UN Done. (Foreign Policy & Defense)

Article excerpt

"Why the Security Council Failed" by Michael J. Glennon, in Foreign Affairs (May-June 2003), 58 E. 68th St., New York, N.Y. 10021.

The dramatic rupture of the United Nations Security Council over Iraq earlier this year made evident that the grand dream of the UN's founders--subjecting the use of force to the rule of law--had failed. But the fault lay not with the United States or France or other member nations, argues Glennon, a professor of international law at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Rather, it lay with underlying geopolitical forces "too strong for a legalist institution to withstand."

Given the recent evolution of the international system, the Security Council's failure was "largely inexorable," Glennon says. Well before the debate over confronting Iraq, world power had shifted toward "a configuration that was simply in- compatible with the way the UN was meant to function. It was the rise of American unipolarity--not the Iraq crisis--that, along with cultural clashes and different attitudes toward the use of force, gradually eroded the council's credibility."

In response to the emerging U.S. predominance, coalitions of competitors predictably formed. "Since the end of the Cold War," Glennon writes, "the French, the Chinese, and the Russians have sought to return the world to a more balanced system." As Hubert Vedrine, then France's foreign minister, explained in 2001, "We have to keep defending our vital interests just as before; we can say no, alone, to anything that may be unacceptable." U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld could not have said it better. …