Friday, April 6, 2007

Krauthammer - The Hostage Situation Throws Harsh Light on EU and UN

Charles Krauthammer has authored an article today, claiming that the British have been humiliated and that Iran acted with impugnity. I do not concur in those assessments in as much as I think the UK will be doing business differently in the future. It will not be leaving quietly with its tail between its legs. And as to Iran, they gave the soldiers back before this got to the point of lobbing bombs. That said, I do not think that they will escape the ramifications of their acts in the long term. See here.

But then Mr. Krauthammer gets to some cogent observations, specifically as to the nature of both the EU and the UN Security Coucil, that are well worth noting:

Where then was the European Union? These 15 hostages, after all, are not just British citizens but, under the laws of Europe, citizens of Europe. Yet the European Union lifted not a finger on their behalf.

Europeans talk all the time about their preference for "soft power" over the brute military force those Neanderthal Americans resort to all the time. What was the soft power available here? Iran's shaky economy is highly dependent on European credits, trade and technology. Britain asked the European Union to threaten to freeze exports, $18 billion a year of commerce. Iran would have lost its No. 1 trading partner. The European Union refused.

Why was nothing done? The reason is simple. Europe functions quite well as a free-trade zone, but as a political entity it is a farce. It remains a collection of sovereign countries with divergent interests. A freeze of economic relations with Europe would have shaken the Iranian economy to the core. "The Dutch," reported the Times of London, "said it was important not to risk a breakdown in dialogue." So much for European solidarity.

Like other vaunted transnational institutions, the European Union is useless as a player in the international arena. Not because its members are venal but because they are sovereign. Their interests are simply not identical.

The problem is most striking at the United Nations, the quintessential transnational institution with a mandate to maintain international peace and order. There was a commonality of interest at its origin -- defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. The war ended, but the wartime alliance of Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia proclaimed itself the guardian of postwar "collective security" as the Security Council.

Small problem: Their interests are not collective. They are individual. Take the Iranian nuclear program. Russia and China make it impossible to impose any serious sanctions. China has an interest in maintaining strong relations with a major energy supplier and is not about to jeopardize that over Iranian nukes that are no threat to it whatsoever. Russia sees Iran as a useful proxy in resisting Western attempts to dominate the Persian Gulf.

Ironically, the existence of transnational institutions such as the United Nations makes it harder for collective action against bad actors. In the past, interested parties would simply get together in temporary coalitions to do what they had to do. That is much harder now because they believe such action is illegitimate without the Security Council's blessing. The result is utterly predictable. Nothing has been done about the Iranian bomb. In fact, the only effective sanctions are those coming unilaterally out of the U.S. Treasury.

Read the article here. That last paragraph in paraticular should give pause to those who recall, not too long ago, John Kerry and his Democrat cohorts saying how U.S. foreign policy must be multilateral and must make full use of international bodies such as the UN. Indeed, many on the left judge the legitimacy of any international act on whether it bears the stamp of the UN. For the U.S. every to capitulate to that position would be suicidal.

For my own part, I think we need to at least look at dusting off the Iran Freedom Support Act and see if we cannot convince the EU countries that their loyalties - and bottom line - are best served by cooperating against Iran.

1 comment:

Always On Watch Two said...

I, too, read this column when it appeared in the Washington Post.

The EU was a total failure with regard to the Iranian hostages.


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