John R. Bolton | Los Angeles Times
John R. Bolton’s speech to the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
It is a great pleasure to be here today, Dean Wallerstein. I appreciate your extending an invitation and as Cathy said, we have known each other for a long time and at different capacities. One, right before she became executive director of the World Food Program and she said when I was at the State Department and she was at the Department of Agriculture. I was her campaign manager to get that job and, of course, it succeeded. She was ten years ahead of the World Food Program and did an outstanding job for the United States and for the World Food Program there. Then she went on to the United Nations itself to be Under secretary General for Management, which is no small feat. And it is really picking up from some of that that I want to talk about today–UN reform and US priorities. And after that, I would be happy to try and answer your questions on that subject or any thing else that is on your mind.
I had a client once, a United States Senator now deceased, Gene McCarthy, who was in 1968 a prominent critique of the war in Vietnam, ran for president unsuccessfully. That was his first time; he ran several other times as well. He was my client in a case known as Buckley against Valeo, which was a constitutional challenge to the post-Watergate Campaign Finance Reform Law where I’m happy to say the Supreme Court did declare large chunks of it unconstitutional. Not enough in my view, but we took a shot at it, which is how I got to know Gene McCarthy. And he once said that the word “reform” should be banned from the English language on the theory that reform meant so many different things to so many different people that, fundamentally, it did not mean anything anymore.
Much could be said about the subject of UN reform because a lot of people say they believe in it, and yet, their fundamental approaches are completely contradictory. So even talking about the subject starts off on a somewhat ambiguous note. But what I would like to talk about are several aspects of what have gone under the rubric of UN reform and talk a little bit about what is right about them, what is not, and what the prospects are in the future.
Over the last two years, UN reform has been the subject of a lot of discussion, much of it occasioned by the former Secretary General Kofi Annan’s report In Larger Freedom that came out in–it was a subject of debate in early 2005, and then continuing. And that is really what many people refer to when they talk about UN reform in recent years.
I just want to start with the proposition that although the United States endorsed the reforms, many of the reforms proposed in that report, that was not, in my view, a report that went to the central issues that the United States was concerned about in UN reform. A part of it was the Kofi Annan Legacy Project and part of it, I thought, was really outside the scope of responsibility for a Secretary General. But let me break down some of the areas that he talked about that we did have to deal with because, as I say, the report, whether we liked it or not, was a framing document in the recent debate on the subject.
Now, the first issue, which for many people and many countries around the world, they thought was a centerpiece of UN reform was the question of the composition of the UN Security Council, the Security Council obviously part of the UN as created in 1945. And its composition in 1945 reflected the state of the world as it was then. The five permanent members of the Security Council given the veto power in addition to their permanent status were thought to reflect the victorious powers of World War II. And indeed, as you know in your theater in particular, the United Nations in World War II was the anti-Axis coalition. So even the name and the composition of the Security Council derived from the World War II experience, and the charter reflects the World War II experience in other respects as well, that the prohibition against the enemy states joining the United Nations, the enemy states being the Axis powers of World War II.
Now, the five permanent members as they were then are obviously very different in many respects than the five permanent members that are there today. And in fact, Roosevelt’s initial idea was that there would be four permanent members, what he would call originally “The Four Horsemen.” They did not include France. France was not really a victorious power in World War II. The Vichy Regime was hardly a victorious power, and although Charles de Gaulle did enter Paris at the head of the parade first, it was at the sufferance of General Eisenhower, not because the Free French Forces had done very much more than the Polish Forces on D-Day, or subsequently.
But Churchill unaccountably thought it was important to have France as a permanent member and Roosevelt, against his better judgment, agreed to them. But if you look today, the France and Britain of the Security Council are not the France and Britain of World War II; even though they were exhausted then, they had huge colonial empires, which they do not today.
The Soviet Union was one of the permanent members in 1945. The Soviet Union does not exist anymore; even though the charter has not been changed and the five permanent members listed there include something called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that does not exist anymore.
The China that became a permanent member was the Republic of China, which found itself on the island of Taiwan four years later and still has not returned. The China that sits in the UN today is the People’s Republic of China. The only country that is as it was, in effect, in 1945 is the United States, which is why in a previous civilian capacity I said if you were doing this over again, you would only have one permanent member of the Security Council. But in any case, we have those five and one significant fact when you talk about Security Council Reform is that none of those five are going to resign.
None of those five are going to resign. So any question about changing the composition is a question of addition and not subtraction. And this is where it begins to get very complicated and why, although there has been extensive debate about reform of the Security Council for at least the last fifteen years, no reform has yet occurred and in my judgment, no reform is likely in the very near future.
The first claimant to become an additional permanent member and the claimant with the best case–in my view the claimant with the only case, the only compelling case for permanent membership–is Japan. Japan is the second largest contributor of assessed contributions to the United Nations. As Japan has gotten beyond some of the interpretations of its post-World War II constitution, it has become a large, significant participant in UN peacekeeping operations and in UN agencies, generally. Japan obviously has a huge global impact because of its economy. And if you were starting afresh, it would be hard to argue today that Japan should not be a permanent member.
But Japan has problems with its campaign. The first is called China, which, almost certainly, under present circumstances, would veto a Japanese permanent seat on the Council. And remember, as I said before, the five permanent members are listed by name in the UN Charter. So to add other permanent members you are talking about amending the UN Charter, which, in addition to all of the other requirements for approval by two thirds of the membership through their constitutional procedures, meaning, in our case, ratification of a treaty amendment by the United States Senate, all five permanent members have to agree to amend the charter, which means any one of them possesses a veto.
China is not enthusiastic about Japan becoming a permanent member, as I have said, and, privately, has made it very clear that they would veto Japan. Now, I personally think that can be overcome, but let us not underestimate the difficulty that Japan faces. Moreover, there is considerable opposition within the UN membership to the idea of Japan alone becoming a permanent member. Even though it may look to you like Japan sits in Asia, to many countries of the so-called Third World or Non-Aligned Movement, Japan looks like a Western country. And having another “Western country,” or a country of the North, does not exactly sit well with those countries.
Now this gets in to some of the internal political dynamics of the UN system, the role played by groups that go under various names, although their membership is largely overlapping. The first is the group of 77 called the G77 in UN parlance, although it does have 132 members today; that is math at the UN. That largely overlaps with another group called the Non-Aligned Movement, which also has a life outside the UN. The Non-Aligned Movement grew up during the Cold War, indicating it was not part of the Western Bloc nor was it part of the Communist Bloc.
One of my predecessors is UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in the mid-1990s, meeting with the Ambassador of India to the United States, asked him, “Can you explain to me, now that the Cold War is over, what exactly it is you are non-aligned about?” And he–well, at least according to Moynihan’s telling the story, which I think is probably accurate–the Ambassador from India did not have a very good answer for that. And in fact, I do not think there is a very good answer but, still, there is the Non-Aligned Movement; and they see Japan as what it is–an ally of the United States, which is another reason many of them are not happy about it becoming a permanent member.
But this logic then starts the progression of inquiries about who else should be a permanent member. And this is where addition gets really serious. In Europe, Germany is the largest nation by population; it is the largest economy; it is the engine of the European Union’s economic growth. And in Germany, they look around and say, “Well, if Japan can be a permanent member why should Germany not be a permanent member?” And it is a strong argument. Germany is the third largest contributor to the UN and it is obviously a powerful economic player in its own right.
But then people say, “But wait a minute. This is really beginning to get out of hand. First, you add Japan and it is a treaty ally of the United States. Then along comes Germany, unquestionably a country of the North and the West, another treaty ally of the United States in NATO. This is really getting unbalanced.” So India says, “Well, it is fine if Japan and Germany want to be permanent members but India is clearly deserving as the nation with a large and growing and, probably, the largest population in the world, a huge economy, playing a major role in UN peacekeeping operations. India should be a permanent member.”
And then Brazil says, “Well, we have no objection to them but, by God, we need a Latin American country as a permanent member, and Brazil is the biggest Latin American country–the second biggest country in the Western hemisphere. We should be a permanent member.” And then from Africa, many leaders say, “Well, Brazil has a very strong case but how can you enlarge the permanent membership of the Security Council without representation from Africa? So South Africa has a claim and Nigeria has a claim.”
And then the Arab Nations say, “Well, that is fine, too. Those arguments are certainly compelling but we must have representation from the Arab world, so Egypt should be a permanent member.” And then the debate goes on from there.
There are other countries that say, “Well, these are all interesting arguments,” but Pakistan says, “Well, now wait a minute. If India is going to be a permanent member, that is going to cause us enormous discomfort. So we are either going to be a permanent member along with India or we are going to be opposed to India.” And Italy says, “Well, we have no particular objection to Germany but we are one of the great European countries, too. Why should we not be a permanent member? And besides, if the other enemy states like Japan and Germany are going to be elected to the Security Council, Italy was an enemy state. Why can we not be elected too?”
Mexico says, “We agree with the proposition that there should be a Latin American representative as a permanent member of the Security Council. There is one problem with Brazil–they speak Portuguese. The rest of us in Latin America speak Spanish. How can the representative of Latin America be Brazil? Other African countries say that they do not want to be dominated as they were colonial times by other governments. So if there are going to be permanent seats for Africa, they should rotate among the fifty-plus members of the African geographical group.
And there are other variations of this. I could actually go on for quite sometime with the intricacies of this argument. And you can see–and I have not counted, but we are up to about 10 or 11–maybe 12 permanent members now, up from five. The Security Council will have grown from 15 to around 22 or 23. Other countries are saying, “We do not have aspirations for permanent seats but when the Security Council was established in 1945, there were only between 50 and 60 UN members. It was only a total of 11 members then. It has only been expanded once to 15 in the early 1960s. Now we have 192 members of the UN, and there needs to be more representation for the smaller members on the Security Council.”
And everybody, except the United States, nods and says, “Yes, well, that is reasonable, too.” So by now, we have got the Security Council from about 15 up to about 25 or 26 as everybody by a process of inclusion simply adds more members.
And this is really where in a fairly exceptional fashion, I must say, the United States gets off the train.
The difference between a 15-member Security Council and a 25-member Security Council is more than simply adding 10 members. It fundamentally changes the nature of the dynamic within a body like that. And I can assure you it is hard enough to make decisions with 15 nations in the Security Council. When you talk about adding up to 25, you are talking about, in all likelihood, making it even harder for the Security Council to reach decisions that have an impact in the real world than it is today.
Some expansion–and there is no bright line here, but some expansion of, perhaps, one or two or three more countries probably would not change things fundamentally. But once you start getting beyond that, you really are envisioning a completely different organization and, with respect to the permanent members, you are talking about a radically different vision of what the function of the five permanent members is compared to what Roosevelt and the other framers of the UN Charter had in mind. The five permanent members in 1945, as people complained all the time, were the victorious powers. But the way Roosevelt envisioned the permanent members back then would be to be able to join together to defend against aggression and breaches of the peace elsewhere in the world. It did not simply pick five big countries and they certainly were not looking for geographical balance. They wanted five countries that meant something consequential, which is why they were entitled to the veto.
Today, the five permanent members also happen to be the five legitimate nuclear weapons states as defined by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is another distinction between them and all of the other aspirants for permanent member status. But the outcome of this debate as it has unfolded for 15 years, I think, you can see very quickly is that with so many competing claims with so many different views of what it takes to be a permanent member, with so much opposition from within the UN itself, that effort after effort at changing the composition of the Security Council has failed and there is every prospect that it will fail again.
I think the one thing that can and should be done is what I call a Japan-only or Japan-first test. There is no doubt that Japan qualifies to be a permanent member; in fact, there are some arguments that it is better qualified than some of the existing permanent members and I will leave you to conclude which ones. But Japan would have a difficult role, difficult task, in obtaining a membership even through a concerted effort. But I think it is worthwhile because if people are serious about wanting a different kind of Security Council.
And if they look at what has happened as a practical matter for 15 years, they will see that trying to change everything at once is bound to fail for internal UN political reasons. And that, therefore, even one change in the Security Council could be significant and I think as Japan’s prospects move along, you confront China at that point with the reality. If China is prepared to veto then so be it; it has that right. But I think it would be interesting to see when push came to shove if that is what China would really do. So that would be my suggestion on Security Council reform; otherwise, my prediction would be years and years and, maybe, decades, of the same result which is to say, no change at all.
There were other structural governance changes that Kofi Annan suggested and I will just deal with two, both of which, in my judgment have failed already. The first was the creation of something called the Peace Building Commission. This idea arose out of, I think, a very practical observation that when a UN peacekeeping operation concludes either in the context of conflict between the two countries or in the conflict of Civil War, that simply restoring conditions of peace and security are not enough that, sometimes, because of gross abuses of human rights, sometimes because of the devastation of war, sometimes for other reasons, something more realistically could and should be done to help prevent a recurrence of the conflict that the UN would have just helped in. I think that is perfectly logical. I think it is perfectly sensible. I think that this is the sort of planning that the Security Council, or one of the other principal bodies of the UN–the Economic and Social Council or ECOSOC as it is referred to–these are things that could reasonably be said to fall within their responsibility.
But here we confront the reality of the UN as it is today. I’m tempted to ask–I will ask–how many of you can name one decision that ECOSOC has made in its 62 years of existence? It is all right; neither can I. It is an institution charged with the economic and social side of human life as the Security Council is charged with the side of international peace and security, and it has accomplished almost nothing in its entire existence. Almost nothing–I will get to you, I will get to you. Almost nothing.
The Security Council, frankly, has had mixed results in its existence; mixed results. So here you have a classic UN cultural decision. You have one body that is kind of halfway successful but is not addressing this particular problem. You have another body that has completely failed. So what do you do? Well, the answer is you create a third body and hope that that body will succeed where the other two have not.
Now, the existence of the Peace Building Commission, since it was created at the beginning of 2006, has consisted of several organizational meetings and I can report one year later that it is now organized and, essentially, no on-the-ground activity. I think it is very unlikely–and this is a prediction–very unlikely it will succeed. And yet we devoted enormous effort to creating the Peace Building Commission. And in ten years, we could all re-assemble here; I would propose and I could test my prediction. I would just ask you if any of you in 10 years will be able to name a single decision that the Peace Building Commission has made. Now that is pretty depressing, but let me talk about the other reform, which has been more of a failure; and that is the creation of a new body called the Human Rights Council to succeed what all agreed, I think, was a failed body, the Human Rights Commission.
Human Rights Commission over the years had made a specialty of highly-politicized outcomes. Essentially its largest products were resolutions critical of either the United States or Israel. Its credibility as an arbiter of human rights issue had fallen away and by 2005 and 2006, the Human Rights Commission had no defenders; had no defenders. Everybody agreed that it needed a change, and we went into the negotiation over creating a new body with Kofi Annan, with all of our friends in the European Union and the United States agreeing on a series of changes that we all hoped would produce different results in the elections for the Human Rights Council, the new body, to keep off not only gross abusers of human rights–Libya was a chairman a few years ago of the Human Rights Commission–but also to keep off the countries that voted with the gross abusers to stop real scrutiny of human rights abuses.
And we had a series of procedural devices, including, for example, a requirement that you could not be eligible to be on the Human Rights Commission if you were under Security Council sanctions for the support of terrorism or gross abuses of human rights yourself. I do not think that is very controversial, but we could not find anything like a majority of the membership in the UN to support that or most of the other specific reforms that we wanted. And what happened in negotiations that lasted well over a year was that our European friends, step by step, case by case, fell away from the reforms that we had proposed, as did Kofi Annan. So at the end of the day, as people like to say, the United States was isolated; isolated because we said if you are going to have reform, be serious.
Our European friends and the Secretary General said, “Well, look–” and this is a sort of a motto you could carve over the entry to the UN. They said, “This is the best we can get and we should accept it.” The US view was that we were only going to get to reform the Human Rights Commission one time; that having once adopted a new body with new procedures, the idea that you could come back to it just a few years later and fix it again was pretty remote. So our view was rather than succumb to false reform that we would hold out for a longer period. And we tried to persuade the Europeans with this and we failed. So when the vote came on the Human Rights Council, the United States and Israel and two other small countries voted against it.
But we voted against it as a matter of principle because we wanted real reform, and our prediction was the Human Rights Council, as reconstituted, would not be real reform. And indeed, in the years since it came into–less than a year now it came into operation, the new HRC has performed at best at the same level as the former HRC. It has got a catalogue of anti-Israel resolutions; the only reason it has not had any anti-American resolutions is they keep hoping we will run for election to it so that once we are there, then they can pass anti-American resolutions and our presence will help legitimate it. It has made a travesty of the notion that the UN can speak on Human Rights matters and it is a classic example of giving away in negotiation in the zeal to reach agreement the very reasons that you entered into the negotiation in the first place.
Let me turn next to Management Reform, the effort to make the UN more effective, more accountable, more transparent. There is simply no doubt that, despite the best efforts of a lot of people, including Cathy Brutini, that the UN carries a lot of bureaucratic baggage with it. It varies somewhat among the different agencies of the UN system but it is, at best, an extraordinarily cumbersome bureaucracy. We felt that there were a lot of changes that could be made to streamline the bureaucracy, to make it more responsive, to make it more agile, to clean up the problems that were uncovered in the Oil-for-Food scandal and to make the UN a more effective tool for the resolution of international problems.
We did not agree, therefore, with the first Deputy Secretary General Louise Fourchette of Canada who said in response to the Oil-for-Food scandal, “We do not ever want it. We at the UN do not ever want to do an Oil for Food program again.” We disagreed with that. We wanted a situation where if we had a need, we could go to the UN and ask them to carry out a major program like that. But what we also expected was that such a program could be carried out without corruption and substantial waste, fraud and abuse. So we had a range of reforms that we felt would go a long way toward accomplishing that. And many of our suggestions and some others we had–many of our suggestions came from Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board who was asked by Kofi Annan to look at the Oil-for-Food Program and come up with suggestions.
Volcker issued a series of reports that are a very detailed result of exhaustive investigation. And Volcker, who has been a public servant his entire life, a man with not a partisan bone in his body as far as I can tell, has said publicly he came into this not expecting that it would be a huge task, expecting there would be some problems he could identify and some solutions he could propose. But he came away just stunned at what he found not just in the Oil-for-Food Program but what it showed about the UN system as a whole.
He said in response to a question at the Senate testimony that he gave in the fall of 2005, one Senator asked, “Chairman Volcker, do you think there is a culture of corruption at the UN?” And Volcker said, “No, I do not think there is a culture of corruption. There are examples of corruption but I do not think it is a culture. I think there is a culture of inaction at the UN.” A culture of inaction. And that culture was what our reforms were aimed at.
Now the Secretary General himself recognized that major management changes were needed and he proposed a series of changes to the General Assembly that he himself described as radical. We thought they were by and large good suggestions; we did not agree with each and every one but, by and large, they went in the right direction. So we tried with a number of other countries to push them through the General Assembly. And all of these recommendations were referred to what is called the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with budget and management matters.
And in the Fifth Committee, typically these questions are resolved by consensus; typically you do not have votes. But our friends in the Non-Aligned Movement and the G77 said, “Absolutely not. We are not going to accept these changes,” that were proposed not by the United States; proposed by Kofi Annan. They said, “We are not going to accept these changes and if need be, we are prepared to put it to a vote.”
The Europeans did not want to go to a vote because they knew we would lose. I did not want to go to a vote because I still wanted to persuade the G77 but there finally came a point after hours and hours of debate where we said we are going to have to have a vote on the Secretary General’s reforms. I want to stress again–not the US reforms; the Secretary General’s reforms. So they came to a vote both in the Fifth Committee and then in the General Assembly and they were rejected by a vote of about 50 countries in favor of these reforms and about 120 countries against, with the rest not voting. Only 50 countries in favor of these reforms requested by a Secretary General from Ghana who had spent almost his entire professional career as an international civil servant in the UN system.
The 50 countries that voted in favor of the reforms contribute about 80 percent of the assessed budget of the UN. The 120 countries that voted against contributed less than 15 percent, and yet those 120 countries by a more than 2-to-1 margin were able to stop the reforms. In fact, that was not the last vote; the reform campaign went on right up till the end of last year, but I have to tell you it did not succeed. It did not succeed. So that the UN that we have today in management structural budget terms is essentially the same UN we had 2 years ago.
I draw from this lesson the conclusion that efforts at marginal or incremental change in UN structures are not going to succeed and that, therefore, what we need is a more fundamental change in the way the UN system works that would permit the more sweeping changes that I think are necessary. And the only change that I think will work is to move fundamentally away from the system of assessed contributions towards a system of voluntary contributions. Assessed contributions now work in a way that you take the budget, let us say, of the central UN and then each country is assessed a certain percentage of that budget based on a complex formula called capacity-to-pay. The US pays the largest share–22 percent of the regular assessed budget, 27 percent of peacekeeping. Japan, under the new calculation, pays about 16.5 percent; Germany is about 8 percent and the rest go down from there.
The General Assembly has a 192 countries–trust me, I’m not going to do a lot of math here; I just want to give you a couple of examples. The General Assembly has 192 countries, which means 97 is a majority. The lowest assessed percentage contribution for the countries that pay the least is 0.001 percent–you with me?–0.001 percent of the budget. If you start with those countries paying that and then start adding up 0.002, 0.00–you start adding those up and you finally get to 97 countries, which constitute the majority, the lowest assessed contributors, those –the aggregate share of their assessed contribution is 0.289 percent of the budget, which means the United States alone pays 66 times more than a majority of the lowest contributing countries.
And what happens is, it is fun to spend other people’s money and that is what happens in the main UN system. The assessed contribution mechanism creates an entitlement mentality. People know the money is coming in; they do not have the same incentives to perform as when contributions are voluntary.
I think it is generally agreed that the best-run, most effective agencies in the UN system are those that are already funded by voluntary contributions–UN High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF, the World Food Program. Not without their problems to be sure, but looked at across the entire spectrum of UN agencies, these are the ones that have the strongest incentive to perform because if they do not perform, the contributors have the option of going somewhere else. If you introduce this concept more broadly into the UN, I think you would have a much more substantial chance for a sweeping reform and much more possibility that the United States would find the UN a more effective tool for the solution of international problems.
This would be a huge battle but I think it would be a very salutary battle to have because then you would have to get the arguments out there out of abstract management terms and into the real question: What programs are effective? What programs actually accomplish something? And what programs are out of date, should be abolished, consolidated or substantially changed? A debate we have not been able to have even during two years of intense discussion about reform.
Now, we have a new Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, who is now just over a month in office. The United States supported Ban Ki-Moon. He is well known to many others. He served much of his professional career as a South Korean Diplomat dealing with the bilateral relationship with the United States. He is the first Secretary General from a country that is a treaty ally of the United States but he was supported not only by us but by China. And, fundamentally, when it came down to it, it was the support of China and the United States for Ban Ki-Moon that, I think, guaranteed he was going to get the job. He has the possibility in his first six months to make sweeping changes.
He has already encountered enormous resistance in less than a month but he has done some significant things, some of which we suggested. He has asked for the resignation of the top 60 under secretary generals and assistant secretary generals; so something that in the United States when a Presidential administration changes, we take for granted. At the UN this a kind of heresy, but he had the courage to insist on it and I hope if he take steps like that and other steps like that, that he does have a brief opportunity to make real progress in UN reform. So it is something that–this is a time to watch what happens in the UN with particular care because it will tell you a lot about whether if he succeeds in his first six months he will have a chance in the remaining four and a half years of his term or if he serves two terms through a 10-year period as Secretary General.
This has huge importance for the United States. If the UN cannot be reformed, if it is always saddled with the risk that the culture that infused the Oil For Food Program inhibits its ability to solve problems, we will naturally look elsewhere. The UN can be an effective instrument of American foreign policy. But if it does not work our obligation is to say, “Can we fix it? Or are there alternatives?” And I think in the international marketplace for problem-solving, competition is a good thing. Competition would be good for the United Nations and that is the objective we should see.