link to Prof. Stein's home page [has complete list of web pages] Spring 2003

link to ISS 325 War and Revolution syllabus

ISS 325 War & Revolution pages:
link to READINGS-1 page
*link to READINGS-2 page
link to READINGS-3 page ISS 325 SECTION 6
Hyperpower Reading Group 2 -- readings 2 & 11-12
for Test 2 on 17 February 2004

table of contents

Reading #2   #Kuperman2
Alan J. Kuperman  RWANDA IN RETROSPECT. (1994 genocide was fast and efforts to stop it may not have worked).  Foreign Affairs, Jan-Feb 2000 v79 i1 p94

Reading #11

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

U.S. Power and Strategy After Iraq. Foreign Affairs. New York: July/August 2003. Vol. 82, Iss. 4; pg. 60

Reading # 12

Michael J. Glennon

Why the Security Council Failed

From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003

 Reading #2   #top
Alan J. Kuperman  RWANDA IN RETROSPECT. (1994 genocide was fast and efforts to stop it may not have worked).  Foreign Affairs, Jan-Feb 2000 v79 i1 p94
  Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
  Several years after mass killings in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda, the United States is still searching for a comprehensive policy to address deadly communal conflicts. Among Washington policymakers and pundits, only two basic principles have achieved some consensus. First, U.S. ground troops generally should not be used in humanitarian interventions during ongoing civil wars. Second, an exception should be made for cases of genocide, especially where intervention can succeed at low cost. Support for intervention to stop genocide is voiced across most of the political spectrum.
  Despite this amorphous consensus that the United States can and should do more when the next genocide occurs, there has been little hard thinking about just what that would entail or accomplish. A close examination of what a realistic U.S. military intervention could have achieved in the last clear case of genocide this decade, Rwanda, finds insupportable the oft- repeated claim that 5,000 troops deployed at the outset of the killing in April 1994 could have prevented the genocide. This claim was originally made by the U.N.'s commanding general in Rwanda during the genocide and has since been endorsed by members of Congress, human rights groups, and a distinguished panel of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. Although some lives could have been saved by intervention of any size at any point during the genocide, the hard truth is that even a large force deployed immediately upon reports of attempted genocide would not have been able to save even half the ultimate victims.
  Rwandan politics were traditionally dominated by the Tutsi, a group that once made up 17 percent of the population. Virtually all the rest of the population was Hutu, and less than one percent were aboriginal Twa. All three groups lived intermingled throughout the country. During the transition to independence starting in 1959, however, the Hutu seized control in a violent struggle that spurred the exodus of about half the Tutsi population to neighboring states.
  The Hutu themselves were divided into two regional groups. The majority lived in the central and southern part of the country and supported the PARMEHUTU (Parti du mouvement et de l'emancipation des Bahutu), which assumed power upon independence, while a minority lived in the northwest, historically a separate region. During the first decade of independence, Tutsi refugees invaded Rwanda repeatedly, seeking a return to power. The ruling Hutu responded by massacring domestic Tutsi. In 1973, a northwestern Hutu officer, Juvenal Habyarimana, led a coup that shifted political power to his region. Northwestern Hutu came to dominate Rwanda's political, military, and economic life, engendering resentment from other Hutu as well as from the Tutsi. But large-scale violence against domestic Tutsi largely disappeared for 15 years in the absence of any further attempted invasions by refugees.
  Stability began to unravel in October 1990, when an expatriate rebel force composed mainly of Uganda-based Tutsi refugees, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), invaded northern Rwanda. The RPA and its political arm, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), were led by battle-tested soldiers who had fought with the Ugandan guerrilla Yoweri Museveni to overthrow Uganda's government in 1986 before turning their efforts toward home. By early 1993, the rebels had made substantial inroads against the Hutu-dominated Rwandan Armed Forces (or FAR, in the French acronym). This military advance, combined with diplomatic pressure from the international community, compelled Habyarimana to agree to share power in the Arusha accords of August 1993.
  The peacekeepers of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) then arrived, but for eight months the Rwandan leader obstructed and tried to modify the power-sharing provisions. The extremist wing of his northwestern Hutu clique viewed the accords as abject surrender to the Tutsi, who they feared would seize the spoils of rule and seek retribution. Habyarimana attempted to retain power by co-opting the opposition Hutu through bribery and appeals to solidarity against the Tutsi, and he succeeded in splitting off radical factions from the main opposition parties. But he and the extremists also developed a forceful option -- training militias, broadcasting anti-Tutsi hate radio, and plotting to kill moderate Hutu leaders and Tutsi civilians. On April 6, 1994, as Habyarimana appeared to be acquiescing to international pressure to implement the accords, his plane was mysteriously shot down. The genocide plan was put in motion.
  In most areas of Rwanda, violence began on the following day. The government radio station and the extremists' counterpart -- Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines -- urged the Hutu to take vengeance against the Tutsi for their alleged murder of the president. Led by militias, Hutu began to attack the homes of neighboring Tutsi, attempting to rob, rape, and murder them, and often setting fire to their homes. This initial step did not eliminate a high proportion of Tutsi, however, because their attackers were generally poorly armed. The vast majority of Tutsi fled their homes and sought refuge in central gathering places -- churches, schools, hospitals, athletic fields, stadiums, and other accessible spaces. Tutsi often passed through more than one such site to gather in larger concentrations, either voluntarily or at government direction. Within a few days, most of Rwanda's Tutsi had congregated at such centralized sites throughout the country, in groups ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands.
  At first, the assembled Tutsi gained a defensive advantage. The surrounding crowds of militia-led Hutu were generally armed only with swords, spears, and machetes -- or with the traditional masu, a large club studded with nails. By using walls and buildings for defense, Tutsi groups could often fend off attacks merely by throwing rocks. By contrast, individual Tutsi who attempted to flee were often killed immediately by the surrounding Hutu masses or caught and killed at roadblocks. For several days, this produced a standoff. Tutsi living conditions were deteriorating and supplies were dwindling, but most Hutu were unwilling to risk casualties by attacking.
  This situation changed in most of Rwanda within a week, by about April 13, when better-armed Hutu reinforcements -- composed of members of the regular army, the reserves, the Presidential Guard (PG), or the national police -- began arriving at the Tutsi gathering sites. Although these forces were few in number at each site, they were armed with rifles, grenades, or machine guns, which tilted the balance of force. They would typically toss a few grenades on the Tutsi and follow with light-arms fire. Survivors who attempted to flee were usually mowed down by gunfire or caught and killed by the surrounding mob. Militia-led Hutu would then enter the site, hacking to death those still alive. Some Tutsi escaped in the initial mayhem or avoided death by hiding beneath their dead compatriots, but many were later caught at roadblocks and killed on the spot or taken to other central sites to face a similar ordeal. A few lucky Tutsi survived by hiding in places such as pit latrines or the homes of sympathetic Hutu, living to tell their harrowing tales.
  Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the genocide was its speed. According to survivor testimonies gathered by African Rights and Human Rights Watch, the majority of Tutsi gathering sites were attacked and destroyed before April 21, only 14 days into the genocide. Given that half or more of the ultimate Tutsi victims died at these sites, the unavoidable conclusion is that a large portion of Rwanda's Tutsi had been killed by April 21 -- perhaps 250,000 in just over two weeks. That would be the fastest genocide rate in recorded history.
  Despite this generally rapid pace, two factors constrained the speed and extent of the killing in Rwanda. First, Hutu extremists generally avoided large-scale massacres when international observers were present -- as part of a comprehensive strategy to hide the genocide from both the outside world and Rwanda's remaining Tutsi until it could be completed. Wherever Tutsi were congregated under the watch of outside observers, the extremists favored an alternate strategy of slow, stealthy annihilation: Hutu leaders would arrive each day at such sites with a list of up to several dozen names, usually starting with the Tutsi political elite. These Tutsi would be removed under a false pretense such as interrogation before being taken to a remote location and executed. This occurred at several places across Rwanda: Kamarampaka Stadium and the Nyarushishi camp in Cyangugu prefecture, where Red Cross aid workers were present; the Kabgayi Archbishopric in Gitarama, under the watchful eyes of the pope's subordinates; Amahoro stadium in Kigali, where U.N. troops stood guard; and smaller sites in Kigali such as the St. Famille and St. Paul's churches. At such sites, the slower pace of killing meant that the vast majority of Tutsi there were still alive at the end of April, and a good number survived the entire ordeal.
  Second, the killing varied among Rwanda's ten original prefectures. Byumba prefecture in the north was the base of the Tutsi-led rebels, who generally prevented large-scale massacres of Tutsi there. The two prefectures most dominated by Hutu extremists, Gisenyi and Ruhengeri in the northwest, also suffered relatively little killing because much of their Tutsi populations had fled prior to the genocide in response to earlier threats and harassment.
  Two prefectures with high Tutsi populations and strong Hutu opposition movements also initially managed to avoid the genocide. Butare prefecture in the south was governed by a Tutsi prefect who managed to keep matters relatively calm until he was removed from office on April 18. Widespread killing then began with a vengeance, and tens of thousands of Tutsi perished in the next few days. Similarly, Gitarama prefecture, the heart of central Rwandan Hutu opposition to the northwestern Hutu regime, generally resisted implementing the genocide until government forces arrived to spur them on. Large-scale killing commenced there about April 21. Finally, the nature of killing in the capital, Kigali, also differed significantly from that in the rest of the country. During the first two days, a highly organized and thorough assassination campaign was carried out there against opposition politicians and prominent liberals such as human rights advocates. Unlike elsewhere, many of Kigali's initial victims of Hutu extremism were fellow Hutu.
  Civil war also erupted in Kigali almost immediately. On April 7, an RPA battalion that had been stationed in the capital since December 1993 under the Arusha accords demanded a halt to atrocities against civilians -- and then clashed with government forces when its demand was ignored. With the president and the moderate opposition dead, war breaking out in Kigali, and radio broadcasts urging Hutu to kill their neighbors, the capital descended into chaos. Corpses began to pile up, totaling as many as 20,000 during the first week. Unlike in the countryside, however, Tutsi had a decent chance of gaining some refuge by reaching a central gathering site where foreigners stood guard. Although the extremists could not hide the chaos and violence in the capital, they generally avoided wholesale massacres before such witnesses in hopes of averting foreign military intervention.
  By late April, only three weeks after the president's plane crash, almost all the large massacres were finished. The rebels themselves acknowledged on April 29 that "the genocide is almost completed." Human Rights Watch concurs that "in general, the worst massacres had finished by the end of April." By that time, it notes, "perhaps half of the Tutsi population of Rwanda" -- some two-thirds of the ultimate Tutsi victims -- already had been exterminated. Killing of the remaining Tutsi continued at a slower pace for another two and a half months until halted by the rebels' military victory and a belated French-led intervention.
  Precise Tutsi death totals are difficult to determine because of several factors, including the inability to distinguish Tutsi from Hutu corpses. But estimates can be made by subtracting the number of Tutsi survivors from the number living in Rwanda immediately prior to the genocide. Estimated 1994 population figures, which are extrapolated from the 1991 census and account for annual population growth of three percent, indicate that Rwanda's pre-genocide population included approximately 650,000 Tutsi. There is no evidence for other, higher claims.1 After the genocide and civil war, some 150,000 Tutsi survivors were identified by aid organizations. Thus an estimated 500,000 Rwandan Tutsi were killed, more than three-quarters of their population. The number of Hutu killed during the genocide and civil war is even less certain, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to well over 100,000.
  Although U.S. intelligence reports from the period of the genocide remain classified, they probably mirrored those of the international news media, human rights organizations, and the U.N. -- because U.S. intelligence agencies committed virtually no in-country resources to what was considered a tiny state in a region of little strategic value. During the genocide's early phases, the U.S. government actually received most of its information from nongovernmental organizations. A comprehensive review of such international reporting -- by American, British, French, Belgian, and Rwandan media, leading human rights groups, and U.N. officials -- strongly suggests that President Clinton could not have known that a nationwide genocide was under way in Rwanda until about April 20.
  This conclusion is based on five aspects of the reporting during the first two weeks. First, violence was initially depicted in the context of a two-sided civil war -- one that the Tutsi were winning -- rather than a one-sided genocide against the Tutsi. On April 13, the Western press accurately reported that Rwanda's Hutu interim government had fled the capital for refuge in Gitarama and that "the fall of Kigali seems imminent" (Paris Radio France International). When Western troops arrived to evacuate foreign nationals, the Tutsi rebels did not seek assistance but rather demanded that the troops depart immediately so as not to interfere with their imminent victory. The Canadian commander of the U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, also identified the problem as mutual violence, stating on April 15 that "if we see another three weeks of being cooped up and seeing them pound each other" (The Guardian), the U.N. presence would be reassessed. In addition, until April 18 both the government and the rebels stated publicly that the FAR was not participating in massacres. (The government was engaged in a cover-up, and the rebels initially avoided implicating the FAR in the vain hope of winning its allegiance against the extremist Hutu.)
  Second, the violence was reported to be waning when it actually was accelerating. Just four days in, on April 11, The New York Times reported that fighting had "diminished in intensity" and Le Monde wrote three days later that "a strange calm reigns in downtown" Kigali. The commander of Belgian peacekeepers stated that "the fighting has died down somewhat, one could say that it has all but stopped" (Paris Radio France International). On April 17, Dallaire told the BBC that except for an isolated pocket in the north, "the rest of the line is essentially quite quiet." Only on April 18 did a Belgian radio station question this consensus, explaining that the decline in reports of violence was because "most foreigners have left, including journalists."
  Third, most early death counts were gross underestimates and never suggested genocidal proportions. Three days into the killing, on April 10, The New York Times quoted varying estimates of 8,000 or "tens of thousands" dead. But during the second week, media estimates did not rise at all. On April 18, the Times still reported only 20,000 deaths, underestimating the actual carnage at that point by about tenfold. The true scope of the killing emerged only on April 20, when Human Rights Watch estimated that "as many as 100,000 people may have died to date," followed the next day by a Red Cross estimate of perhaps "hundreds of thousands."
  Fourth, the initial focus of international reporting was almost exclusively on Kigali, a relatively small city, and thus failed to indicate the broader scope of violence -- a consequence both of Hutu concealment efforts and of the Western evacuation of expatriates and reporters from the countryside. Although a few early reports of rural violence did trickle out to the West, these indicated military combat, mutual ethnic violence, or criminal looting rather than an extermination campaign. An RPF official told the BBC on April 12 only that "we want to stop the senseless killing that is going on in Kigali." The first international report of a large-scale massacre outside the capital did not emerge until April 16. As late as April 20, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali still described the killings as "mainly in Kigali." This initial obsession with the capital, which contained only four percent of Rwanda's population, obscured the national scope of violence and thus its genocidal intent.
  The rebels' own radio station did not report the nationwide scope of the violence until April 19. American newspapers failed to give any such indication until April 22, when they belatedly reported that fighting bands had reduced "much of the country to chaos" (The New York Times). Many foreign observers still could not conceive that a genocide was under way. On April 23, The Washington Post pondered why only 20,000 refugees had crossed the border -- even though half a million Tutsi had fled their homes - - and reported that aid workers had concluded that "most of the borders have been sealed by the Rwandan Army." Only on April 25 did The New York Times solve the riddle, reporting that violence had "widened into what appears to be a methodical killing of Tutsi across the countryside." The missing refugees "either have been killed or are trying to hide."
  Fifth, no credible and knowledgeable observers, including human rights groups, raised the prospect that genocide was occurring until the end of the second week. In opinion articles published on April 14 and 17, Human Rights Watch gave no hint of an attempted nationwide genocide. The rebels did not use the term until April 17. Human Rights Watch finally raised the prospect in an April 19 letter to the U.N. Security Council. Other international observers remained considerably more cautious. The pope first used the word "genocide" on April 27. The U.S. Committee for Refugees waited until May 2 to urge the Clinton administration to make such a determination. Only on May 4 did Boutros-Ghali finally declare a "real genocide." Thus the earliest President Clinton credibly could have made a determination of attempted genocide was about April 20, 1994 -- two weeks into the violence.
  At the time of Habyarimana's death, Rwanda hosted three military forces -- those of the government, the rebels, and the United Nations. Government forces totaled about 40,000, including the army, the national police, and 1,500 PG troops. But except for the PG and a few other elite battalions, this force was largely hollow, having expanded sixfold in three years responding to the rebel threat. Another 15,000 to 30,000 Hutu were scattered around the country in militias, but many apparently did not possess firearms or ammunition. Rebel arms were more primitive than the FAR's and included few motorized vehicles and no aircraft.
  UNAMIR had about 2,500 peacekeepers, most either in Kigali or in the north near the demilitarized zone. Their presence was subject to the consent of the Rwandan government. Rules of engagement were somewhat ambiguous but were generally interpreted to bar the use of force except in self-defense or in joint operations with Rwandan national police.
  On the first day of violence, the pg executed ten Belgian peacekeepers who were attempting to protect Rwanda's opposition prime minister. These deaths and the emerging chaos in Kigali prompted Western governments to evacuate their nationals. European troops began arriving on April 9 and evacuated several thousand Westerners before departing on April 13. On April 10, Dallaire also requested 5,000 more U.N. troops to halt what he perceived to be mutual killing confined to the capital. Instead, Belgium announced on April 14 that it would be withdrawing its UNAMIR battalion, which triggered unease among the other troop- contributors and led the U.N. Security Council a week later to cut authorized troop levels to a skeleton crew of 270.
  Rebel forces, estimated at 20,000, had been constrained by the Arusha accords to a small area of northern Rwanda; the exception was one authorized Kigali battalion, which the RPF had reinforced clandestinely to about 1,000 troops. When the civil war was renewed on April 7, the northern-based rebels set out to help the stranded battalion in the capital and engage FAR troops elsewhere, making quick progress down Rwanda's entire eastern flank by late April. Thereafter, the war had two stationary fronts, in Kigali and Ruhengeri, until the end of June, as well as a broad mobile front moving westward through southern Rwanda. In just three months, the rebels captured most of the country -- Gitarama on June 9, Kigali on July 4, Butare on July 5, Ruhengeri on July 14, and Gisenyi on July 17 -- before finally declaring a cease-fire on July 18.
  As reports of genocide reached the outside world starting in late April, public outcry spurred the United Nations to reauthorize a beefed-up "UNAMIR II" on May 17. During the following month, however, the U.N. was unable to obtain any substantial contributions of troops and equipment. As a result, on June 22 the Security Council authorized France to lead its own intervention, Operation Turquoise, by which time most Tutsi were already long dead.
  In retrospect, three levels of potential U.S. military intervention warrant analysis: maximum, moderate, and minimal. None would have entailed full-blown nationwide policing or long- term nation-building by American troops. Based on historical experience, full-blown policing would have required some 80,000 to 160,000 personnel -- that is, ten to twenty troops per thousand of population -- an amount far more than logistically or politically feasible. Nation-building would have been left to a follow-on multinational force, presumably under U.N. authorization.
  Maximum intervention would have used all feasible force to halt large-scale killing and military conflict throughout Rwanda. Moderate intervention would have sought to halt some large-scale killing without deploying troops to areas of ongoing civil war, in order to reduce U.S. casualties. Minimal intervention would have relied on air power alone.
  A maximum intervention would have required deployment of a force roughly the size of one U.S. division -- three brigades and supporting units, comprising about 15,000 troops and their equipment -- with rules of engagement permitting the use of deadly force to protect endangered Rwandans. After establishing a base of operations at Kigali airport, the force would have focused on three primary goals: halting armed combat and interposing itself between FAR and RPF forces on the two stationary fronts of the civil war; establishing order in the capital; and finally fanning out to halt large-scale genocidal killing in the countryside. None of these tasks would have been especially difficult or dangerous for properly configured and supported American troops once they were in Rwanda. But transporting such a force 10,000 miles to a landlocked country with limited airfields would have been considerably slower than some retrospective appraisals have suggested.
  The first brigade to arrive would have been responsible for Kigali: coercing the FAR and RPF to halt hostilities, interposing itself between them, and policing the capital. The second brigade would have deployed one battalion in the north to halt the civil war in Ruhengeri and another as a rapid-reaction force in case American troops drew fire. The third brigade, supplemented by a battalion of the second brigade, would have been devoted to halting the killing in the countryside. Such an effort would have required roughly 2,000 troops to halt the war in Kigali, 3,000 to police Kigali, 1,000 to stop the fighting in the north, 1,500 for a rapid-reaction force, and 6,000 to stop the genocide outside Kigali -- a total of about 13,500 troops, in addition to support personnel.
  The time required to deploy such a force would have depended mainly on its weight. A division-size task force built around one brigade each from the 101st Air Assault, 82nd Airborne, and a light army division can be approximated as the average of those divisions -- 26,550 tons, including 200 helicopters and 13,500 personnel. (The Marines could also have substituted for the one of the brigades.) Because Rwanda is a landlocked country in Central Africa, and because speed is critical in stopping a genocide, the entire force would have been airlifted. The rate of airlift would have been constrained by factors such as the delay in loading planes at U.S. bases, excessive demand for air refueling, fuel shortages in Central Africa, and the limited airfield capacity in Kigali and at the potential staging base at Entebbe in neighboring Uganda. At an optimistic rate of 800 tons daily, the task force would have required 33 days to airlift. Personnel, which are much quicker to transport than their cargo, could have been sent first -- but it would have been imprudent to deploy them into the field without sufficient equipment and logistics. Several additional days would also have been required for the delay between the deployment order and start of airlift, for the gradual increase in the capacity of theater airfields unaccustomed to such traffic, and for travel to and unloading at the theater. In addition, the rate of force deployment might have been slowed by the need to use limited airlift capacity for food, medicine, and spare parts to sustain the first troops to arrive. Thus the entire force could not have closed in the theater until about 40 days after the president's order.
  Advance units, however, could have begun operations much sooner. Approximately four days after the order, a battalion or two of Army Rangers could have parachuted in and seized Kigali airport at night. Follow-on troops could have expanded outward from the airfield to establish a secure operating base. Within about two weeks, sufficient troops and equipment could have arrived to halt the fighting, form a buffer between the FAR and the RPF in Kigali and northwest Rwanda, and fully police the capital. Only later, however, could the intervention force have turned in earnest to stopping the genocide in the countryside as helicopters, vehicles, and troops arrived.
  Some observers have suggested that the genocide would have ceased spontaneously throughout Rwanda upon the arrival of Western enforcement troops in Kigali -- or possibly even earlier, upon the mere announcement of a deployment. They claim that the extremists would have halted killing in hopes of avoiding punishment. But these Hutu were already guilty of genocide and could not have imagined that stopping midway would gain them absolution. More likely, the announcement of Western intervention would have accelerated the killing as extremists tried to finish the job and eliminate witnesses while they had a chance. Such was the trend ahead of the RPA advance, as Hutu militias attempted to wipe out remaining Tutsi before the rebels arrived. During the genocide, the ringleaders even trumpeted false reports of an impending Western intervention to help motivate Hutu to complete the killings. Although the Hutu generally held back from mass killing at sites guarded by foreigners to avoid provoking Western intervention, they would have lost this incentive for restraint had such an intervention been announced.
  The 6,000 U.S. troops deployed to the countryside would have been insufficient to establish a full police presence, but they could have found and protected significant concentrations of threatened Rwandans. Ideally, helicopter reconnaissance could have identified vulnerable or hostile groups from the air and then directed rapid response forces to disperse hostile factions and secure the sites. Alternately, ground troops could have radiated out from Kigali in a methodical occupation of the countryside. Displaced Rwandans could have been gathered gradually into perhaps 20 large camps for their protection.
  Depending on the search method, large-scale genocide could have been stopped during the fourth or fifth week after the deployment order, by May 15 to May 25. Interestingly enough, this would have been before the task force's airlift had been completed. Based on the genocide's progression, such an intervention would have saved about 275,000 Tutsi, instead of the 150,000 who actually survived. Maximum credible intervention thus could not have prevented the genocide, as is sometimes claimed, but it could have spared about 125,000 Tutsi from death, some 25 percent of the ultimate toll.
  A more modest intervention would have refrained from deploying U.S. troops to any area in Rwanda in which FAR and RPA troops were actively fighting. In late April, this would have limited U.S. troops to a zone consisting of six prefectures in the south and west of Rwanda. A single reinforced brigade would have sufficed given the reduced territory, population, and threat of potential adversaries. Ideally, the ready brigade of the 101st Air Assault Division would have been designated and supplemented by two additional light-infantry battalions, supporting units for peace operations, and additional helicopters and motorized vehicles: a force of 6,000 personnel, weighing about 10,000 tons.
  For such an action, three main objectives would have been set: first, to deter and prevent entry of organized military forces into the above-mentioned zone; second, to halt large-scale genocide there; and third, to prepare for a handoff to a U.N. force. Strategic airlift would not have relied on Kigali airport, which was still a battleground in the civil war, but rather on neighboring Bujumbura in Burundi and Entebbe in Uganda -- which would have further constrained the deployment rates. Still, facing little military threat in the zone, these troops probably could have stopped large-scale genocide there within three weeks after the deployment order, by May 11, 1994. About 200,000 Tutsi from the zone could have survived, as opposed to about 100,000 from this part of Rwanda who actually did. Elsewhere in Rwanda, genocide would have continued until stopped by the RPA, as occurred, leaving only 50,000 survivors outside the zone of intervention. Moderate intervention thus could have spared about 100,000 Tutsi from death, or 20 percent of the ultimate toll. Surprisingly, moderate intervention in this case would have saved almost as many lives as the maximum alternative, because by avoiding combat areas the interveners could have turned sooner to counter genocide in the zone where most Tutsi lived.
  The third alternative, a minimal intervention, would have attempted to mitigate the genocide without introducing U.S. ground troops into Rwanda, relying on airpower alone from bases in neighboring countries. For example, the United States could have threatened to bomb the extremist ringleaders and the FAR's military assets unless the killing was halted -- and then followed through if necessary. But if the threat alone failed to coerce, U.S. pilots would have had difficulty locating the ringleaders or hitting FAR positions without killing rebels as well. Even if air coercion had succeeded in Rwanda, a follow-on ground force would have been needed to keep the peace. Alternatively, the United States could have pursued airborne policing, which would have attempted to interdict physically and intimidate psychologically the perpetrators of the genocide throughout Rwanda. Significant numbers of U.S. attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft could have patrolled Rwanda daily from bases in neighboring countries. If armed factions threatening large groups of civilians were spotted, air-to-ground fire could have dispersed the assailants, at least temporarily. Such air patrols would have continued until deployment of non-American ground troops or until the RPF won the civil war. But airborne policing could not have prevented smaller acts of violence in the meantime.
  Another minimal approach would have been to help the Rwandan Tutsi escape to refugee camps in bordering states -- Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, or Zaire -- by using helicopter patrols to ensure safe passage. Rwanda has only about 600 miles of paved roads. Assuming a team of 20 helicopters with standard maintenance needs, five helicopters could have been kept aloft at a time, with each responsible for 120 miles of roadway. If these helicopters flew at a ground speed of 120 miles per hour, each section of roadway could have been patrolled approximately every hour. Airborne broadcasts and leaflets would have directed the Tutsi to the exit routes. Air-to-ground fire would have broken up roadblocks and dispersed armed gangs to ensure the free flow of refugees. But this strategy could not have saved those Tutsi unable to reach major roads and would have caused a major refugee crisis.
  Each of the airpower options would have had drawbacks, including the risk of losing airborne personnel to anti-aircraft fire, but each also had the potential to save tens of thousands of Tutsi. Coercion might have stopped the genocide quickly, potentially facilitating a cease-fire in the civil war. Airborne policing could have allowed more Tutsi to be saved by France's Operation Turquoise or a similar follow-up deployment. Free passage also would have kept more Tutsi alive, albeit as refugees, and they might have returned home quickly after the RPF's victory. About 300,000 Tutsi still were alive in late April 1994, of whom about 150,000 subsequently perished. If minimum intervention had been able to avert half these later killings, it could have spared about 75,000 Tutsi from death, or 15 percent of the genocide's ultimate toll.
  Many observers have claimed that timely intervention would have prevented the genocide. Some even asserted at first that UNAMIR itself could have done so, although most now acknowledge that the peacekeepers lacked sufficient arms, equipment, and supplies. Conventional wisdom still holds that 5,000 well-armed reinforcements could have prevented the genocide had they been deployed promptly when the killing began -- and that the West's failure to stop the slaughter resulted exclusively from a lack of will. Rigorous scrutiny of six prominent variations of this assertion, however, finds all but one dubious.
  Human Rights Watch makes the boldest claim: Diplomatic intervention could have averted the genocide without additional military deployment. These advocates contend that a threat from the international community to halt aid to any Rwandan government that committed genocide would have emboldened Hutu moderates to face down the extremists and extinguish violence. As proof, they note that moderate FAR officers appealed for support from Western embassies during the first days of violence, and that the intensity of massacres waned after the West intensified its condemnations in late April.
  However, this argument ignores the fact that virtually all of Rwanda's elite military units were controlled by extremist Hutu, led by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora. These forces demonstrated their power and ruthlessness by killing Rwanda's top political moderates during the first two days of violence. By contrast, moderate Hutu officers had virtually no troops at their disposal. The moderates avoided challenging the extremists not because of a lack of Western rhetorical support but because of mortal fear for themselves and their families. This fear was justified given that the extremists stamped out any nascent opposition throughout the genocide -- coercing and bribing moderate politicians, removing them from office or killing them if they did not yield, shipping moderate soldiers to the battlefront, and executing civilian opponents of genocide as "accomplices" of the rebels. The decline in massacres in late April is explained simply by the dwindling number of Tutsi still alive. International condemnation did little except compel extremists to try harder to hide the killing and disguise their rhetoric. Even these superficial gestures were directed mainly at persuading France to renew its military support for the anti-Tutsi war -- hardly an indication of moderation.
  The only way that the army's Hutu moderates could have reduced the killing of Tutsi civilians would have been to join forces with the Tutsi rebels to defeat the Hutu extremists. This was militarily feasible, given that the Tutsi rebels alone defeated both the FAR and the Hutu militias in just three months -- but it was politically implausible. By April, Rwanda had already been severely polarized along ethnic lines by four years of civil war, the calculated efforts of propagandists, and the October 1993 massacre of Hutu by Tutsi in neighboring Burundi. Even moderate Hutu politicians once allied with the rebels had come to fear Tutsi hegemony. Although the moderate Hutu officers sincerely favored a cease-fire and a halt to the genocide, they could not realistically have defected to the Tutsi rebels -- at least until the FAR's defeat became imminent.
  The second claim is that 5,000 U.N. troops deployed immediately upon the outbreak of violence could have prevented the genocide. But this assertion is problematic on three grounds. It assumes such troops could have been deployed virtually overnight. In reality, even a U.S. light-infantry ready brigade would have required about a week after receiving orders to begin significant operations in the theater and several more days for all its equipment to arrive. Further delays would have resulted from reinforcing the brigade with heavy armor or helicopters, or from assembling a multinational force. Even if ordered on April 10, as requested at the time by Dallaire, reinforcements probably could not have begun major operations to stop genocide much before April 20. Moreover, it is unrealistic to argue that urgent intervention should have been launched on April 10 -- given that the international community did not realize genocide was under way until at least ten days later.
  Intervention advocates, such as the Carnegie Commission, also erroneously characterize the progression of the genocide. The commission claims that there was a "window of opportunity E from about April 7 to April 21" when intervention "could have stemmed the violence in and around the capital [and] prevented its spread to the countryside." In reality, killing started almost immediately in most of Rwanda, and by April 21, the last day of this purported "window," half the ultimate Tutsi victims already were dead. Even if reinforcements had arrived overnight in Kigali, Dallaire was unaware of genocide outside the capital and thus would not have deployed troops to the countryside in time to prevent the massacres.
  Furthermore, 5,000 troops would have been insufficient to stop genocide without running risks of failure or high casualties. Only 1,000 troops would have been available for policing Kigali - - some three troops per thousand residents, which is grossly inadequate for a city in the throes of genocide. In the countryside, U.S. commanders would have faced a stark choice: either concentrate forces for effective action, leaving most of the country engulfed in killing; or spread forces thin, leaving troops vulnerable to attack. To avoid such painful choices in the past, U.S. military planners have insisted on deploying more than 20,000 troops for interventions in the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Haiti -- all countries with populations smaller than Rwanda's.
  A third claim is that U.N. headquarters had three months' advance notice of genocide and could have averted the killing simply by authorizing raids on weapons caches. Critics cite the so-called genocide fax -- a January 11, 1994, cable from Dallaire to U.N. headquarters in New York that conveyed a Hutu informant's warning that extremists were planning to provoke civil war, kill Belgian peacekeepers to spur their withdrawal, and slaughter the Tutsi with an Interahamwe militia of 1,700 troops that the informant was training. The cable also reported an arms cache containing at least 135 weapons, which Dallaire wanted to seize within 36 hours.
  Dallaire, however, raised doubts about the informant's credibility in this cable, stating that he had "certain reservations on the suddenness of the change of heart of the informant.E Possibility of a trap not fully excluded, as this may be a set-up." Raising further doubt, the cable was the first and last from Dallaire containing such accusations, according to U.N. officials. Erroneous warnings of coups and assassinations are not uncommon during civil wars. U.N. officials were prudent to direct Dallaire to confirm the allegations with Habyarimana himself, based on the informant's belief that "the president does not have full control over all elements of his old party/faction." Dallaire never reported any confirmation of the plot.
  Even if the U.N. had acquiesced to Dallaire in January 1994, it is unlikely the weapons cache could have been seized or that doing so would have prevented the genocide. The U.N. actually did reverse itself barely three weeks later, on February 4, 1994, granting Dallaire authorization to raid weapons depots. But his forces failed in every attempt, even after an informant identified three new caches on February 7. By mid-March, six weeks after receiving authorization, the peacekeepers had captured only a paltry total of 16 weapons and 100 grenades; their rules required cooperating with Rwandan police, who tipped off the extremists. If the U.N. had permitted Dallaire to act without consulting local authorities, Kigali could have responded under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter (which governs consensual peacekeeping operations) by simply expelling the force. The peacekeepers also were vulnerable to violent retaliation, as they were dispersed and still lacked armored personnel carriers at the time. In addition, Dallaire's cable identified a cache of only 135 weapons -- a tiny fraction of the 20,000 rifles and 500,000 machetes imported by the government over the preceding two years. Even had Dallaire managed to seize this cache without prompting expulsion or retaliation, he could not have derailed the wider genocide plot without significant reinforcements.
  A fourth claim holds that quickly jamming or destroying Hutu radio transmitters when the violence broke out could have prevented the genocide. A Belgian peacekeeper who monitored broadcasts testified, "I am convinced that, if we had managed to liquidate [Radio Mille Collines], we could perhaps have avoided, or in any case limited, the genocide." A human rights advocate characterized the jamming as "the one action that, in retrospect, might have done the most to save Rwandan lives." But radio broadcasts were not essential to perpetuating or directing the killing. By April, Rwandans had been sharply polarized along ethnic lines by civil war, propaganda, and recent massacres in Burundi. Habyarimana's assassination was a sufficient trigger for many extremist Hutu to begin killing. Moderate Hutu were usually swayed not by radio broadcasts but by threats and physical intimidation from extremist authorities. Furthermore, orchestration of the genocide relied not merely on radio broadcasts but on the government's separate military communications network. Silencing the radio might have had most impact prior to the genocide, when broadcasts were fostering polarization, but such action would have been rejected at the time as a violation of sovereignty. Even if hate radio had been preventively extinguished, the extremists possessed and used other means to foster hatred.
  The fifth variant of the intervention argument is that the Western forces sent to evacuate foreign nationals during the first week could have restored order in Kigali -- and thereby prevented the genocide had they merely been given the orders to do so. Just four days after Habyarimana's assassination, some 1,000 lightly armed Western evacuation troops, mainly French and Belgian soldiers, had arrived in Kigali, where Belgium's 400- troop UNAMIR contingent was already stationed. Another 1,100 reserves were less than two hours away by air. But it is doubtful that this small force, lacking the right equipment or logistical support, could have quickly quashed violence in the capital -- or that doing so would have stopped the genocide elsewhere. The Western evacuators had to commit half their force to guarding the airport at the town's outskirts and a few key assembly points, leaving few available for combat. In addition, coordinated action would have been inhibited by the widespread perception that France and Belgium sympathized with opposite sides in the civil war. Moreover, Kigali was defended by 2,000 elite Rwandan army troops and several thousand regulars equipped with heavy weapons, another 2,000 armed fighters of the Hutu militia, and 1,000 national police. Also located there were more than 1,000 Tutsi rebels who had access to surface-to-air missiles and had explicitly threatened to attack the evacuators if they extended their mission. Even if the small Western force had somehow halted the violence in Kigali, it lacked the equipment and logistics to deploy troops quickly to the countryside. Rural killing probably would have continued unless the ringleaders were captured and coerced to call off the slaughter. Such a search would not have been a quick or simple matter for any force, as demonstrated by the failed search for the Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid by U.S. troops in 1993. Ill-equipped evacuation troops could have wasted weeks looking for the ringleaders while genocide continued at a torrid pace in the countryside, where 95 percent of Rwandans lived.
  The sixth claim is most realistic: Had UNAMIR been reinforced several months prior to the outbreak of violence, as Belgium urged at the time, genocide might have been averted. More troops with the proper equipment, a broad mandate, and robust rules of engagement could have deterred the outbreak of killing or at least snuffed it out early. Such reinforcement would have required about 3,500 additional high-quality troops in Kigali, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, adequate logistics, and the authorization to use force to seize weapons and ensure security without consulting Rwandan police. This would have been the 5,000-troop force that Dallaire envisioned -- but one deployed prior to the genocide.
  Under the U.N.'s peacekeeping rules, Rwanda's government would have had to consent to such a change -- and probably would have. Prior to the genocide, its cabinet still was dominated by the Hutu opposition moderates who had negotiated the Arusha accords, which called for a neutral international force to "guarantee [the] overall security of the country." The U.N. Security Council had watered down implementation of this provision, authorizing UNAMIR only to "contribute to the security of the city of Kigali." As tensions mounted in early 1994, the Rwandan government again asked the U.N. to dismantle armed groups, but the peacekeepers were too weak. Belgium pleaded for reinforcements and a new mandate from the Security Council in January and February 1994 on the grounds that UNAMIR could not maintain order. But the United States and Britain blocked this initiative before it could even reach a vote, citing the costs of more troops and the danger that expanding the mission could endanger peacekeepers -- as had occurred in Somalia the previous October.
  The Rwandan government, however, almost certainly would have welcomed a reinforcement of UNAMIR prior to the genocide. Five thousand troops in the capital would have meant 16 troops for every thousand Rwandans, a ratio historically sufficient to quell severe civil disorders. Such a force might well have deterred the genocide plot. Failing that, well-equipped peacekeepers could have protected moderate Hutu leaders and Tutsi in the capital and captured some of the extremists during the first days of violence, thereby diminishing the chance of large-scale massacres in the countryside. Indeed, such early reinforcement of UNAMIR is the only proposed action that would have had a good chance of averting the genocide.
  The most obvious lesson of Rwanda's tragedy is that intervention is no substitute for prevention. Although the 1994 genocide represents a particularly tough case for intervention in some respects -- such as its rapid killing and inaccessible location - - it would have been a relatively easy mission in other respects, including the limited strength of potential opponents. Yet even an ideal intervention in Rwanda would have left hundreds of thousands of Tutsi dead. To avert such violence over the long term, there is no alternative to the time-consuming business of diplomacy and negotiation. Tragically, international diplomatic efforts in Rwanda prior to the genocide were ill conceived and counterproductive.
  Whether pursuing prevention or intervention, policymakers must use their imagination to better anticipate the behavior of foreign actors. In Rwanda, Western officials failed to foresee the genocide, despite numerous warning signs, in part because the act was so immoral that it was difficult to picture. Increased awareness of such risks demands that any peacekeeping force deployed preventively to a fragile area be adequately sized and equipped to stop incipient violence -- rather than be sent as a lightly armed tripwire that serves mainly to foster a false sense of security. If the West is unwilling to deploy such robust forces in advance, it must refrain from coercive diplomacy aimed at compelling rulers to surrender power overnight. Otherwise, such rulers may feel so threatened by the prospect of losing power that they opt for genocide or ethnic cleansing instead. Western diplomacy that relies mainly on the threat of economic sanctions or bombing has provoked a tragic backlash not just in Rwanda, but also in Kosovo and East Timor over the last few years as local rulers opted to inflict massive violence rather than hand over power or territory to lifelong enemies. In each case, Western military intervention arrived too late to prevent the widespread atrocities.
  Obviously, time is of the essence once large-scale attacks against civilians begin. Most such violence can be perpetrated in a matter of weeks, as was demonstrated in Rwanda, Kosovo, and East Timor. Despite this reality, domestic politics often prevents an American president from quickly launching a major intervention. Thus U.S. defense planners should be more creative in developing limited alternatives. The case of Rwanda underscores that lighter intervention options that avoid combat areas and focus mainly on stopping violence against civilians could save almost as many lives if pursued seriously and expeditiously. Rapid responses would be facilitated by the development of pre-prepared plans for known trouble spots and by better coordinating intelligence from available sources, including nongovernmental organizations.
  That said, tradeoffs are inevitable if the United States hopes to increase its effectiveness in humanitarian military intervention. To deploy troops faster, additional "ultra-light" units (like the Tenth Mountain Division) would have to be created, either by converting existing heavier units intended for major contingencies or by increasing defense spending. The Pentagon's recent proposal to trim some heavy mechanized forces down to medium-weight units would not solve the problem, because they would still be too heavy for a quick airlift. Lighter units probably could save more lives abroad but would also be subject to more casualties and potential failure. Such tradeoffs should be made only after rigorous debate, which to date has been virtually absent in the United States.
  Finally, no policy of humanitarian military intervention should be implemented without a sober consideration of its unintended consequences. Recent interventions, whether in Bosnia, Kosovo, or East Timor, have been motivated by the impulse to provide humanitarian aid to a party visibly suffering in an internal conflict. But intervention in those cases also resulted in the weaker sides being bolstered militarily. This pattern creates perverse incentives for weaker parties in such conflicts to reject compromise and escalate fighting because they expect foreign intervention or hope to attract it. The result is often tragedy, as intervention arrives too little or too late to protect civilians. Thus a policy of intervening to relieve humanitarian emergencies that stem from internal conflicts may actually increase the number and extent of such emergencies -- a classic instance of moral hazard.
  Inevitably, decisions on whether and how to intervene in specific cases will be caught up in politics. But this challenge should not deter hard thinking on when and how such intervention can be most beneficial -- or detrimental. If Rwanda demonstrates nothing else, it is that thousands of lives are at stake in such decisions.
  1 Some accounts claim that one million Tutsi lived in Rwanda before the genocide, making up 12 percent of the population, which would correspond with the estimate of 850,000 killed. But historical demographic data suggest otherwise. In 1956, a Belgian census counted almost 17 percent of the population as Tutsi, but half of those fled or died in the violence that accompanied independence. The remaining 9 percent subsequently had a lower fertility rate than the Hutu, reducing the Tutsi population to the 8 percent reported in the 1991 census.
  Alan J. Kuperman is MacArthur Transnational Security Fellow at MIT's Center for International Studies and Fellow of the Institute for the Study of World Politics.
  Mag.Coll.: 101E1775 Article A58588232
  Copyright © 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Combine this WP editorial with the Kuperman peace on Rwanda [Note this is a short reading not in the Custom Anthology]
 The Lesson of Rwanda

 Friday , October 13, 2000 ; Page A38
 OVER THE course of 13 weeks in 1994, at least a half-million people were massacred in Rwanda's genocide. It was a drawn-out, low-tech butchery, much of it perpetrated with knives and machetes, and the killers often interrupted their work to rape and torture their victims. A small outside force--perhaps as few as 5,000 soldiers--could have stopped the slaughter in its early stages. The failure of the United States and other powers to act is one of the most shocking episodes of the past decade. But when Rwanda came up during Wednesday's presidential debate, neither candidate seemed to have grasped even its most basic lessons.
 Gov. George W. Bush got the first chance to reflect upon Rwanda. He declared that the Clinton administration was right not to send U.S. troops to stop the killing, and that in the future there should be early warning systems in places where genocide might happen. An aspiring president ought to know that, in the case of Rwanda, there was no lack of early warning. Beginning in January 1994, three months before the genocide started, the Canadian general in charge of the U.N. contingent in Rwanda sent five cables to U.N. headquarters in New York warning that a bloodbath was brewing and begging for reinforcements. In February Belgium pressed the same case at the United Nations too. All the major powers, including the United States, were well aware of these warnings. They ignored them.
 Next, Vice President Al Gore commented. He said, rightly, that "in retrospect we were too late getting in there. We would have saved more lives if we had acted earlier." But Mr. Gore also sought to imply that the administration had not failed completely to act: "We did actually send troops into Rwanda to help with the humanitarian relief measures." But U.S. troops did not arrive in Rwanda until July, after the killing was finished. Mr. Gore also said the United States was right not to have "put our troops in to try to separate the parties." But that was not what a Rwanda intervention need have entailed. In much of the country, the genocide did not involve two armed bands fighting pitched battles. It involved thugs killing unarmed civilians.
 Mr. Gore went on to say, "In the Balkans, we had allies, NATO, ready, willing and able to go and carry a big part of the burden. In Africa, we did not." This is not true either. In Rwanda, the United States could have built on help from the United Nations, which had a force of 2,800--before it was cut back in April, partly at American urging. In May, after the massacre had begun, the United Nations assembled an African force to go to Rwanda, and asked the United States to supply 50 armored vehicles. But the United States failed to deliver these for weeks, arguing over who would provide spare parts and maintenance.
 The few U.N. troops who remained in Rwanda saved about 30,000 lives simply by stationing small groups of soldiers outside a stadium, a hotel and a few other places where Tutsis were taking shelter. It did not take much to turn back the machete-wielding youth. It would not have taken much, U.N. commanders believed, to have saved many thousands more.
 It is bad enough that Mr. Gore, who claimed to espouse a foreign policy based on values, half-defends a failure for which even President Clinton has apologized. It is worse that Mr. Bush does not even see a policy failure in the way America allowed the genocide to unfold. The Texas governor said his foreign policy would be based on national interest alone; he further suggested that events in sub-Saharan Africa seemed to him remote from U.S. interests. But it is not in the national interest for America to lose its ability to lead; and that is what will happen if this nation's leaders see no urgency in preventing a preventable genocide.
  © 2000 The Washington Post   Michigan State University Libraries General Reference Center Gold


Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

U.S. Power and Strategy After Iraq. Foreign Affairs. New York: July/August 2003. Vol. 82, Iss. 4; pg. 60


The world is off balance. If anyone doubted the overwhelming nature of U.S. military power, Iraq settled the issue. With the United States representing nearly half of the world's military expenditures, no countervailing coalition can create a traditional military balance of power. Not since Rome has one nation loomed so large above the others. Indeed, the word "empire" has come out of the closet. Respected analysts on both the left and the right are beginning to refer to "American empire" approvingly as the dominant narrative of the twenty-first century. And the military victory in Iraq seems only to have confirmed this new world order.

Americans, however, often misunderstand the nature of their power and tend to extrapolate the present into the future. A little more than a decade ago, the conventional wisdom held that the United States was in decline. In 1992, a presidential candidate won votes by proclaiming that the Cold War was over and Japan had won. Now Americans are told that their unipolar moment will last and that they can do as they will because others have no choice but to follow. But focusing on the imbalance of military power among states is misleading. Beneath that surface structure, the world changed in profound ways during the last decades of the twentieth century. September 11, 2001, was like a flash of lightning on a summer evening that displayed an altered landscape, leaving U.S. policymakers and analysts still groping in the dark, still wondering how to understand and respond.


George W. Bush entered office committed to a realist foreign policy that would focus on great powers such as China and Russia and eschew nation building in failed states of the less-developed world. China was to be "a strategic competitor," not the "strategic partner" of Bill Clinton's era, and the United States was to take a tougher stance with Russia. But in September 2002, the Bush administration issued a new national security strategy, declaring that "we are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies falling into the hands of the embittered few." Instead of strategic rivalry, "today, the world's great powers find ourselves on the same side -- united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos." Not only was Chinese President Jiang Zemin welcomed to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, but Bush's strategy embraces "the emergence of a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China." And it commits the United States to increasing its development assistance and efforts to combat hivffiaids, because "weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interest as strong states." Moreover, these policies will be "guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone." How the world turned in one year! And, between the lines, Iraq came to be viewed as the new strategy's first test, even though another member of the "axis of evil" was much closer to developing nuclear weapons.

The rhetoric of the new strategy attracted criticism at home and abroad. The trumpeting of American primacy violated Teddy Roosevelt's advice about speaking softly when you carry a big stick. The United States will remain number one, but there was no need to rub others' noses in it. The neo-Wilsonian promises to promote democracy and freedom struck some traditional realists as dangerously unbounded. The statements about cooperation and coalitions were not followed by equal discussion of institutions. And the much-criticized assertion of a right to preempt could be interpreted either as routine self-defense or as a dangerous precedent.

These criticisms notwithstanding, the Bush administration was correct in its change of focus. The distinguished historian John Lewis Gaddis has compared the new strategy to the seminal days that redefined American foreign policy in the 1940s. Although that comparison may be exaggerated, the new strategy does respond to the deep trends in world politics that were illuminated by the events of September 11. Globalization, for instance, has proved itself to be more than just an economic phenomenon; it has been wearing away at the natural buffers that distance and two oceans have always provided to the United States. September 11 thus dramatized how dreadful conditions in poor, weak countries halfway around the world can have terrible consequences for the United States.

The information revolution and technological change have elevated the importance of transnational issues and have empowered nonstate actors to play a larger role in world politics. A few decades ago, instantaneous global communications were out of the financial reach of all but governments or large organizations such as multinational corporations or the Catholic Church. At the same time, the United States and the Soviet Union were secretly spending billions of dollars on overhead space photography. Now inexpensive commercial satellite photos are available to anyone, and the Internet enabled 1,500 nongovernmental organizations to inexpensively coordinate the "battle of Seattle" that disrupted the World Trade Organization's meeting in December 1999.

Most worrying are the effects of these deep trends on terrorism. Terrorism itself is nothing new, but the "democratization of technology" over the past decades has been making terrorists more lethal and more agile, and the trend is likely to continue. In the twentieth century, a pathological individual -- a Hitler or a Stalin -- needed the power of a government to be able to kill millions of people. If twenty-first-century terrorists get hold of weapons of mass destruction, this devastating power will for the first time become available to deviant groups and individuals. Traditional state-centric analysts think that punishing states that sponsor terrorism can solve the problem. Such punitive measures might help, but in the end they cannot stop individuals who have already gained access to destructive technology. After all, Timothy McVeigh in the United States and Aum Shinrikyo in Japan were not sponsored by states. And in 2001, one surprise attack by a transnational terrorist group killed more Americans than the state of Japan did in 1941. The "privatization of war" is not only a major historical change in world politics; its potential impact on U.S. cities could drastically alter the nature of American civilization. This shifting ground is what the new Bush strategy gets right.


What the Bush administration has not yet sorted out is how to go about implementing its new approach. At first glance, it appears that the Iraq war settled the issue. But the war can be interpreted as the last chapter of the twentieth century rather than the first chapter of the twenty-first. Not only was it unfinished business in the minds of its planners, but it also rested on more than a decade of unfulfilled UN Security Council resolutions. A number of close observers -- such as British Ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock -- believe that with a little more patience and diplomacy, the administration could have obtained another resolution that would have focused on the sins of Saddam Hussein rather than allowing France and Russia to turn the problem into one of American power. If that close call had come out differently, the continuity with the past would be clearer today. Moreover, the administration is currently faced with another dangerous dictator who is months rather than years away from having nuclear weapons and thus fits the criteria of the new strategy even more closely than Iraq did. North Korea may prove to be the real test of how to implement the new strategy. Thus far, the Bush administration has responded cautiously and in close consultation with U.S. allies. Deterrence seems to have worked, although in this case it was North Korea's conventional capacity to wreak havoc on Seoul in the event of war that deterred U.S. military action.

There is also a larger struggle involved in the debate over how to implement the new strategy. The administration is deeply divided between those who want to escape the constraints of the post-1945 institutional framework that the United States helped to build and those who believe U.S. goals are better achieved by working within that framework. The neoconservative "Wilsonians of the right" and the "Jacksonian unilateralists" (to adapt terms coined by historian Walter Russell Mead) are pitted against the more multilateral and cautious traditional realists. The tug of war within the administration was visible both in the strategy document and in the run-up to the Iraq war. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld disparaged the UN as a "false comfort," traditional realist Republicans such as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker urged a multilateral approach, and President Bush's September 12, 2002, speech to the UN represented a temporary victory for the coalition of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The failure to obtain a second Security Council resolution and the success of the war, however, have ensured the ascendancy of the Jacksonians and the neo-Wilsonians.

Earlier, in 2001, the columnist Charles Krauthammer presaged their vision when he argued for a "new unilateralism," one in which the United States refuses to play the role of a "docile international citizen" and unashamedly pursues its own ends. For most analysts, unilateralism and multilateralism are simply two ends of a spectrum of diplomatic tactics; few leaders follow one or the other approach exclusively. But the new unilateralists go a step further. They believe that today Washington faces new threats of such dire nature that it must escape the constraints of the multilateral structures it helped build after World War II. In their view, the implementation of a new strategy requires more radical change. As Philip Stephens of the Financial Times put it, they would like to reverse Dean Acheson's famous title and be "present at the destruction." They deliberately resisted calling upon NATO after Washington's allies invoked Article 5, offering collective self-defense in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. They sought to minimize the role of the UN in Iraq before and after the war, and they now talk of a "disaggregation" approach to Europe rather than traditional support for European union. In Rumsfeld's words, the issues should determine the coalitions, not vice versa. Some advocates do not shrink from an explicitly imperial approach. In the words of William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, "if people want to say we are an imperial power, fine."


Although the new unilateralists are right that maintaining U.S. military strength is crucial and that pure multilateralism is impossible, they make important mistakes that will ultimately undercut the implementation of the new security strategy. Their first mistake is to focus too heavily on military power alone. U.S. military power is essential to global stability and is a critical part of the response to terrorism. But the metaphor of war should not blind Americans to the fact that suppressing terrorism will take years of patient, unspectacular civilian cooperation with other countries in areas such as intelligence sharing, police work, tracing financial flows, and border controls. For example, the American military success in Afghanistan dealt with the easiest part of the problem: toppling an oppressive and weak government in a poor country. But all the precision bombing destroyed only a small fraction of al Qaeda's network, which retains cells in some 60 countries. And bombing cannot resolve the problem of cells in Hamburg or Detroit. Rather than proving the new unilateralists' point, the partial nature of the success in Afghanistan illustrates the continuing need for cooperation. The best response to transnational terrorist networks is networks of cooperating government agencies.

Power is the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants, and the changes sketched out above have made its distribution more complex than first meets the eye. The agenda of world politics has become like a three-dimensional chess game in which one can win only by playing vertically as well as horizontally. On the top board of classical interstate military issues, the United States is likely to remain the only superpower for years to come, and it makes sense to speak in traditional terms of unipolarity or hegemony. However, on the middle board of interstate economic issues, the distribution of power is already multipolar. The United States cannot obtain the outcomes it wants on trade, antitrust, or financial regulation issues without the agreement of the European Union (EU), Japan, and others. It makes little sense to call this distribution "American hegemony." And on the bottom board of transnational issues, power is widely distributed and chaotically organized among state and nonstate actors. It makes no sense at all to call this a "unipolar world" or an "American empire." And, as Bush's new doctrine makes clear, this is precisely the set of issues now intruding into the world of grand strategy. Yet many of the new unilateralists, particularly the Jacksonians, focus almost entirely on the top board of classical military solutions. They mistake the necessary for the sufficient. They are one-dimensional players in a three-dimensional game. In the long term, their approach to implementing the strategy guarantees losing.


The willingness of other countries to cooperate in dealing with transnational issues such as terrorism depends in part on their own self-interest, but also on the attractiveness of American positions. Soft power lies in the ability to attract and persuade rather than coerce. It means that others want what the United States wants, and there is less need to use carrots and sticks. Hard power, the ability to coerce, grows out of a country's military and economic might. Soft power arises from the attractiveness of a country's culture, political ideals, and policies. When U.S. policies appear legitimate in the eyes of others, American soft power is enhanced. Hard power will always remain crucial in a world of nation-states guarding their independence, but soft power will become increasingly important in dealing with the transnational issues that require multilateral cooperation for their solution.

One of Rumsfeld's "rules" is that "weakness is provocative." In this, he is correct. As Osama bin Laden observed, it is best to bet on the strong horse. The effective demonstration of military power in the second Gulf War, as in the first, might have a deterrent as well as a transformative effect in the Middle East. But the first Gulf War, which led to the Oslo peace process, was widely regarded as legitimate, whereas the legitimacy of the more recent war was contested. Unable to balance American military power, France, Germany, Russia, and China created a coalition to balance American soft power by depriving the United States of the legitimacy that might have been bestowed by a second UN resolution. Although such balancing did not avert the war in Iraq, it did significantly raise its price. When Turkish parliamentarians regarded U.S. policy as illegitimate, they refused Pentagon requests to allow the Fourth Infantry Division to enter Iraq from the north. Inadequate attention to soft power was detrimental to the hard power the United States could bring to bear in the early days of the war. Hard and soft power may sometimes conflict, but they can also reinforce each other. And when the Jacksonians mistake soft power for weakness, they do so at their own risk.

One instructive usage of soft power that the Pentagon got right in the second Gulf War has been called the "weaponization of reporters." Embedding reporters with forward military units undercut Saddam's strategy of creating international outrage by claiming that U.S. troops were deliberately killing civilians. Whereas CNN framed the issues in the first Gulf War, the diffusion of information technology and the rise of new outlets such as al Jazeera in the intervening decade required a new strategy for maintaining soft power during the second. Whatever other issues it raises, embedding reporters in frontline units was a wise response to changing times.


Proponents of the neoconservative strand in the new unilateralism are more attentive to some aspects of soft power. Their Wilsonian emphasis on democracy and human rights can help make U.S policies attractive to others when these values appear genuine and are pursued in a fair-minded way. The human rights abuses of Saddam's regime have thus become a major post hoc legitimization of the war. Moreover, as indicated earlier, the Bush administration has made wise investments in American soft power by increasing development aid and offering assistance in the campaign against HIV/AIDS. But although they share Woodrow Wilson's desire to spread democracy, the neo-Wilsonians ignore his emphasis on institutions. In the absence of international institutions through which others can feel consulted and involved, the imperial imposition of values may neither attract others nor produce soft power.

Both the neo-Wilsonian and the Jacksonian strands of the new unilateralism tend to prefer alliance a la carte and to treat international institutions as toolboxes into which U.S. policymakers can reach when convenient. But this approach neglects the ways in which institutions legitimize disproportionate American power. When others feel that they have been consulted, they are more likely to be helpful. For example, NATO members are doing much of the work of keeping the peace in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Nato works through many committees to achieve the standardization and interoperability that allow coalitions of the willing to be more than ad hoc groupings. Without regular institutional consultation, the United States may find others increasingly reluctant to put tools into the toolbox. One day the box might even be bare. American-led coalitions will become less willing and shrink in size -- witness the two gulf wars.

The UN is a particularly difficult institution. The power of the veto in the Security Council has prevented it from authorizing the use of force for collective-security operations in all but three cases in the past half-century. But the council was specifically designed to be a concert of large powers that would not work when they disagreed. The veto is like a fuse box in the electrical system of a house. Better that a fuse blows and the lights go out than that the house burns down. Moreover, as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out after the Kosovo war proceeded in 1999 without a UN resolution -- but with French and German participation -- the UN is torn between the strict Westphalian interpretation of state sovereignty and the rise of international humanitarian and human rights law that sets limits on what leaders can do to their citizens. To complicate matters further, politics has made the UN Charter virtually impossible to amend. Still, for all its flaws, the UN has proved useful in its humanitarian and peacekeeping roles on which states agree, and it remains an important source of legitimacy in world politics.

The latter point is particularly galling to the new unilateralists, who (correctly) point to the undemocratic nature of many of the regimes that cast votes in the UN and chair its committees -- one rankling example being Libya's chairmanship of the Human Rights Commission. But their proposed solution of replacing the UN with a new organization of democracies ignores the fact that the major divisions over Iraq were among the democracies. Rather than engage in futile efforts to ignore the UN or change its architecture, Washington should improve its underlying bilateral diplomacy with the other veto-wielding powers and use the UN in practical ways to further the new strategy. In addition to overseeing the UN's development and humanitarian agenda, the Security Council may wind up playing a background role in diffusing the crisis in North Korea; the Committee on Terrorism can help prod states to improve their procedures; and UN peacekeepers can save the United States from having to be the world's lone sheriff. If Washington uses it wisely, the UN can serve U.S. interests in a variety of practical ways. But the reverse is also true: the new unilateralists' attacks on the UN may backfire in ways that undercut American soft power.

There is considerable evidence that the new unilateralists' policies tend to squander U.S. soft power. Before the war, a Pew Charitable Trust poll found that U.S. policies (not American culture) led to less favorable attitudes toward the United States over the past two years in 19 of 27 countries, including the Islamic countries so crucial to the prosecution of the war on terrorism. Other polls showed an average drop of 30 points in the popularity of the United States in major European countries.

No large country can afford to be purely multilateralist, and sometimes the United States must take the lead by itself, as it did in Afghanistan. And the credible threat to exercise the unilateral option was probably essential to getting the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1441, which brought the weapons inspectors back into Iraq. But the United States should incline toward multilateralism whenever possible as a way to legitimize its power and to gain broad acceptance of its new strategy. Preemption that is legitimized by multilateral sanction is far less costly and sets a far less dangerous precedent than the United States asserting that it alone can act as judge, jury, and executioner. Granted, multilateralism can be used by smaller states to restrict American freedom of action, but this downside does not detract from its overall usefulness. Whether Washington learns to listen to others and to define U.S. national interests more broadly to include global interests will be crucial to the success of the new strategy and to whether others see the American preponderance the strategy proclaims as benign or not. To implement the new strategy successfully, therefore, the United States will need to pay more attention to soft power and multilateral cooperation than the new unilateralists would like.


Finally, those of the new unilateralists who openly welcome the idea of an American empire mistake the underlying nature of American public opinion. Even if the transformation of undemocratic regimes in the Middle East would indeed reduce some of the sources of Islamic terrorism, the question remains whether the American public will tolerate an imperial role. Neoconservative writers such as Max Boot argue that the United States should provide troubled countries with "the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets," but as the British historian Niall Ferguson points out, modern America differs from nineteenth-century Britain in its chronically short attention span.

Some say the United States is already an empire and it is just a matter of recognizing reality, but they mistake the politics of primacy for those of empire. The United States may be more powerful compared to other countries than the United Kingdom was at its imperial peak, but it has less control over what occurs inside other countries than the United Kingdom did when it ruled a quarter of the globe. For example, Kenya's schools, taxes, laws, and elections -- not to mention external relations -- were controlled by British officials. The United States has no such control over any country today. Washington could not even get the votes of Mexico City and Santiago for a second Security Council resolution. Devotees of the new imperialism argue that such analysis is too literal, that "empire" is intended merely as a metaphor. But this "metaphor" implies a control from Washington that is unrealistic and reinforces the prevailing temptations of unilateralism.

Despite its natal ideology of anti-imperialism, the United States has intervened and governed countries in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as the Philippines. But Americans have never felt comfortable as imperialists, and only a small number of cases led directly to the establishment of democracies. American empire is not limited by "imperial overstretch" in the sense of costing an unsustainable portion of U.S. gross domestic product. Indeed, the United States devoted a much higher percentage of GDP to the military budget during the Cold War than it does today. The overstretch will come from having to police more peripheral countries than public opinion will accept. Even after the second Gulf War, polls show little taste for empire and no public inclination toward invading Syria and Iran. Instead, the American public continues to say that it favors multilateralism and using the UN.

In fact, the problem of creating an American empire might better be termed "imperial understretch." Neither the public nor Congress has proved willing to invest seriously in the instruments of nation building and governance, as opposed to military force. The entire allotment for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development is only 1 percent of the federal budget. The United States spends nearly 16 times as much on its military, and there is little indication of change to come in this era of tax cuts and budget deficits. The U.S. military is designed for fighting rather than police work, and the Pentagon has cut back on training for peacekeeping operations. In practice, the coalition of neo-Wilsonians and Jacksonians may divide over this issue. The former will espouse a prolonged U.S. presence to produce democracy in the Middle East, whereas the latter, who tend to eschew "nation building," have designed a military that is better suited to kick down the door, beat up a dictator, and go home than to stay for the harder work of building a democratic polity.

Among a number of possible futures for Iraq are three scenarios that deserve some elaboration. The first is the example of Japan or Germany in 1945, in which the United States stays for seven years and leaves behind a friendly democracy. This would be the preferred outcome, but it is worth remembering that Germany and Japan were ethnically homogeneous societies, ones that also did not produce any terrorist responses to the presence of U.S. troops and could boast significant middle classes that had already experienced democracy in the 1920s. A second scenario is akin to that of Ronald Reagan in Lebanon or Bill Clinton in Somalia, where some of the people who cheered U.S. entry wound up protesting its presence six months later. In this scenario, terrorists kill U.S. soldiers, and the American public reacts by saying, "Saddam is gone, Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, they don't want our democracy, let's pull out." If this scenario left Iraq in conflict, dictatorship, or theocracy, it would undercut the major post hoc legitimization for the war. The third scenario would be reminiscent of Bosnia or Kosovo. The United States would entice NATO allies and other countries to help in the policing and reconstruction of Iraq, a UN resolution would bless the force, and an international administrator would help to legitimize decisions. The process would be long and frustrating, but it would reduce the prominence of the United States as a target for anti-imperialists and would probably best ensure that America did not pull out prematurely. Ironically, the neo-Wilsonians of the new unilateralist coalition might have to make common cause with the multilateral realists to achieve their objectives. They might find that the world's only superpower can't go it alone after all.


The Bush administration's new national security strategy correctly identified the challenges growing out of the deep changes in world politics that were illuminated on September 11. But the administration has still not settled on how to implement the new strategy most effectively. Rather than resolving the issue, the second Gulf War leaves the divisions in place, and the real tests still await.

The problem for U.S. power in the twenty-first century is that more and more continues to fall outside the control of even the most powerful state. Although the United States does well on the traditional measures of hard power, these measures fail to capture the ongoing transformation of world politics brought about by globalization and the democratization of technology. The paradox of American power is that world politics is changing in a way that makes it impossible for the strongest world power since Rome to achieve some of its most crucial international goals alone. The United States lacks both the international and the domestic capacity to resolve conflicts that are internal to other societies and to monitor and control transnational developments that threaten Americans at home. On many of today's key issues, such as international financial stability, drug trafficking, the spread of diseases, and especially the new terrorism, military power alone simply cannot produce success, and its use can sometimes be counterproductive. Instead, as the most powerful country, the United States must mobilize international coalitions to address these shared threats and challenges. By devaluing soft power and institutions, the new unilateralist coalition of Jacksonians and neo-Wilsonians is depriving Washington of some of its most important instruments for the implementation of the new national security strategy. If they manage to continue with this tack, the United States could fail what Henry Kissinger called the historical test for this generation of American leaders: to use current preponderant U.S. power to achieve an international consensus behind widely accepted norms that will protect American values in a more uncertain future. Fortunately, this outcome is not preordained.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., is Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the author of The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone. Copyright © 2003

#top Reading # 12

Michael J. Glennon

Why the Security Council Failed

From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003


"The tents have been struck," declared South Africa's prime minister, Jan Christian Smuts, about the League of Nations' founding. "The great caravan of humanity is again on the march." A generation later, this mass movement toward the international rule of law still seemed very much in progress. In 1945, the League was replaced with a more robust United Nations, and no less a personage than U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull hailed it as the key to "the fulfillment of humanity's highest aspirations." The world was once more on the move.

Earlier this year, however, the caravan finally ground to a halt. With the dramatic rupture of the UN Security Council, it became clear that the grand attempt to subject the use of force to the rule of law had failed.

In truth, there had been no progress for years. The UN's rules governing the use of force, laid out in the charter and managed by the Security Council, had fallen victim to geopolitical forces too strong for a legalist institution to withstand. By 2003, the main question facing countries considering whether to use force was not whether it was lawful. Instead, as in the nineteenth century, they simply questioned whether it was wise.

The beginning of the end of the international security system had actually come slightly earlier, on September 12, 2002, when President George W. Bush, to the surprise of many, brought his case against Iraq to the General Assembly and challenged the UN to take action against Baghdad for failing to disarm. "We will work with the UN Security Council for the necessary resolutions," Bush said. But he warned that he would act alone if the UN failed to cooperate.

Washington's threat was reaffirmed a month later by Congress, when it gave Bush the authority to use force against Iraq without getting approval from the UN first. The American message seemed clear: as a senior administration official put it at the time, "we don't need the Security Council."

Two weeks later, on October 25, the United States formally proposed a resolution that would have implicitly authorized war against Iraq. But Bush again warned that he would not be deterred if the Security Council rejected the measure. "If the United Nations doesn't have the will or the courage to disarm Saddam Hussein and if Saddam Hussein will not disarm," he said, "the United States will lead a coalition to disarm [him]." After intensive, behind-the-scenes haggling, the council responded to Bush's challenge on November 7 by unanimously adopting Resolution 1441, which found Iraq in "material breach" of prior resolutions, set up a new inspections regime, and warned once again of "serious consequences" if Iraq again failed to disarm. The resolution did not explicitly authorize force, however, and Washington pledged to return to the council for another discussion before resorting to arms.

The vote for Resolution 1441 was a huge personal victory for Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had spent much political capital urging his government to go the UN route in the first place and had fought hard diplomatically to win international backing. Nonetheless, doubts soon emerged concerning the effectiveness of the new inspections regime and the extent of Iraq's cooperation. On January 21, 2003, Powell himself declared that the "inspections will not work." He returned to the UN on February 5 and made the case that Iraq was still hiding its weapons of mass destruction (WMD). France and Germany responded by pressing for more time. Tensions between the allies, already high, began to mount and divisions deepened still further when 18 European countries signed letters in support of the American position.

On February 14, the inspectors returned to the Security Council to report that, after 11 weeks of investigation in Iraq, they had discovered no evidence of WMD (although many items remained unaccounted for). Ten days later, on February 24, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain introduced a resolution that would have had the council simply declare, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (the section dealing with threats to the peace), that "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441." France, Germany, and Russia once more proposed giving Iraq still more time. On February 28, the White House, increasingly frustrated, upped the ante: Press Secretary Ari Fleischer announced that the American goal was no longer simply Iraq's disarmament but now included "regime change."

A period of intense lobbying followed. Then, on March 5, France and Russia announced they would block any subsequent resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam. The next day, China declared that it was taking the same position. The United Kingdom floated a compromise proposal, but the council's five permanent members could not agree. In the face of a serious threat to international peace and stability, the Security Council fatally deadlocked.


At this point it was easy to conclude, as did President Bush, that the UN's failure to confront Iraq would cause the world body to "fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society." In reality, however, the council's fate had long since been sealed. The problem was not the second Persian Gulf War, but rather an earlier shift in world power toward a configuration that was simply incompatible with the way the UN was meant to function. It was the rise in American unipolarity -- not the Iraq crisis -- that, along with cultural clashes and different attitudes toward the use of force, gradually eroded the council's credibility. Although the body had managed to limp along and function adequately in more tranquil times, it proved incapable of performing under periods of great stress. The fault for this failure did not lie with any one country; rather, it was the largely inexorable upshot of the development and evolution of the international system.

Consider first the changes in power politics. Reactions to the United States' gradual ascent to towering preeminence have been predictable: coalitions of competitors have emerged. Since the end of the Cold War, the French, the Chinese, and the Russians have sought to return the world to a more balanced system. France's former foreign minister Hubert Vedrine openly confessed this goal in 1998: "We cannot accept ... a politically unipolar world," he said, and "that is why we are fighting for a multipolar" one. French President Jacques Chirac has battled tirelessly to achieve this end. According to Pierre Lellouche, who was Chirac's foreign policy adviser in the early 1990s, his boss wants "a multipolar world in which Europe is the counterweight to American political and military power." Explained Chirac himself, "any community with only one dominant power is always a dangerous one and provokes reactions."

In recent years, Russia and China have displayed a similar preoccupation; indeed, this objective was formalized in a treaty the two countries signed in July 2001, explicitly confirming their commitment to "a multipolar world." President Vladimir Putin has declared that Russia will not tolerate a unipolar system, and China's former president Jiang Zemin has said the same. Germany, although it joined the cause late, has recently become a highly visible partner in the effort to confront American hegemony. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in 2000 that the "core concept of Europe after 1945 was and still is a rejection of ... the hegemonic ambitions of individual states." Even Germany's former chancellor Helmut Schmidt recently weighed in, opining that Germany and France "share a common interest in not delivering ourselves into the hegemony of our mighty ally, the United States."

In the face of such opposition, Washington has made it clear that it intends to do all it can to maintain its preeminence. The Bush administration released a paper detailing its national security strategy in September 2002 that left no doubt about its plans to ensure that no other nation could rival its military strength. More controversially, the now infamous document also proclaimed a doctrine of preemption -- one that, incidentally, flatly contradicts the precepts of the UN Charter. Article 51 of the charter permits the use of force only in self-defense, and only "if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations." The American policy, on the other hand, proceeds from the premise that Americans "cannot let our enemies strike first." Therefore, "to forestall or prevent ... hostile acts by our adversaries," the statement announced, "the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively" -- that is, strike first.

Apart from the power divide, a second fault line, one deeper and longer, has also separated the United States from other countries at the un. This split is cultural. It divides nations of the North and West from those of the South and East on the most fundamental of issues: namely, when armed intervention is appropriate. On September 20, 1999, Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke in historic terms about the need to "forge unity behind the principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights -- wherever they take place -- should never be allowed to stand." This speech led to weeks of debate among UN members. Of the nations that spoke out in public, roughly a third appeared to favor humanitarian intervention under some circumstances. Another third opposed it across the board, and the remaining third were equivocal or noncommittal. The proponents, it is important to note, were primarily Western democracies. The opponents, meanwhile, were mostly Latin American, African, and Arab states.

The disagreement was not, it soon became clear, confined merely to humanitarian intervention. On February 22 of this year, foreign ministers from the Nonaligned Movement, meeting in Kuala Lumpur, signed a declaration opposing the use of force against Iraq. This faction, composed of 114 states (primarily from the developing world), represents 55 percent of the planet's population and nearly two-thirds of the UN's membership.

As all of this suggests, although the UN's rules purport to represent a single global view -- indeed, universal law -- on when and whether force can be justified, the UN's members (not to mention their populations) are clearly not in agreement.

Moreover, cultural divisions concerning the use of force do not merely separate the West from the rest. Increasingly, they also separate the United States from the rest of the West. On one key subject in particular, European and American attitudes diverge and are moving further apart by the day. That subject is the role of law in international relations. There are two sources for this disagreement. The first concerns who should make the rules: namely, should it be the states themselves, or supranational institutions?

Americans largely reject supranationalism. It is hard to imagine any circumstance in which Washington would permit an international regime to limit the size of the U.S. budget deficit, control its currency and coinage, or settle the issue of gays in the military. Yet these and a host of other similar questions are now regularly decided for European states by the supranational institutions (such as the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights) of which they are members. "Americans," Francis Fukuyama has written, "tend not to see any source of democratic legitimacy higher than the nation-state." But Europeans see democratic legitimacy as flowing from the will of the international community. Thus they comfortably submit to impingements on their sovereignty that Americans would find anathema. Security Council decisions limiting the use of force are but one example.


Another general source of disagreement that has undermined the UN concerns when international rules should be made. Americans prefer after-the-fact, corrective laws. They tend to favor leaving the field open to competition as long as possible and view regulations as a last resort, to be employed only after free markets have failed. Europeans, in contrast, prefer preventive rules aimed at averting crises and market failures before they take place. Europeans tend to identify ultimate goals, try to anticipate future difficulties, and then strive to regulate in advance, before problems develop. This approach suggests a preference for stability and predictability; Americans, on the other hand, seem more comfortable with innovation and occasional chaos. Contrasting responses across the Atlantic to emerging high-technology and telecommunications industries are a prime example of these differences in spirit. So are divergent transatlantic reactions to the use of force.

More than anything else, however, it has been still another underlying difference in attitude -- over the need to comply with the UN's rules on the use of force -- that has proved most disabling to the UN system. Since 1945, so many states have used armed force on so many occasions, in flagrant violation of the charter, that the regime can only be said to have collapsed. In framing the charter, the international community failed to anticipate accurately when force would be deemed unacceptable. Nor did it apply sufficient disincentives to instances when it would be so deemed. Given that the UN's is a voluntary system that depends for compliance on state consent, this short-sightedness proved fatal.

This conclusion can be expressed a number of different ways under traditional international legal doctrine. Massive violation of a treaty by numerous states over a prolonged period can be seen as casting that treaty into desuetude -- that is, reducing it to a paper rule that is no longer binding. The violations can also be regarded as subsequent custom that creates new law, supplanting old treaty norms and permitting conduct that was once a violation. Finally, contrary state practice can also be considered to have created a non liquet, to have thrown the law into a state of confusion such that legal rules are no longer clear and no authoritative answer is possible. In effect, however, it makes no practical difference which analytic framework is applied. The default position of international law has long been that when no restriction can be authoritatively established, a country is considered free to act. Whatever doctrinal formula is chosen to describe the current crisis, therefore, the conclusion is the same. "If you want to know whether a man is religious," Wittgenstein said, "don't ask him, observe him." And so it is if you want to know what law a state accepts. If countries had ever truly intended to make the UN's use-of-force rules binding, they would have made the costs of violation greater than the costs of compliance.

But they did not. Anyone who doubts this observation might consider precisely why North Korea now so insistently seeks a nonaggression pact with the United States. Such a provision, after all, is supposedly the centerpiece of the UN Charter. But no one could seriously expect that assurance to comfort Pyongyang. The charter has gone the way of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the 1928 treaty by which every major country that would go on to fight in World War II solemnly committed itself not to resort to war as an instrument of national policy. The pact, as the diplomatic historian Thomas Bailey has written, "proved a monument to illusion. It was not only delusive but dangerous, for it ... lulled the public ... into a false sense of security." These days, on the other hand, no rational state will be deluded into believing that the UN Charter protects its security.

Surprisingly, despite the manifest warning signs, some international lawyers have insisted in the face of the Iraq crisis that there is no reason for alarm about the state of the UN. On March 2, just days before France, Russia, and China declared their intention to cast a veto that the United States had announced it would ignore, Anne-Marie Slaughter (president of the American Society of International Law and dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School) wrote, "What is happening today is exactly what the UN founders envisaged." Other experts contend that, because countries have not openly declared that the charter's use-of-force rules are no longer binding, those rules must still be regarded as obligatory. But state practice itself often provides the best evidence of what states regard as binding. The truth is that no state -- surely not the United States -- has ever accepted a rule saying, in effect, that rules can be changed only by openly declaring the old rules to be dead. States simply do not behave that way. They avoid needless confrontation. After all, states have not openly declared that the Kellogg-Briand Pact is no longer good law, but few would seriously contend that it is.

Still other analysts worry that admitting to the death of the UN's rules on the use of force would be tantamount to giving up completely on the international rule of law. The fact that public opinion forced President Bush to go to Congress and the UN, such experts further argue, shows that international law still shapes power politics. But distinguishing working rules from paper rules is not the same as giving up on the rule of law. Although the effort to subject the use of force to the rule of law was the monumental internationalist experiment of the twentieth century, the fact is that that experiment has failed. Refusing to recognize that failure will not enhance prospects for another such experiment in the future.

Indeed, it should have come as no surprise that, in September 2002, the United States felt free to announce in its national security document that it would no longer be bound by the charter's rules governing the use of force. Those rules have collapsed. "Lawful" and "unlawful" have ceased to be meaningful terms as applied to the use of force. As Powell said on October 20, "the president believes he now has the authority [to intervene in Iraq] ... just as we did in Kosovo." There was, of course, no Security Council authorization for the use of force by NATO against Yugoslavia. That action blatantly violated the UN Charter, which does not permit humanitarian intervention any more than it does preventive war. But Powell was nonetheless right: the United States did indeed have all the authority it needed to attack Iraq -- not because the Security Council authorized it, but because there was no international law forbidding it. It was therefore impossible to act unlawfully.


These, then, were the principal forces that dismasted the Security Council. Other international institutions also snapped in the gale, including NATO -- when France, Germany, and Belgium tried to block it from helping to defend Turkey's borders in the event of a war in Iraq. ("Welcome to the end of the Atlantic alliance," said François Heisbourg, an adviser to the French foreign ministry).

Why did the winds of power, culture, and security overturn the legalist bulwarks that had been designed to weather the fiercest geopolitical gusts? To help answer this question, consider the following sentence: "We have to keep defending our vital interests just as before; we can say no, alone, to anything that may be unacceptable." It may come as a surprise that those were not the words of administration hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, or John Bolton. In fact, they were written in 2001 by Vedrine, then France's foreign minister. Similarly, critics of American "hyperpower" might guess that the statement, "I do not feel obliged to other governments," must surely have been uttered by an American. It was in fact made by German Chancellor Gerhard Schršder on February 10, 2003. The first and last geopolitical truth is that states pursue security by pursuing power. Legalist institutions that manage that pursuit maladroitly are ultimately swept away.

A corollary of this principle is that, in pursuing power, states use those institutional tools that are available to them. For France, Russia, and China, one of those tools is the Security Council and the veto that the charter affords them. It was therefore entirely predictable that these three countries would wield their veto to snub the United States and advance the project that they had undertaken: to return the world to a multipolar system. During the Security Council debate on Iraq, the French were candid about their objective. The goal was never to disarm Iraq. Instead, "the main and constant objective for France throughout the negotiations," according to its UN ambassador, was to "strengthen the role and authority of the Security Council" (and, he might have added, of France). France's interest lay in forcing the United States to back down, thus appearing to capitulate in the face of French diplomacy. The United States, similarly, could reasonably have been expected to use the council -- or to ignore it -- to advance Washington's own project: the maintenance of a unipolar system. "The course of this nation," President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union speech, "does not depend on the decisions of others."

The likelihood is that had France, Russia, or China found itself in the position of the United States during the Iraq crisis, each of these countries would have used the council -- or threatened to ignore it -- just as the United States did. Similarly, had Washington found itself in the position of Paris, Moscow, or Beijing, it would likely have used its veto in the same way they did. States act to enhance their own power -- not that of potential competitors. That is no novel insight; it traces at least to Thucydides, who had his Athenian generals tell the hapless Melians, "You and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do." This insight involves no normative judgment; it simply describes how nations behave.

The truth, therefore, is that the Security Council's fate never turned on what it did or did not do on Iraq. American unipolarity had already debilitated the council, just as bipolarity paralyzed it during the Cold War. The old power structure gave the Soviet Union an incentive to deadlock the council; the current power structure encourages the United States to bypass it. Meanwhile, the council itself had no good option. Approve an American attack, and it would have seemed to rubber-stamp what it could not stop. Express disapproval of a war, and the United States would have vetoed the attempt. Decline to take any action, and the council would again have been ignored. Disagreement over Iraq did not doom the council; geopolitical reality did. That was the message of Powell's extraordinary, seemingly contradictory declaration on November 10, 2002, that the United States would not consider itself bound by the council's decision -- even though it expected Iraq to be declared in "material breach."

It has been argued that Resolution 1441 and its acceptance by Iraq somehow represented a victory for the UN and a triumph of the rule of law. But it did not. Had the United States not threatened Iraq with the use of force, the Iraqis almost surely would have rejected the new inspections regime. Yet such threats of force violate the charter. The Security Council never authorized the United States to announce a policy of regime change in Iraq or to take military steps in that direction. Thus the council's "victory," such as it was, was a victory of diplomacy backed by force -- or more accurately, of diplomacy backed by the threat of unilateral force in violation of the charter. The unlawful threat of unilateralism enabled the "legitimate" exercise of multilateralism. The Security Council reaped the benefit of the charter's violation.

As surely as Resolution 1441 represented a triumph of American diplomacy, it represented a defeat for the international rule of law. Once the measure was passed after eight weeks of debate, the French, Chinese, and Russian diplomats left the council chamber claiming that they had not authorized the United States to strike Iraq -- that 1441 contained no element of "automaticity." American diplomats, meanwhile, claimed that the council had done precisely that. As for the language of the resolution itself, it can accurately be said to lend support to both claims. This is not the hallmark of great legislation. The first task of any lawgiver is to speak intelligibly, to lay down clear rules in words that all can understand and that have the same meaning for everyone. The UN's members have an obligation under the charter to comply with Security Council decisions. They therefore have a right to expect the council to render its decisions clearly. Shrinking from that task in the face of threats undermines the rule of law.

The second, February 24 resolution, whatever its diplomatic utility, confirmed this marginalization of the security council. Its vague terms were directed at attracting maximal support but at the price of juridical vapidity. The resolution's broad wording lent itself, as intended, to any possible interpretation. A legal instrument that means everything, however, also means nothing. In its death throes, it had become more important that the council say something than that it say something important. The proposed compromise would have allowed states to claim, once again, that private, collateral understandings gave meaning to the council's empty words, as they had when Resolution 1441 was adopted. Eighty-five years after Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, international law's most solemn obligations had come to be memorialized in winks and nods, in secret covenants, secretly arrived at.


States and commentators, intent on returning the world to a multipolar structure, have devised various strategies for responding to the council's decline. Some European countries, such as France, believed that the council could overcome power imbalances and disparities of culture and security by acting as a supranational check on American action. To be more precise, the French hoped to use the battering ram of the Security Council to check American power. Had it worked, this strategy would have returned the world to multipolarity through supranationalism. But this approach involved an inescapable dilemma: what would have constituted success for the European supranationalists?

The French could, of course, have vetoed America's Iraq project. But to succeed in this way would be to fail, because the declared American intent was to proceed anyway -- and in the process break the only institutional chain with which France could hold the United States back. Their inability to resolve this dilemma reduced the French to diplomatic ankle-biting. France's foreign minister could wave his finger in the face of the American secretary of state as the cameras rolled, or ambush him by raising the subject of Iraq at a meeting called on another subject. But the inability of the Security Council to actually stop a war that France had clamorously opposed underscored French weakness as much as it did the impotence of the council.

Commentators, meanwhile, developed verbal strategies to forestall perceived American threats to the rule of law. Some argued in a communitarian spirit that countries should act in the common interest, rather than, in the words of Vedrine, "making decisions under [their] own interpretations and for [their] own interests." The United States should remain engaged in the United Nations, argued Slaughter, because other nations "need a forum ... in which to ... restrain the United States." "Whatever became," asked The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, "of the conservative suspicion of untrammeled power ... ? Where is the conservative belief in limited government, in checks and balances? Burke spins in his grave. Madison and Hamilton torque it up, too." Washington, Hertzberg argued, should voluntarily relinquish its power and forgo hegemony in favor of a multipolar world in which the United States would be equal with and balanced by other powers.

No one can doubt the utility of checks and balances, deployed domestically, to curb the exercise of arbitrary power. Setting ambition against ambition was the framers' formula for preserving liberty. The problem with applying this approach in the international arena, however, is that it would require the United States to act against its own interests, to advance the cause of its power competitors -- and, indeed, of power competitors whose values are very different from its own. Hertzberg and others seem not to recognize that it simply is not realistic to expect the United States to permit itself to be checked by China or Russia. After all, would China, France, or Russia -- or any other country -- voluntarily abandon preeminent power if it found itself in the position of the United States? Remember too that France now aims to narrow the disparity between itself and the United States -- but not the imbalance between itself and lesser powers (some of which Chirac has chided for acting as though "not well brought-up") that might check France's own strength.

There is, moreover, little reason to believe that some new and untried locus of power, possibly under the influence of states with a long history of repression, would be more trustworthy than would the exercise of hegemonic power by the United States. Those who would entrust the planet's destiny to some nebulous guardian of global pluralism seem strangely oblivious of the age-old question: Who guards that guardian? And how will that guardian preserve international peace -- by asking dictators to legislate prohibitions against weapons of mass destruction (as the French did with Saddam)?

In one respect James Madison is on point, although the communitarians have failed to note it. In drafting the U.S. Constitution, Madison and the other founders confronted very much the same dilemma that the world community confronts today in dealing with American hegemony. The question, as the framers posed it, was why the powerful should have any incentive to obey the law. Madison's answer, in the Federalist Papers, was that the incentive lies in an assessment of future circumstances -- in the unnerving possibility that the strong may one day become weak and then need the protection of the law. It is the "uncertainty of their condition," Madison wrote, that prompts the strong to play by the rules today. But if the future were certain, or if the strong believed it to be certain, and if that future forecast a continued reign of power, then the incentive on the powerful to obey the law would fall away. Hegemony thus sits in tension with the principle of equality. Hegemons have ever resisted subjecting their power to legal constraint. When Britannia ruled the waves, Whitehall opposed limits on the use of force to execute its naval blockades -- limits that were vigorously supported by the new United States and other weaker states. Any system dominated by a "hyperpower" will have great difficulty maintaining or establishing an authentic rule of law. That is the great Madisonian dilemma confronted by the international community today. And that is the dilemma that played out so dramatically at the Security Council in the fateful clash this winter.


The high duty of the Security Council, assigned it by the charter, was the maintenance of international peace and security. The charter laid out a blueprint for managing this task under the council's auspices. The UN's founders constructed a Gothic edifice of multiple levels, with grand porticos, ponderous buttresses, and lofty spires -- and with convincing façades and scary gargoyles to keep away evil spirits.

In the winter of 2003, that entire edifice came crashing down. It is tempting, in searching for reasons, to return to the blueprints and blame the architects. The fact is, however, that the fault for the council's collapse lies elsewhere: in the shifting ground beneath the construct. As became painfully clear this year, the terrain on which the UN's temple rested was shot through with fissures. The ground was unable to support humanity's lofty legalist shrine. Power disparities, cultural disparities, and differing views on the use of force toppled the temple.

Law normally influences conduct; that is, of course, its purpose. At their best, however, international legalist institutions, regimes, and rules relating to international security are largely epiphenomenal -- that is, reflections of underlying causes. They are not autonomous, independent determinants of state behavior but are the effects of larger forces that shape that behavior. As the deeper currents shift and as new realities and new relations (new "phenomena") emerge, states reposition themselves to take advantage of new opportunities for enhancing their power. Violations of security rules occur when that repositioning leaves states out of sync with fixed institutions that cannot adapt. What were once working rules become paper rules.

This process occurs even with the best-drafted rules to maintain international security, those that once reflected underlying geopolitical dynamics. As for the worst rules -- those drafted without regard to the dynamics -- they last even less time and often are discarded as soon as compliance is required. In either case, validity ultimately proves ephemeral, as the UN's decline has illustrated. Its Military Staff Committee died almost immediately. The charter's use-of-force regime, on the other hand, petered out over a period of years. The Security Council itself hobbled along during the Cold War, underwent a brief resurgence in the 1990s, and then flamed out with Kosovo and Iraq.

Some day policymakers will return to the drawing board. When they do, the first lesson of the Security Council's breakdown should become the first principle of institutional engineering: what the design should look like must be a function of what it can look like. A new international legal order, if it is to function effectively, must reflect the underlying dynamics of power, culture, and security. If it does not -- if its norms are again unrealistic and do not reflect the way states actually behave and the real forces to which they respond -- the community of nations will again end up with mere paper rules. The UN system's dysfunctionality was not, at bottom, a legal problem. It was a geopolitical one. The juridical distortions that proved debilitating were effects, not causes. "The UN was founded on the premise," Slaughter has observed in its defense, "that some truths transcend politics." Precisely -- and therein lay the problem. If they are to comprise working rules rather than paper ones, legalist institutions -- and the "truths" on which they act -- must flow from political commitments, not vice versa.

A second, related lesson from the UN's failure is thus that rules must flow from the way states actually behave, not how they ought to behave. "The first requirement of a sound body of law," wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes, "is that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community, whether right or wrong." This insight will be anathema to continuing believers in natural law, the armchair philosophers who "know" what principles must control states, whether states accept those principles or not. But these idealists might remind themselves that the international legal system is, again, voluntarist. For better or worse, its rules are based on state consent. States are not bound by rules to which they do not agree. Like it or not, that is the Westphalian system, and it is still very much with us. Pretending that the system can be based on idealists' own subjective notions of morality won't make it so.

Architects of an authentic new world order must therefore move beyond castles in the air -- beyond imaginary truths that transcend politics -- such as, for example, just war theory and the notion of the sovereign equality of states. These and other stale dogmas rest on archaic notions of universal truth, justice, and morality. The planet today is fractured as seldom before by competing ideas of transcendent truth, by true believers on all continents who think, with Shaw's Caesar, "that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature." Medieval ideas about natural law and natural rights ("nonsense on stilts," Bentham called them) do little more than provide convenient labels for enculturated preferences -- yet serve as rallying cries for belligerents everywhere.

As the world moves into a new, transitional era, the old moralist vocabulary should be cleared away so that decision-makers can focus pragmatically on what is really at stake. The real questions for achieving international peace and security are clear-cut: What are our objectives? What means have we chosen to meet those objectives? Are those means working? If not, why not? Are better alternatives available? If so, what tradeoffs are required? Are we willing to make those tradeoffs? What are the costs and benefits of competing alternatives? What support would they command?

Answering those questions does not require an overarching legalist metaphysic. There is no need for grand theory and no place for self-righteousness. The life of the law, Holmes said, is not logic but experience. Humanity need not achieve an ultimate consensus on good and evil. The task before it is empirical, not theoretical. Getting to a consensus will be accelerated by dropping abstractions, moving beyond the polemical rhetoric of "right" and "wrong," and focusing pragmatically on the concrete needs and preferences of real people who endure suffering that may be unnecessary. Policymakers may not yet be able to answer these questions. The forces that brought down the Security Council -- the "deeper sources of international instability," in George Kennan's words -- will not go away. But at least policymakers can get the questions right.

One particularly pernicious outgrowth of natural law is the idea that states are sovereign equals. As Kennan pointed out, the notion of sovereign equality is a myth; disparities among states "make a mockery" of the concept. Applied to states, the proposition that all are equal is belied by evidence everywhere that they are not -- neither in their power, nor in their wealth, nor in their respect for international order or for human rights. Yet the principle of sovereign equality animates the entire structure of the United Nations -- and disables it from effectively addressing emerging crises, such as access to WMD, that derive precisely from the presupposition of sovereign equality. Treating states as equals prevents treating individuals as equals: if Yugoslavia truly enjoyed a right to nonintervention equal to that of every other state, its citizens would have been denied human rights equal to those of individuals in other states, because their human rights could be vindicated only by intervention. This year, the irrationality of treating states as equals was brought home as never before when it emerged that the will of the Security Council could be determined by Angola, Guinea, or Cameroon -- nations whose representatives sat side by side and exercised an equal voice and vote with those of Spain, Pakistan, and Germany. The equality principle permitted any rotating council member to cast a de facto veto (by denying a majority the critical ninth vote necessary for potential victory). Granting a de jure veto to the permanent five was, of course, the charter's intended antidote to unbridled egalitarianism. But it didn't work: the de jure veto simultaneously undercorrected and overcorrected for the problem, lowering the United States to the level of France and raising France above India, which did not even hold a rotating seat on the council during the Iraq debate. Yet the de jure veto did nothing to dilute the rotating members' de facto veto. The upshot was a Security Council that reflected the real world's power structure with the accuracy of a fun-house mirror -- and performed accordingly. Hence the third great lesson of last winter: institutions cannot be expected to correct distortions that are embedded in their own structures.


There is little reason to believe, then, that the Security Council will soon be resuscitated to tackle nerve-center security issues, however the war against Iraq turns out. If the war is swift and successful, if the United States uncovers Iraqi WMD that supposedly did not exist, and if nation-building in Iraq goes well, there likely will be little impulse to revive the council. In that event, the council will have gone the way of the League of Nations. American decision-makers will thereafter react to the council much as they did to NATO following Kosovo: Never again. Ad hoc coalitions of the willing will effectively succeed it.

If, on the other hand, the war is long and bloody, if the United States does not uncover Iraqi WMD, and if nation-building in Iraq falters, the war's opponents will benefit, claiming that the United States would not have run aground if only it had abided by the charter. But the Security Council will not profit from America's ill fortune. Coalitions of adversaries will emerge and harden, lying in wait in the council and making it, paradoxically, all the more difficult for the United States to participate dutifully in a forum in which an increasingly ready veto awaits it.

The Security Council will still on occasion prove useful for dealing with matters that do not bear directly on the upper hierarchy of world power. Every major country faces imminent danger from terrorism, for example, and from the new surge in WMD proliferation. None will gain by permitting these threats to reach fruition. Yet even when the required remedy is nonmilitary, enduring suspicions among the council's permanent members and the body's loss of credibility will impair its effectiveness in dealing with these issues.

However the war turns out, the United States will likely confront pressures to curb its use of force. These it must resist. Chirac's admonitions notwithstanding, war is not "always, always, the worst solution." The use of force was a better option than diplomacy in dealing with numerous tyrants, from Milosevic to Hitler. It may, regrettably, sometimes emerge as the only and therefore the best way to deal with WMD proliferation. If judged by the suffering of noncombatants, the use of force can often be more humane than economic sanctions, which starve more children than soldiers (as their application to Iraq demonstrated). The greater danger after the second Persian Gulf War is not that the United States will use force when it should not, but that, chastened by the war's horror, the public's opposition, and the economy's gyrations, it will not use force when it should. That the world is at risk of cascading disorder places a greater rather than a lesser responsibility on the United States to use its power assertively to halt or slow the pace of disintegration.

All who believe in the rule of law are eager to see the great caravan of humanity resume its march. In moving against the centers of disorder, the United States could profit from a beneficent sharing of its power to construct new international mechanisms directed at maintaining global peace and security. American hegemony will not last forever. Prudence therefore counsels creating realistically structured institutions capable of protecting or advancing U.S. national interests even when military power is unavailable or unsuitable. Such institutions could enhance American preeminence, potentially prolonging the period of unipolarity.

Yet legalists must be hard-headed about the possibility of devising a new institutional framework anytime soon to replace the battered structure of the Security Council. The forces that led to the council's undoing will not disappear. Neither a triumphant nor a chastened United States will have sufficient incentive to resubmit to old constraints in new contexts. Neither vindicated nor humbled competitors will have sufficient disincentives to forgo efforts to impose those constraints. Nations will continue to seek greater power and security at the expense of others. Nations will continue to disagree on when force should be used. Like it or not, that is the way of the world. In resuming humanity's march toward the rule of law, recognizing that reality will be the first step.

Copyright 2003 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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