August 01, 2008
The UN: Inaction in Action....
The U.N. and Comrade Bob
July 14, 2008; Page A16
As with Darfur and Burma, the depredations of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe have become a target of the world's moral outrage. Also like those two countries, the chances of anyone doing something about Zimbabwe are falling into the diplomatic abyss that is the United Nations.
The Bush Administration has been prodding the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and pass financial and travel sanctions that would pressure the Mugabe regime to sponsor honest elections and stop killing democratic opponents. The U.S. persuaded Burkina Faso, currently an African representative on the Council, to sign on.
But at the moment of truth on Friday, Russia and China vetoed the sanctions on grounds that they amounted to interference in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. Libya and Vietnam joined Russia and China, no doubt as fellow dictatorships that don't want outside attention on their domestic practices. And in a display of bizarre solidarity with Mr. Mugabe, South Africa also voted against the sanctions. (South Africa has long ago forfeited whatever moral authority it had on world affairs from the Nelson Mandela era.)
As in Darfur and Burma, the pattern is the same: The world's media report on a marauding regime terrorizing its neighbors or its own people. The world's foreign policy elite express their dismay, with liberal internationalists and European nations urging President Bush to "show some leadership" and "do something" through the U.N. The Bush Administration does precisely that. Yet in the event, China and Russia veto and nothing happens.
In essence, the U.N. has become a dictator protection racket. Intervention by any country outside U.N. auspices is deemed to be illegitimate, as with the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. But when a security problem is brought before the Security Council, that committee of the unwilling inevitably fails to act. The exceptions are when Russia, China or Europe wants to use the U.N. as a tool to limit unilateral action by Israel or the U.S.
Barack Obama has been campaigning on the virtues of the U.N. and its collective diplomacy, but we haven't seen any comment from his campaign on this latest U.N. failure. Not that it would matter much if he did say anything. Mr. Mugabe knows that the only action with any chance of challenging his rule in Harare would be a U.S.-led intervention, and Mr. Obama has said he really dislikes that sort of thing.
So the people of Zimbabwe are left to the brutal mercy of Comrade Bob. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Russia's veto "incomprehensible" - which only shows that he hasn't been paying attention. At the U.N., it's business as usual.
Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal