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The United Nations and Global Security: The Norm is Mightier than the Sword*


Barnett argues that the United Nations, by operating on the principle of the consent of the parties, can encourage the development of a more stable and cooperative security architecture. The articulation and transmission of norms and the establishment of mechanisms can encourage transparency in interstate and internal matters. After the Cold War some entertained the possibility of increasing United Nations involvement in security affairs and making it a muscular security organization. Such visions, however, outstripped either what the United Nations was immediately capable of accomplishing or what the member states were willing to support. These developments demand a more pragmatic assessment of the United Nations to learn what it can do well, what it cannot do well, and how it can become more effective.

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1 Blechman Barry, “The Military Dimensions of Collective Security,” in Coate R., ed., U.S. Policy and the Future of the United Nations (New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1994), 6788; and Laurenti Jeffrey, Directions and Dilemmas in Collective Security: Reflections from a Global Roundtable (United Nations Association of America, 1994).

2 See, for instance, Clark Bruce, “Idealism Gives Way to Disenchantment,” Financial Times, April 19, 1994, 15; Lewis Paul, “Reluctant Peacekeepers,” New York Times, December 12, 1993, 22; Preston Julia, “Vision of a More Aggressive UN Now Dims,” Washington Post, January 5, 1994, 24; and Hall Brian, “The World's Cops, Kicked Around,” New York Times Magazine, January 2, 1994.

3 Responding to President Clinton's suggestion that the United Nations become more active in peace enforcement and battling the Bosnian Serbs, Michael Rose, commander of the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) said, “If someone wants to fight a war here on moral or political grounds, fine, great, but count [the United Nations] out. Hitting one tank is peacekeeping. Hitting infrastructure command and control, logistics, that is war, and I'm not going to fight a war with painted tanks.” Roger Cohen, “UN General Opposes More Bosnia Force,”New York Times, September 29, 1994, 7.

4 S/PRST/1994/22, May 3, 1994.

5 See, for instance, Young Oran, International Cooperation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), and Keohane Robert, International Institutions and State Power (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989).

6 See Hollis Martin, The Cunning of Reasoni (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 137–41.Fain Norman, in Normative Politics and the International Community (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987), 206–8., offers a comparable argument by drawing on Terry Nardin's distinction between purposive and practical associations in Law, Morality, and the Relations of States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).

7 See Brilmayer Lea, American Hegemony: Political Morality in a One-Superpower World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), for a detailed discussion of the concept of consent.

8 See Ruggie John, ed., Multilateralism Matters (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), and Pickering Thomas, “Power and Purpose: Making Multilateralism Work,” Foreign Service Journal, July, 1992, 3134.

9 Baranyi Stephen and North Liisa, Stretching the Limits of the Possible: United Nations Peacekeeping in Central America (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Global Security, 1992). See Touval Saadia, “Why the UN Fails,” and Giandomenico Picco, “The UN and the Use of Force,” Foreign Affairs, 73 (September/October 1994), 1418 and 4457, respectively, for contrasting views on the effectiveness of the United Nations as a mediator.

10 Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, “Comprehensive Review of the Whole Question of Peacekeeping Operations in All Their Aspects,” A/49/136, May 2, 1994.

11 “Spheres of Influence,”Financial Times, August 8, 1994, 12; Boone James, “US and Russia Broker Haiti Invasion Deal,” London Times, August 8, 1994, 9.

12 Author interview with top-ranking U.S. official, June 8, 1994, Washington, DC.

13 S/PV.3413, July 31, 1994, 23.

14 “UN Endorses Russian Troops for Peacekeeping,”New York Times, July 22, 1994, 3.

15 S/PV.3407, July 21, 1994, 4. Also see Hurd Douglas and Kozyrev Andre, “Challenge of Peacekeeping,” Financial Times, December 14, 1993, 14, in which they write that any Russian peacekeeping force must abide by basic CSCE and UN principles of consent of the parties and political neutrality. Also see Thomhill John, “U.S. Approves Role of Russian Troops within CIS States,” Financial Times, September 7, 1994, 16.

16 American Hegemony, 220–21.

17 The coordination task concerns not only organizing the participants once they arrive on the scene but also establishing general standard operating procedures and guidelines to facilitate interoperability. This is a particularly visible feature of many proposals for peacekeeping training. A major drawback of the fact that the United Nations must rely on the contributions of its member states is that national contingents are frequently trained according to different peacekeeping manuals and procedures. This severely undermines the effectiveness and efficiency of the operation. Various proposals have been designed to overcome such problems and to further the interoperability of different national contingents; prominent is the idea of the United Nations as either a coordinator, actively encouraging states to increase their level of specialized training and providing some multilateral coordination of their activities, or a contractor, concentrating on training national units at existing national training centers. See Blechman Barry and Vaccaro J. Matthew, Training for Peacekeeping: The United Nations' Role (Washington: Stimson Center, 1994).

18 “The Declaratory Tradition in Modern International Law,” in Nardin Terry and Marpel David, eds., Traditions of International Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 4445.

19 Ibid, 48–49.

20 Emerson Rupert, “Colonialism, Political Development, and the UN,” International Organization 19 (Summer 1965), 486.

21 The term empirical statehood derives from Jackson Robert, Quasi-States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

22 Part of this increased interest in the domestic sphere is driven by the growing awareness that Third World states face greater threats from their own societies than they do from their neighbors. Although policymakers were not oblivious to these domestic challenges during the Cold War, there was a decided tendency to downplay them because of (1) a realist assumption that external threats were primary, (2) the tendency to assume that foreign elements caused domestic instability, or (3) the fear that promoting political reconciliation might undermine a strategic ally. As these Third World internal security dilemmas become more numerous and visible, and of greater potential consequence for local populations and regional stability, there is increased pressure on the international community to intervene.

23 See, for instance, Boutros-Ghali Boutros, “An Agenda for Peace: One Year Later,” Orbis 37 (Summer 1993), 329, and , “The Democratization of International Relations,” Global Governance 1 (January 1995).

24 The claim that there is a relationship between domestic and international order is not novel. From Kant's Perpetual Peace, which provides the founding statement on the relationship between democracies and pacific relations, to colonial discourse on the timing of decolonization, which frequently argued that the colony could achieve independence only after it had achieved a level of political development that demonstrated its ability to abide by the norms of international society, theorists and policymakers have frequently argued that there is a strong relationship between democracy and peace in general and domestic order and international order in particular.

25 See Barnett Michael, “The New UN Politics of Peace,” Global Governance 1 (January 1995), for an expanded discussion of this argument. Boutros-Ghali's , An Agenda for Peace (New York: United Nations Press, 1992) can be read as making a claim for the relationship between domestic and international order.

26 The increased importance of these human rights norms underscores how different constitutive norms can conflict; specifically, the respect for human rights and the principle of noninterference clash in the area of humanitarian intervention. That the norms of society, whether domestic or international, might occasionally conflict is not surprising. Moreover, it is expected that there will be greater tension between the interstate and domestic constitutive norms with a growing interdependence and a blurring of the distinction between the domestic and the international. See Rosenau James, Turbulence in World Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 211–16.

27 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted on June 25, 1993 (UN Document a/conf. 157/23).

28 Franck , The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

29 Ibid., 196.

30 Claude , “Collective Legitimization as a Political Function of the United Nations,” International Organization 20 (Summer 1966), 367–79.

31 Ernst Haas argues that a rough measure of the legitimacy of the United Nations is the degree to which “member states invoke its purposes and principles…to justify national policy.”Beyond the Nation-State (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), 133.

32 Eric Schmitt with Gordon Michael, “Looking Beyond an Invasion, U.S. Plans Haiti Police Force,” New York Times, September 11, 1994, 12.

33 One implication of this growing cosmpolitanism is that states are likely to maintain a continued interest in responding in some fashion to humanitarian crises (notwithstanding the much heralded “donor fatigue”). However, when states contribute, they want to do so in a multilateral rather than unilateral fashion. According to one State Department official who was involved in the drafting of PDD-25, the interagency review on multinational peacekeeping operations, it was critical to strengthen the United Nations' peacekeeping abilities for humanitarian operations, otherwise the United States would have to become more fully involved; the United States will continue to feel compelled to contribute to humanitarian operations, he said, and it is better to act multilaterally through the United Nations than unilaterally.

34 Another indication that the decision to go the United Nations concedes some measure of decision-making autonomy is the fact that many actively oppose the United States' increased tendency to seek UN approval. Congressman Doug Bereuter, for one, remarked: “One of the growing perceptions in this post-Cold War era seems to be that we need some sort of multilateral approval, usually the UN, in order to take action, even though it is clearly in our national interests, and I am, frankly, concerned about that.” Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, U.S. Participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Activities (Washington: U.S. Government Printing House, 1994), 50.

35 Schroeder Paul, “New World Order: A Historical Perspective,” Washington Quarterly 17 (February 1994), 33.

36 There is a critical body of research that demonstrates how both regulative and constitutive norms alter state behavior. See, for example, the series of recent workshops sponsored by the Social Science Research Council (New York) under the project title of “Norms and National Security.”.

37 Young Oran, “Effectiveness of International Institutions,” in Rosenau J. and Cziempel E., eds., Governance Without Governments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 163.

38 UN Responses in the Former Yugoslavia: Moral and Operational Choices,” Ethics & International Affairs, 8 (1994), 20. Also see Belts Richard, “The Delusion of Impartial Intervention,” Foreign Affairs 73 (1994), 2033.

39 This is one conclusion from the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). When local parties refused to heed its directives, the United Nations chose to negotiate rather than fight, thereby conserving its legitimacy.

40 Schear, “Global Institutions in a Cooperative Order: Does the United Nations Fit In?” in Nolan Janne, ed., Global Engagement (Washington: Brookings Press, 1994), 246.

41 See Martha Finnemore, “Constructing Humanitarian Norms of Intervention.” Paper delivered at the SSRC-sponsored conference, “Norms and National Security,” Stanford University, October 16–18, 1994; also see Reed Laura and Kayson Karl, eds., Emerging Norms of Justified Intervention (Cambridge: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1993).

* The author gratefully acknowledges support from the United States Institute of Peace, which funded the research for this article, as well as Martha Finnemore for her comments on an earlier draft.

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Ethics & International Affairs
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