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Remarks at the Couchiching Round Table at the Munk Centre for International Studies, April 8, 2003
I'd like to talk about the international situation, especially the impact of what's happening now on global governance and global order. We are in a major mess, in my view probably the most important and biggest mess we've been in terms of the world system since I've been working at it. I can't think, in my adult life, of another crisis with the potential destabilizing effect of this. One manifestation is that everyone is behaving out of character: the U.S. is not the one we've known, the U.S. of Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy. It's different. It has entered the war in a situation where only two countries according to Newsweek favoured the war - the U.S. and Israel. That leaves 189 countries against it. This has never been seen before. Even with Vietnam, people demonstrated - before the war started there were 15 million people. Not only is the behaviour strange but it's also childish - freedom fries, blairburgers. You also see in Germany that Coca Cola is no longer on menus. I spoke recently at a conference in Monaco, where the theme was U.S.-Europe relations, with equal numbers of European and American participants invited; I was there to give the Canadian perspective. Five U.S. people were invited and at the last minute they all chickened out. We can no longer have intelligent discussion with them: you're either with us or against us, which leaves no room for discussion. I don't remember anything like this. Ten years ago when I ran with the Liberal party, the theme was anti-U.S., after Vietnam, but there was a discussion. Today if you don't follow a certain path, you're threatened with retaliation and all sorts of things.
Also, there are positions being taken that are surprising. You have people on the extreme right, like Buchanan, coming out against the war, and you have French, Germans and Austrians - Le Pen, Haider - against it. Then you have Nobel peace prize winners like Bernard Kouchner coming out in favour of it.
What's behind the confusion? Let's try to reduce the mess.
What lies behind are vague perceptions. For some, there is a close link between September 11 and the Iraq invasion; for others, it is the heinous crimes committed by Saddam Hussein. One thing that's happening is that we're putting additional nails in the coffin of the global order as we know it. I've been studying this since the time I've gone into the OECD. The global order that we have was created in Westphalia in 1648, not in 1945 as so many think. At the end of the Thirty Years War, at end of the wars of religion, the concept of sovereignty established, with power transferred from the Holy Roman Emperor to the princes. Sovereignty was supreme legal power on earth, and cannot be second guessed. There is a side effect of nonintervention in the affairs of a sovereign state. This is the cornerstone of the Westphalian system, which has grown until now and is consecrated in the charter of UN, even though it accepts the concept of war. That concept is two sovereignties declaring war against each other, with a pattern and rules and then at the end a treaty. In this system, the source of international law that is enforcement comes from treaties signed by sovereign states that can withdraw their acceptance from these treaties. Nothing more than that.
What we see now is a complete and fundamental change in the rules of the game: Iraq has been treated as a bad pupil that has to be disciplined, and the only question was who should do the disciplining, the UN or the U.S. In fact in spite of the crimes, there's no legal basis in the Westphalian system to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign state.
Two questions need to be answered as we move away from the Iraq situation: in today's world, when is it right to intervene in the affairs of a member sovereign state? The answer "never" is no longer acceptable, any time. For example, the first Gulf War was an easy no brainer. It was the invasion by one sovereign state of another and the international community had no difficulty finding consensus. With Rwanda, the UN didn't intervene in the genocide because U.S. among others were against intervention - but in retrospect it should have intervened. In Kosovo, which was a case of genocide, or atrocities, the UN didn't intervene because of the veto but NATO got the legitimacy of the UN, ex post facto, and most people in the international community would say it was correct to do so. With Afganistan, there was a link between September 11 and the state sponsoring it and everyone agreed something should be done; in fact on September 12all the states, with one or two exceptions, were with the U.S. - In Paris, Le Monde said "nous sommes tous américains." Today no one likes Saddam Hussein, including the Arabs and the Muslims, but you have 50 million people who demonstrated against the war because the criteria for intervention are not clear. This is one of the questions : first casus belli has been advanced - weapons of mass destruction - but they have so far not used, and it is not clear if there are any. If there are, it raises the question of who is entitled to have them. There are 20 countries that have them, and the big champion is the U.S., which is the only country that has used them in war. Who is entitled to have them? Everyone or just the 20 that have them now? Just the good guys and not the bad?
We are fighting this war because Saddam Hussein's regime is a threat to the U.S. If you look at the military conduct of the last two weeks: there have been many brave and fanatic Iraqis who have given their lives but from the point of view of military prowess they were extremely inefficient. They did nothing in any way defensively correct. Saddam Hussein may be a dictator but he's an awful general and he did all the wrong things. So to claim that Iraq is a threat to the U.S. or anyone other than Kuwait is difficult to swallow.
Where in the UN charter is there a clause that says there has to be regime change? Maybe there should be - in favour of global governance, the bad buys should be gone, but you can't have regime change in an arbitrary fashion. Who says who can stay and who cannot?
The fourth casus belli is to introduce democracy in the region. Since when can it be introduced at the end of the sword? Islam has tried since time of Mohammed. It's not in the UN constitution - there are theocracies, monarchies and so on in the UN. It is undemocratic to impose democracy by force, and it creates a geopolitical contradicton: if there were democratically elected governments under the present circumstances they would be Islamic fundamentalists against the U.S. The one that exists already is Turkey, which turned out to be an embarrassment to the U.S
The casus belli invoked by U.S. has changed constantly: regime change, weapons of mass destruction, Saddam should leave with his sons, they impose democracy. This constant change saps credibility. In the future, if we have a right to intervene it must be more structured. We need a supranational structure that needs to be well defined.
The second question: if we accept idea of supranationality and can do regime change and other things, then who is entitled to do it? The UN? Another body? Tge U.S.? Why the U.S. - because it's the reigning superpower? Does that mean if someone else is the reigning superpower they're the self-appointed policeman of the world? Another thing in the contradiction is that the U.S. claims authority from the UN, but don't need Resolution 1441 (which didn't say anything about regime change) and then that says if the UN doesn't agree we'll do it anyway, meaning the UN becomes an agency of the state dept. If they agree, okay; if not, we marginalize them and leave them for humanitarian purposes. This is difficult for the rest of the world, which has never seen such resentment from people who have been allies of the U.S.
This coalition of the willing is often called the coalition of the billing - the more money you give. The coalition itself is a bit ridiculous: Look who's in it: Moldavia, the Marshall Island (all of them, not just a few), Mongolia... who can and should intervene? There's no automatic legitimacy in numbers. If there were, then any lynch mob would be automatically legitimate. You need more: the reason why there's a mixup is because we are not sure where we go.
I propose three scenarios that are the possible sequel.
First, unfortunately, is global chaos, where the war will have been won but the peace lost. It's one thing to destroy tanks and buildings and another to occupy a place like Iraq, which needs 200,000 occupiers to stay in the country. If we look at Afghanistan, it has been a military success but is still a failed state; there's Kabul and a few cities but in the countryside it is a failed state. The British are experiencing this in Basra, where there is no authority but their presence is not sufficient to prevent anarchy. This chaos will come because the two questions (when can you intervene and who can do it) have been answered.
The limitation for regional superpowers to use U.S. model to do preemptive attack on their neighbours. Watch India-Pakistan, which could invoke the Bush doctrine to attack first. Also Korea: the North Koreans took the opposite lessons from the Iraq war: we've learned forget about inspections because they destroy our weapons and then attack anyway. So we'll accelerate the nukes. This is another problem that is intractable and more dangerous than Saddam Hussein: terror, the networks of terror, Osama. It can be done on the cheap, doesn't need weapons of mass destruction to produce enormous results. None were used in September 11. It was box cutters that were used to seize control of U.S. planes to attack the World Trade Center. The terror, rather than being reduced, is enhanced - major threat. Technology can be in the hands of disgruntled individuals who can do a heck of a lot of harm.
Second, we need equilibrium: one kind is a Pax Americana, a U.S. domination of the world, and the other is a new multilateralism, more sophisticated than the UN. Either of these can establish themselves. In the present version, Pax Americana cannot succeed because if you compare a potential American empire with other empires, the conditions for success are not met. Roman, British, Byzantine, Ottoman - they had military power as well as an inclusive vision of society, which involved that the governed accepted to be governed. These were open empires: Byzantine, Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians were all included. The Ottoman empire was also inclusive. The Brits managed to establish and maintain their conquest of India, which was a remarkable achievement in terms of efficiency. The U.S. has no global vision so as an empire it cannot success. If it were to offer a vision of the U.S. of the world - not the U.S. of North America - there would be quite a lot of takers, if there were a coherent vision. It might not be a fate worse than death, but not in the present form.
The new multilateralism is something we call Westphalia II. Westphalia I tried to manage the word by juxtaposing 200 national sovereignties, but it doesn't work. Globalization brings in interdependence - SARS, for example, has to be dealt with at international level. No one cares about the massacres in the Congo because there's no oil there and we're focused on Iraq now. Three million have been killed in the Congo, and these people die anyway. We need a new form of multilateralism, with a version of supranationality above nation-states power that must be multilateral and democratic. The Club of Athens has a vision of the world as a city-state, a global Athens, a democratic Athens. A vision that goes beyond UN, which was Westphalian: one country, one vote. UN has done what it could but has many flaws and cannot just say we can put our faith in the UN. Reform of the UN is part of it.
It's a major mess, and there's global chaos ahead, and then we'll have equilibrium.
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