the Winds of Change site), he stands by his earlier accusation that Jessica Lynch was violated, and calls for the immediate invasion of Iran!

Posted by BruceR at 11:04 AM