Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Keynote Address: Collective Security and the United Nations, University of Denver College of Law, February 28, 2004

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Keynote Address: Collective Security and the United Nations, University of Denver College of Law, February 28, 2004

Article excerpt

Thank you. I'm so pleased to be part of today's important program. I'd like to thank the University of Denver and Ved Nanda for inviting me to join you this morning. I'm especially honored to be delivering the keynote address this morning. I hope my comments will contribute to your broader discussion on the topic of collective security and the United Nations.

The last time I spoke here at the University of Denver on foreign affairs was nearly four years ago--and it feels as though it was another age entirely. So much has happened to change our perceptions of the world. Instead of living in hope--working together with countries around the globe to shape the post-Cold War "new world order"--we are living in fear and are faced with seemingly stark choices--to be multilateral or unilateral, preemptive or reactive, on the side of evil or on the side of good.

I don't mean to imply that the role of the United States in the "new world order" was ever particularly clear. We were not able to reach a consensus on how to define the new threats to security and what constitutes our "national interest." For decades our resistance to Communism had been the organizing principle of American political life and foreign policy. But once the "evil empire" collapsed, with it collapsed the cold war paradigm.

Then came the collapse of the Twin Towers--at a time when this country was debating its role in the post-Cold War world. After 9-11, we were given a new organizing principle--fighting terrorism. The impact of the terrorist attacks on our nation's psyche changed our entire worldview overnight. As President Bush so memorably put it, "you're either with us or you're against us." (1)

The historical connotations of that phrase are alarming. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski pointed out in a recent speech that "he who is not with us is against us" was popularized by Lenin when he attacked the Social Democrats for being anti-Bolshevik. (2)

Unfortunately, it appears that decision makers in the Bush Administration see this as the new basis for our policy. They see the world through the prism of the "war on terrorism," which is understandable after 9-11, but we need to consider how this new organizing principle constricts our foreign policy vision and potentially blinds us to realities on the ground. Bumper sticker slogans are no substitute for careful policy.

In the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, this "blindness" caused the Bush Administration to rush the diplomatic process at the United Nations, and dismiss a strategy of "coercive inspections" (3) that might have improved our intelligence about WMD and served as a foundation for a stronger coalition in the region.

The "blindness" of Pentagon leaders caused them to exaggerate intelligence claims (4) and mangle the planning for the post-war occupation and rebuilding of Iraq--and ignore in-depth analyses compiled by State Department experts that would have assisted them in this task. (5)

After 9-11, President Bush had no choice but to take an aggressive stance against terrorism and to reorganize his thinking and the thinking of his Administration on how to counter its threat. The "democratization of technology" (6) has made tools of terror readily available to people around the world. It is clear that we can no longer focus on states as the main sponsors of terrorism.

And waiting for these increasingly dangerous threats to materialize is much riskier than it used to be. I believe there is a growing awareness on both sides of the aisle in Congress that excessive caution, passivity, and diplomatic paralysis are not viable options to any threat--imminent or otherwise.

Yet it would not have been excessively cautious or passive for the Bush Administration to have waited a few more months in the spring and summer of 2003 to attempt to gain broader international backing for the war against Saddam Hussein's regime. …

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