As part of their Fall 2013 Distinguished Speaker Series, The Center on Global Governance last Thursday hosted the former president of Slovenia. Dr. Türk held a discussion on “The Future of the UN and Multilateral Cooperation.” In 1992, Dr. Türk became Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to the United Nations. In 1998 and 1999, he served as Slovenia’s non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, and from 2007 to 2012 was President of Slovenia. Hearty Historian Joseph Rosales reports from the scene.
Don’t know where Slovenia is? You should. It’s a cool place. Dr. Türk didn’t share much about being president, though, but spoke mostly about diplomacy. He started off with the post-Cold War era of the 90’s. UN resolutions didn’t lead to meaningful action, and diplomacy didn’t carry authority. See Bosnia and Kosovo. Dr. Türk’s solution: back it by force. Back diplomacy by force? Isn’t diplomacy supposed to be the peaceful option? Well according to Dr. Türk, world powers can combine diplomacy with force in “an effective and meaningful way,” without actually using force. Odd, but Dr. Türk seems to be optimistic about sort of not using force but having military power to back up UN decisions and peacekeeping efforts.
Things got real when the lecture was over and the discussion began.
Audience: Is it healthy [for the legitimacy of the United Nations] that the US is and repeatedly has been the loudest voice for intervention in the UN?
Dr. Türk explained that although the US may be the loudest voice for intervention, it is definitely not the only one. If it’s the state most open to military intervention, that may be because it’s size and power. We wouldn’t expect smaller states to get as much attention as the US. The UN is frequently on the side of the US when it comes to intervention, as are many other world powers, so there is not much reason to see the US as a lone world ranger.
Audience: Would it be better to not have a Security Council, but just a General Assembly? The UN used to only have an assembly, right?
Dr. Turk refers to an age-old principle: the separation of powers. The GA is full of small states with little interest in other states’ affairs. The SC, on the other hand, consists of the larger world powers who do have interest in foreign intervention.
Audience member who self-identifies as a Law School professor who’s taught for half a century: You wrote your first Ph. D. on non-intervention… The US repeatedly uses force without “self-defense” or a Security Council resolution, all in the name of humanitarian intervention.
Dr. Türk says this is not true. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were in fact authorized by the Security Council. Afghanistan was even authorized with the rationale of self-defense. Furthermore, the UN Security Council has a “primary responsibility” for peace, not an “exclusive” one (UN Charter, Article 24). The International Court affirms this. So the Security Council is tasked with peacekeeping, but is absolutely authorized to allow military action between states.
His advice from the 90’s, on Syria: “The first thing to say is that the mechanism for Iraq was extremely effective. Both mechanisms.” WMD’s were destroyed. In both Iraq wars, there was a combination of UN resolutions and US force. There is a framework agreement on chemical weapons already in place, and that should be utilized. Dr. Türk is in favor of creating SC resolutions on chemical weapons. The SC may create “binding” resolutions, with a legal obligation for member states to follow along. A binding resolution paired with diplomatic efforts from the US and Russia would be preferable in dealing with Syria. But again, what is diplomacy anymore? A UN resolution would likely come with language allowing for “enforcement,” and US efforts are likely to include military action. But according to Dr. Türk, the Security Council should have a way to go ahead without the use of force, or without anyone carrying out their threats of force. Diplomacy of this kind is “an artistic task, but that’s what the Security Council is for. There is a peaceful option as well as a military option. If that [peaceful option] succeeds, then of course the world would be better off.”
Dr. Türk via Wikimedia Commons