AS IF THE COSTS OF THE IRAQ WAR WEREN’T HIGH ENOUGH, the battle over a new roster of permanent UN Security Council members may add to the tally. Some of America’s allies see their cooperation with America in Iraq as enhancing their bona fides for possible permanent Security Council membership.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that he will announce his campaign to secure a permanent seat for Japan at a speech before the UN next month. Germany is working hard at this too.
What is disturbing is that Sylvio Berlusconi is lobbying President Bush to make sure that if Germany is added, Italy gets its place too. Since Italy and Japan have both sent forces to Iraq, they hope to capitalize quid pro quo on support from Bush to make their way towards a coveted permanent Security Council membership.
I am not a specialist on UN reform, but it seems to me that global governance schemes ought to rank above petty sentimentalism about who stood with America, or not, in a single controversial war. If this Pandora’s box is opened, the final Security Council membership list will be decided through a brutal consensus-building process, but America should support those nations that give it the most long term leverage in building trusted and stable regional centers of power.
I can easily contain my enthusiasm for the United Nations, where pretension outstrips competence and credibility far more regularly than in Washington — as bad as it has been there lately. The world is better off with the United Nations, however, with the U.S. straddling both engagement with the UN as well as willing to pursue its interests independent of the UN when necessary.
Long term, I can envision Japan’s permanent membership — if it somehow comes to terms with its historical amnesia in a manner that is not just a function of American pressure. Otherwise, a more empowered Japan remains too destabilizing in the Asia Pacific region. But for many other reasons, Japan’s membership makes sense.
China and Russia are already in the club, but the obvious missing candidates are Brazil and India — regional powerhouse nations whom America needs to cultivate to help maintain stability in their respective spheres.
Europe, though, is the biggest impediment to reform. France and the UK already have memberships; and other European nations float on and off the non-permanent roster of Security Council members. Germany arguably belongs if one is considering current nation states because of its economic weight, population size, and its heavy contributions in men, materials and money to international stabilization projects. If Italy were to succeed in maneuvering a seat if Germany is added, and there are no other forfeitures of position, then Europe would have four permanent seats.
Poland and eventually Turkey would feel that if Italy made a revised membership cut, then they too should be added.
I am sure that others have much better ideas than me on how to reform the Security Council, but Europe (old and new) needs to pull the plug on its own anachronisms and step up to the plate to propose a single European seat in a revised Security Council.
Besides Europe and the United States, China and Russia should keep their seats. Brazil and India need to be there too. South Africa should be considered. There are probably others like Turkey, Iran, Nigeria and Indonesia that should one day be considered, but in my view, not for many years and not until they become more stable democracies committed to regional and global stability.
Japan is a real toss-up case. It has a powerful military and huge economy, but at this point — it behaves too much like a supplicant of the United States — which means that its behavior when less tethered to America is harder to predict.
I’m of a mixed mind on Japan, but very clear-headed on the importance of all European nations sharing a single permanent Security Council seat. It’s time for Europe to decide that it is indeed Europe.
To help promote global stability, America will need responsible centers of power around the world, allies or occasional collaborators, to help achieve this objective. Having the world’s obvious regional superpowers at the table is not a celebration of the UN as an institution but good common sense furthering U.S. national interests.
— Steve Clemons