October 2006

Iran30 Oct 2006 10:05 am

Michael Spies

Barely two weeks after the UN Security Council enacted sanctions to contain North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, the permanent members of the Council are debating similar measures against Iran. This week the EU circulated a draft resolution on Iran, which takes a similar approach to the resolution on North Korea. While the U.S. was quick to signal its full backing of the draft, Russia has expressed unspecified skepticism and concern. Due to various political circumstances, the draft resolution is not expected to be circulated to the full Council until the first full week of November.

Quick overview: The draft resolution states the Security Council in acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, thus citing its authority to impose sanctions on Iran’s nuclear energy and ballistic missile programs. The resolution cites Article 41 of the Charter specifically, which is intended to preclude the use of force (Article 41 addresses “measures not involving the use of armed force”). The resolution would also compel Iran to implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol, suspend all enrichment and reprocessing related activities, and suspend all projects related to heavy water. The draft contains an exception for activities related to Russia’s construction of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, but the measures otherwise apply to the full range of Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

There are many notable features in the current draft. Overall, it represents a departure from the Security Council’s traditional approach in dealing with ostensible threats to international peace and in how it makes decisions pursuant to its mandate under the UN Charter. Specifically, the draft strays from the traditional form set forth in the UN Charter, by which the Security Council makes decisions that are binding on member states. This evolution in Council decision-making started with the approach taken in response to the North Korean missile tests in July, and was also the approach taken in resolution 1696 on Iran.

The Security Council’s authority to make resolutions binding on member states is not absolute. Traditionally, following from the legal mandate of the Council set forth in the UN Charter, there are three elements a resolution must contain in order to be binding: 1) the Security Council must make a finding or determination that a given situation represents a threat to international peace and security (Article 39); 2) the Security Council must state it is acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter; 3) the Security Council must use language in the operative portion of the resolution that confers a legal obligation (the Security Council decides rather than the Security Council calls upon or urges). Resolution 1696, in which the Council demands that Iran suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities, contained none of these elements (thus one could raise the question of whether it contained any binding obligations, though the passage of the current draft would make this issue moot).


Disarmament& Military budget& Iraq war& Social movements and protest06 Oct 2006 05:41 pm

Andrew Lichterman

“Contemporary historians, confronted with the spectacle of a few capitalists conducting their predatory searches round the globe for new investment possibilities and appealing to the profit motives of the much-too-rich and the gambling instincts of the much-too-poor, want to clothe imperialism with the old grandeur of Rome and Alexander the Great, a grandeur which would make all the following events more humanly tolerable…. The only grandeur of imperialism lies in the nation’s losing battle against it. The tragedy of this half-hearted opposition was not that many national representatives could be bought by the new imperialist businessmen; worse than corruption was the fact that the incorruptible were convinced that imperialism was the only way to conduct world politics.” Hannah Arendt, Imperialism (Part Two of The Origins of Totalitarianism); (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), p.12

This week I received an e-mail fund raising pitch from an arms control group that bills itself as the peace movement’s electoral arm. I have removed the name of the group because the message typifies certain characteristics of “mainstream” discourse on issues of war and peace, characteristics that can not be narrowly attributed to– or blamed on– a particular individual or organization.

Here are the e-mail’s opening paragraphs, which capture the essence:

“Dear Friend,

Republicans have again reached for the gutter. You knew they would do it. In a desperate attempt to win the election, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) began running a deceptive TV ad attacking [name of state] Democrat [name of candidate] for receiving support from [name of group]. You can watch the ad on our website.

Contribute $35, $50, or more to [name of group] and help us respond to this Swift Boat style attack!

The ad is a typical GOP distortion.

It claims we recommend cutting $130 billion from the Pentagon’s budget. False.

What we do favor is cutting Cold War weapons and focusing on equipping our brave soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with what they need: body armor, fully armored vehicles, Predator drones, the best communication equipment, and beefed-up Homeland Security - including protection of our food and water supplies, and chemical and nuclear plants.”

The e-mail massage also had a link pointing readers to a “list of security programs supported by [name of group],” including not only the body armor, unmanned aircraft, and armored vehicles promoted in the e-mail, but such programs as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, better countermeasures for improvised explosive devices, and increased funding for precise, low-yield munitions–a good start on a shopping list for invasions and occupations present and future.

So: a fund raising pitch from a “peace” organization–not a “strategic” communication to hypothetical undecided swing-state voters, mind you, but a message aimed at being persuasive to their own “peace”-oriented base–that proudly proclaims that this organization does not advocate major military spending cuts, but instead advocates better weapons to fight bloody wars of occupation (with one of them, the Iraq war, also clearly being illegal from the outset). There was not a word in the e-mail to suggest that the Iraq war was a bad idea, or that endless pursuit of global military dominance is a bad idea, or that a military budget approaching a half trillion dollars a year is a bad idea.

This message echoes the approach taken by many Democratic Party politicians to “peace” issues this election season (and for many years now): it neither makes a case against U.S. wars of aggression, nor addresses the causes of the wars the U.S. fights. Instead, “opposition” is limited to “pragmatic” advocacy of what purportedly would be a cheaper, more efficient, less risky mix of weapons. But these weapons still will be used to advance a goal of permanent U.S. global military dominance that remains largely unquestioned by mainstream politicians and “arms control and disarmament” groups alike. And it is more than likely, if past performance is any guide, that little in this approach will change regardless of the outcome of the Congressional elections. If Democrats win, those who control the money and the visible platforms in the Democratic party and the constellation of thinly-disguised advertising agencies that roughly serve as its “intellectual” establishment will claim victory for their focus group-tested “moderate” approach. If they lose, they will seek to hang defeat on “the Left,” implying that “they” (despite being virtually invisible) somehow blurred the carefully confected vision of a slightly kinder, gentler empire that otherwise surely would have captured just enough of some all-important group of voters, however instrumentally stereotyped in this year’s jargon: NASCAR dads, security moms, the role of ordinary people in politics reduced to answers to questions we never get to choose.

It is impossible to know in the case of any particular organization or individual which motivation prevails–”bought by the new imperialist businessmen” or simply “convinced that imperialism [is] the only way to conduct world politics.” But what is clear is that most U.S. politicians and most U.S. “national security” and “foreign policy” professionals, regardless of party affiliation, fall into one or the other category. If there is to be a movement in this country for global justice and hence for any real peace, we are going to have to put it together largely without them. We can begin by refusing to give either money or votes to politicians, parties, and organizations who respond to U.S. wars of aggression by suggesting better ways to fight them.