16 February 2005

Institutional Dotage (3)

[Part One] [Part Two]

Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, recognizes the difficulties in applying the Geneva Convention rules to terror suspects and recommends the development of "a new set of rules for capturing, processing, detaining and prosecuting such nonstate actors as transnational terrorists." Barnett continues that these new rules should be defined by a consortium of nations with interconnected economic interests, nations he describes variously as the "the good guys", the "functioning core of the global economy", and "the connected states . . . [with] a shared commitment to combating global terrorism." In making that recommendation, Barnett expressly rejects the active participation of the United Nations:
This is not a job for the UN. In a global legislative body where Libya gets to chair the Human Rights Commission (who's next, Sudan?), some punks really have gotten lucky.

What am I talking about here? A WTO-like entity for global counterterrorism. A body that would set the operating standards for both intracore police networking (like building that fabled terrorist database in the sky) and the rules of engagement (to include prisoner handling, detention, and interrogation) for whenever the member states' militaries venture into the gap looking for bad guys.
Why would the conduct of the international war on terror be too important to trust to the U.N.? Do you think the U.N. is too bureaucratic to act quickly on an immediate concern of critical long-term importance? Do you think the U.N.'s coddling of various terror-supporting and terrorist-harboring regimes would make it a fox guarding the proverbial henhouse? Do you think the U.N.'s feckless enforcement of its own resolutions on terror, human rights, and related matters disqualifies it from a leadership position in a key aspect of this war? I'd agree with you if you think the present U.N.'s pervasive corruption so damages whatever credibility it might otherwise bring to an eventual solution that it should be disqualified from participating. Choose your own reasoning and I'll meet you at the conclusion. In Barnett's words, "This is no job for the U.N."

Curiously, though, Barnett backtracks when it comes to trying the terror suspects captured under the "new rules" he advocates. "As for the trials? Prisoners should be funneled toward the International Criminal Court, because you've got to make the UN happy at some point in the process." As I argued previously, I see no reason to assume the U.N.'s relevance or utility, or to seek its approval or cooperation in matters implicating our security or those of our ally states. I can appreciate the views of some that American courts lack the objectivity or appearance of objectivity necessary to judge the actions of our government and military, the evidence they gather, or the suspects they capture. I don't share those views, but I can understand them; notwithstanding, to get from that point to a conclusion that the International Criminal Court or another tribunal supported by the United Nations would supply whatever credibility or authority the courts of the United States may lack requires a leap of faith I'm not prepared to make.

More later . . . .

[Part Four]

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