AMERICAN UNILATERALISM UNDERMINES NATIONAL DEMOCRACY; BUT NELSON MANDELA
IS WRONG TO CALL U.S. A THREAT TO PEACE
Boutros Boutros-Ghali is the former secretary-general of the United
Nations. He spoke from his home in Paris with Global Viewpoint editor
NATHAN GARDELS: At the end of your term as secretary-general of
the United Nations you feared that the United States going its own unilateralist
way would make the United Nations as irrelevant as the League of Nations.
In his key speech on Iraq, U.S. President George Bush turned your fear
into a threat, saying that if the United Nations doesnt act as the
United States wants on Iraq, the United States indeed would go its own
Has your fear come to pass?
BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI: Well, not yet. But certainly U.S. action
outside the United Nations would provoke real damage to the international
system as such and to U.N. credibility.
What is important for a leader, whether an individual or a nation, is
to think about the long term. In the short term, a unilateral American
operation in Iraq might well be a success, but in the long term would
be at the expense of international order. There would be more problems
without the United Nations, not fewer.
In the past, it has always been the Americans who understood most that
an authoritative international body was necessary. The League of Nations
was created by an American president, Woodrow Wilson. The United Nations
was created by another American president, Franklin Roosevelt.
Todays unilateralist approach goes against the multilateralist convictions
of the United States during the 20th century. In the end, I have no doubt,
sooner or later the United States will return to its traditional conviction.
Even as the superpower, the United States cannot successfully be policeman
of the world. It needs others.
Furthermore, a unilateralist approach now by the United States actually
undermines the democracy it seeks to promote around the world. If we dont
promote democratization of globalization, it will demolish democracy at
the national level because globalization undermines the legitimacy of
governments that cant cope with problems beyond their scope -- whether
as a result of capital flows, illegal migration, pollution or terrorism.
In this age of globalization, you cant have democracy at a lower
level, but be undemocratic at the upper level. The United Nations is one
of the chief mechanisms of democratization. So it is a mistake to undermine
GARDELS: The strength with which the French, with the Chinese and
the Russians behind them, have stood up to the United States in the Security
Council on the new Iraq resolution has surprised and annoyed Washington.
What do you make of that?
BOUTROS-GHALI: If you accept democracy as one of the basic elements
of global governance, then the fact that there is opposition and debate
should not be surprising. That is very healthy and a good sign that the
vigor of the U.N. system has not dissipated too far. Why accept debate
in the U.S. Congress but try to avoid it in the Security Council?
GARDELS: During the Cold War, the United Nations was said to be hampered
by a bipolar world. Yet, after the demise of the Soviet Union, it became
clear (as Kofi Annan once said to me) that, without the interplay of competing
powers and only one superpower, the United Nations was actually less effective.
Perhaps Europe is emerging now, through the French and Russian votes,
as the check on the sole superpower that will make the United Nations
effective once again?
BOUTROS-GHALI: I dont believe that, for the time being, there
will be any counter-power to the United States. Europe is divided. And
on the Security Council, France, Russia and China will not be able to
sustain the minimum equilibrium to create a balance. For the next 10 years,
there will only be one superpower. The only hope is that the sole superpower
will decide that it is in its own interest to have a strong United Nations.
GARDELS: You dealt with the United States on Iraq for many years.
Do you fear Saddam Hussein is obtaining mass destruction weapons, or does
the United States have another agenda?
BOUTROS-GHALI: Any kind of international decision is not based on
one reason for concern. It can be weapons of mass destruction, it can
be oil, it can be terrorism -- no doubt many variables are involved.
I hope that there will be a new resolution on Iraq adopted unanimously.
Then, any military intervention will have a legal basis. This, in turn,
will give a new life to the United Nations.
GARDELS: Did Nelson Mandela go too far recently when he said the the
United States is a threat to world peace?
BOUTROS-GHALI: He is going too far. The United States is interested
in peace. History shows this. But certainly the reaction of Nelson Mandela
and other leaders proves that the unilateral approach does not have the
support of those -- especially those -- who have worked so hard to create
a just and fair global order.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 10/31/02)