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March 31, 2005


The Law Won
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

U.S. abstains in UN vote, allowing Darfur war crimes cases to go to the Hague. 


Long arm of the law may actually reach Darfur (if the U.S. lets it)
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

It's gonna be a long night at UN headquarters, with the Security Council in the endgame of a months-long debate over Darfur.  It's expected that provided they can ram through a six-fold belt-and-suspenders approach to ensuring that Americans serving in Sudan will never be subject to international justice, the US will abstain on a resolution that would--among other measures to address the Darfur crisis--refer Sudanese war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

(See earlier post on this arguing that the US has nothing to worry about in terms of Americans being hauled before the court, and the comments by the estimable Jeffrey Laurenti and others.  No, Jeff, American-style investigations into alleged war crimes are probably not beyond international reproach.  But as a practical matter any attempt by an international court to assume jurisdiction over American nationals against the U.S.'s would make George Wallace in the schoolhouse door look like the welcome wagon.)

If this goes through as expected, at least two points jump to mind:

First off, attempts to influence Bush Administration policy are not futile.  An NGO coalition got together and pushed hard on the ICC referral.  The Security and Peace Institute was a big part of this effort.  I have worked as a U.S. diplomat at the UN and know first hand how tough it is to corrall the world body even when you speak on behalf of its largest member and contributor.  So when I first heard of this NGO effort I saw little chance they'd affect the outcome of the UN debate.  Obviously a host of diplomatic considerations came into play, and the organizations did not change U.S. policy single-handedly.  But they made a difference here and can make a difference elsewhere.  We should not give up on trying to influence policy in the here-and-now.

Relatedly, we need to take credit for our successes.  I am looking forward to seeing how the Administration will spin this--likely as a courageous stand on behalf of American servicemembers.   But the truth is that conservatives have resisted mightily calls to refer Darfur to the ICC.  They made a convoluted argument that, notwithstanding the US's longstanding position that international tribunals cost too much and are inefficient, rather than relying on the ICC a new, separate, ad hoc Court ought to be created for Sudan (the Argentinians and others were up in arms over the needless excess cost of this approach).  Under pressure from critics, they were forced to reverse themselves and accept the result progressives pushed for all along.   The ICC is not perfect and needs to be further developed, but nonetheless this is a victory for the core belief in the need for durable, empowered international institutions, and we ought to claim it.

The second point is that, indispensable nation though we are, the rest of the world can and will move ahead without us when we choose to stand outside multinational organs and treaties.  When they do so, try as the U.S. government may to hold out against their efforts, the press of events, logic, world opinion, and our own public has the power to suck us in.   

In this case, its ideals that were to a significant extent made-in-the-USA--accountability, the rule of law, justice for all--that have propelled global support for the ICC, and are now pulling even a reluctant U.S. government into its orbit.  U.S. abstention on this resolution is the camel's nose under the tent of ultimate acceptance of the ICC.  Provided the Court performs, there will be no turning back. 

When it comes to the next treaty or body that we don't like, will we stand apart in protest, or--as President Clinton advocated vis-a-vis the ICC--sit down at the table and try to steer the deliberations to suit U.S. interests.  It's too early to say, but the outcome of this sleepless night at the UN will help determine the answer.


Of Democrats, Discipline, and Democratization
Posted by Michael Signer

Amen, Heather, Amen.  But the problem goes way deeper than Lakoffian framing.  Democrats need to understand the enemy, and our own organizational problems, if we're ever to get a foreign policy message off the ground.

Former Senator Jack Danforth's piece in the New York Times yesterday was a welcome reminder from deep within the Republican Party that the screeching turn to theologically-grounded policy is by no means normal, and no means right. 

Danforth focuses on the wrenching Schiavo posturing, and the stem-cell issue--but the issue goes to the heart of our foreign policy.

In January, Bill Moyers published an article proving how the Bush foreign policy has been dominated by an almost millenarian evangelical thinking.  This explains the surprise affection for Israel, the almost joyful anticipation of the apocalypse, and the familiar arrogance of the initiated toward the heathenry.

How should liberals differ?  In many ways, Democrats should naturally be more pro-democracy and better at envisioning a newly enlightened world than Republicans.  The basic nature of liberalism (the word, after all, means to free the mind) lends itself better to vision and hope than traditionally hidebound conservativism. 

Democrats, for instance, should be outrunning conservatives on the issue of democratization.  Mort Halperin has co-authored a wonderful new book called The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace, which shows that even the poorest countries are "ready" for democracy, and that the world prospers when democracies grow. 

So why are we so divided, so squeamish, about returning to the vision of global democracy Woodrow Wilson (one of our own) first endorsed?  Aside from the Vietnam syndrome, and basic partisan resentment at being outfoxed (again) by Bush, it all returns to the name:  unlike the theocons, Democrats can be too democratic.  We can't unify around democratization--done right--because we're spread too thin around every danged viewpoint.

We need discipline--a stronger pole for the big tent.  That's why Bill Bradley's piece on our "inverted pyramid" problem was so refreshing, and so right.  The DNC and our party elders (Bill Clinton?) need to negotiate with the powerful Democratic interest groups to ignore their navels for a moment and get on board with a democratization vision, in broad-brush outline, because the stakes are just too high to do otherwise.  It won't be easy--but then politics never is.


The Right Thing on Darfur
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

This is big stuff.  See prior discussion.  More later or from others.

Washington will let ICC hold Darfur trials: report
Last Updated Wed, 30 Mar 2005 23:45:07 EST
CBC News

WASHINGTON - The United States has agreed to let the International Criminal Court try people accused of committing war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, a news report says.

Washington had strongly opposed holding the trials at the UN court in The
Hague, but agreed to a compromise on Wednesday, the Associated Press
reported, citing officials from the administration of President George W.

The United States doesn't support the court because it says it fears
political enemies might launch frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions against U.S. citizens.

The officials, who asked not to be named because the deal hasn't been
made public, told the news agency the compromise includes guarantees that the ICC could not prosecute Americans deployed in Sudan

The compromise marked the latest development in drawn-out efforts by the
Security Council to deal with the crisis in Darfur.

Fighting between government-backed militias and rebels has killed about
180,000 in the region. As many as 350,000 people may have died of pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition and more than 1.2 million have been driven from their villages in the past 18 months alone.

Human-rights groups and other observers - including former U.S. secretary
of  state Colin Powell - have condemned the violence as genocide.

Many have urged the UN to deploy a peacekeeping force to quell the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

But discussions at the UN's Security Council have repeatedly been stalled
by political wrangling, as the deaths continue.

On March 29, the Security Council voted to impose a travel ban and freeze
assets of people who commit atrocities in Darfur.

A few days earlier, it unanimously approved a resolution to send 10,000
peacekeepers to southern Sudan - but the troops won't be going to Darfur.

Human Rights

The Religious Right Goes Global
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

So Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and other clerics have finally found something they can agree on:  going after a gay pride festival scheduled to take place in Jersusalem. With all the conflict and upheaval going on in the Mideast, these "leaders" have chosen to take a stand to prevent a parade, film festival and art exhibit.

Religious leaders can play a powerful and unique role in helping to resolve political conflict and bridge divides between people. This was true at all levels during South Africa's transformation to democracy.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the most prominent example, but there were countless others--white and black, from every denomination--who served as mediators both formally and informally, helping the country adapt to change (there were intransigent hold-outs in the religious community too, but fewer of them). Part of it is that these people can communicate across huge political chasms, finding a common ground from shared belief at times when political leaders cannot.  Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe is cut from the same mold and is trying hard, at considerable personal risk, to bring change in that country.

In his own way, I think Ayatollah Sistani has understood what it takes to lead his followers forward, and has acted on it. The same is not true of this gang of Jerusalem clerics, who have found common cause not in helping to get past conflicts, but in promoting bigotry.

March 30, 2005

Progressive Strategy

Stepford Wonks and Security
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Progressive circles in Washington and elsewhere have been anxious and chatty for months over the rise of the conservative movement, its implications for American society and politics, and what progressives can do to fight back. This was kicked off by a NY Times magazine article last year by Matt Bai, which outlined the efforts of a long-time Democrat named Rob Stein to educate progressives, liberals and other Democrats about the media-money-message-matrix on the right. The gist: conservative dominance is not an accident, but an outcome. Knowing this is empowering for those of us who work on security because it places our challenge today in a long-term perspective. It also places 9/11 in the context of a talented and cynical conservative movement at the top of its game.  The right doesn't have a superior narrative on security, what they do have, however is a peerless echo chamber.

Continue reading "Stepford Wonks and Security" »


Kofi Medicine
Posted by The Editors

Derek:  I think Annan's going to survive this.   Norm Coleman is not the ruler of the universe, and having already slapped the UN in the face with the Bolton appointment, I don't see the Administration going after Annan right now.  And the SYG won't go unless he's pushed hard.  Boutros-Ghali fought for his life even after the UN's greatest sympathizers in Washington made it clear that he had lost their confidence.  If anyone really has time on their hands, his book Unvanquished (written after he had been vanquished) makes interesting reading on the U.S.-UN relationship--I actually read it before starting work at the US Mission to the UN on trying to settle our dues.

Pragmatically speaking, there's no question it's in the U.S.'s interests to keep Annan in office. The Administration being up in arms over nepotism is about as hypocritical as Tom Delay and Rick Santorum--both revealed this week to have been plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases involving family members--leading the charge against the trial lawyers.  Kojo's mistake was not calling up Liz Cheney, Michael Powell, Eugene Scalia, Strom Thurmond, Jr., Janet Rehnquist...(for lots more examples look here) to get some advice on how this sort of thing is done.   

More importantly, though he's made a few dumb mistakes, Annan's tenure has, in all, been a very good thing for the U.S.   We installed him to replace Boutrous-Ghali because, while he is of the developing world and has credibility among those delegations, he does not share the anti-Western and anti-Israel bias that so many of them betray.   While the organization is in deep doo, Annan has racked up some successes:  he revived UN peacekeeping and has avoided Srebrenica-style debacles; he's been more of a reformer than any of his predecessors were--and he's genuinely trying to push a lot farther ahead now; he has consistently paid an awful lot of attention to US demands and concerns (see my earlier post about just how pro-US his reform package is). 

Annan has only 18 months left on his term.  From what I can tell, the rest of the world is far less obsessed with Kojogate than we are.  If we push him out, they will do all they can to reward us with someone worse.  I agree that Kofi is weakened, and that his oversights have undermined the UN at a time when the organization can ill afford further scandal.   Rather than trying to run him out of office, the U.S. should focus on pushing through his reform package, and finding a successor that is as U.S.-friendly as Annan but a better leader.   

How 'bout we offer the membership this deal: Annan serves out his term, but in return gets replaced by Bill Clinton?  Everyone will be up in arms because its technically Asia's "turn" at the SYGship in 2008, but those who care about the organization might just recognize this as a way to ensure it survives and thrives. 


Cryin' in my Kofi
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Will the blog kibbitzers stop us before we pun again?

Suzanne's Clinton analogy strikes home for me, and not just because I wuz there.  Again, the question: how can somebody so smart, so politically savvy, such a keen analytic mind not see that this was happening, that it was a danger to him, and that it had to stop?

I'd love to hear Suzanne's take on what was happening in the mind of the SYG.  But I'll also point out that you can name people from Bill Clinton to the just-deposed head of AIG who have found themselves in similar situations.  Not too many pay the ultimate price, Greenberg not withstanding.  And that gives me a chance to strike one of my favorite soapbox poses about international organizations:

They and their staffs put their pants legs on one at a time (or don't, in some cases) just like the national governments, politicians and citizens who love to excoriate them.  We love to put them on pedestals and then knock 'em off.

Corruption is wrong.  Corruption that was winked at by national governments, including ours, is still wrong.  Not wanting to ask too many questions about what your child is up to seems a pretty normal human frailty to me (and my kid is less than a year).  But an organization that does all the stuff the UN does manage to do, in spite of everything, on the budget of one mid-sized American state with about as much corruption as you seem to find in many state governments--that still seems miraculous to me. 

So, speaking of American states, why isn't Norm Coleman as worried about Tom Delay's corrupting effect on Texas and Washington politics, which affects a lot more money and a lot more Americans, as he is about Kofi Annan?


But Should Kofi Go?
Posted by Derek Chollet

Suzanne, I agree with your disappointment in Kofi Annan, especially because of the great admiration I have for him.  That's why I've been struggling with the question if whether, even though the commission found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it would still be better for the UN for him to go? 

I watched most of his press conference yesterday, and I have to say I was not thrilled with his performance.  He seemed too quick to declare victory, even though the commission blamed him for less-than-diligent management and sharply criticized the performance of two of his closest advisers (including for destroying documents).  His "hell no" answer seemed almost too defiant, leaving the impression that he considered himself bigger than his job.  Oddly enough, I would have liked to hear more along the modest lines of what Paul Wolfowitz has been saying about his position at the World Bank--that he is an international civil servant serving at the pleasure of the member states and will work like hell to gain and maintain their confidence, and if he can't, he's gone.  Maybe he's worried that any sign of weakness will snowball out of control, or maybe he's been told (as good crisis consultants have undoubtedly advised) to stand firm and wait until this blows over and the press and his enemies lose interest and move on.  My worry is that there's already too much blood in the water.   I want to be I? 


Kofi Break
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

First read Heather's post below on how we put the progressive foreign policy Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Then a few words on Kofi Annan.  Yes, he was formally exonerated, in that the Volcker panel couldn't find any evidence that he knew Cotecna (a Swiss company that had Kofi's son Kojo on its payroll) was bidding for an oil for food contract.  But he doesn't come off looking great - particularly for neglecting to properly look into the matter when allegations first came up in 1999.  Kojo did not get off as easily.  He was found to have used his UN connections to try to advantage his former employer, to have remained on the take from Cotecna for far more money and far longer than he originally admitted, and to have failed to fully cooperate with investigators.

I feel about Annan the way I felt about Bill Clinton during the impeachment scandal.  Both men have enemies who are out for blood and won't listen to reason.  Even though it found no wrongdoing on the Secretary General's part, Senator Norm Coleman used the report as an excuse to repeat his call for Annan to resign.  But both Clinton and Annan knew full well that their ruthless opponents would stop at nothing to try to take them down.   And both took risks that were flat out irresponsible in terms of putting in jeopardy the institutions they were entrusted with, the principles they stood for, and the people that depended on them.   Its hard to imagine that in light of the meetings that took place involving Kojo and Cotecna at the margins of UN business that Annan didn't have some inkling of what his son was up to.   Given the scrutiny attached to Oil for Food since the late 1990s, Annan should have done better than just look the other way.   As with the impeachment, I am of course glad to see Annan cleared of wrongdoing.  But that doesn't mean I don't think he should have behaved differently given what he knew he and the UN were up against.

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