April 1, 2011
UN Resolution no.1973 authorising the humanitarian intervention in Libya could rightly be considered as one of the Security Council’s most important decisions to date. It came at a crucial moment in the multilateral organisation’s history, when the UN’s very existence was threatened by US unilateralism, as advocated by a cohort of American IR experts led by Anne Marie Slaughter, former director of strategy and planning within the US State Department.
The Slaughter offensive against the UN reached its peak in 2008 with the launch of the Princeton Project. Its aim was to replace the UN with a tamer organisation, more pliable to US foreign policy objectives, namely the Concert of Democracies. The latter was supposed to authorise US initiatives, including the use of force, in a manner which best suited the US’ hegemonic agenda.
As the Libyan conflict erupted, alas, Ms Slaughter no longer worked for the State Department. Undaunted, she opened a Twitter account and tried to help Mrs Clinton, her former boss, garner worldwide grass roots support in favour of a unilateral NATO intervention against Gaddafi.
Realising the danger the UN was facing, France and Great Britain asked the Security Council to authorise a humanitarian intervention in Libya. Russia and China, traditionally committed to multilateralism and to solving international crises within the UN framework, have abstained from the vote, thus paving the way for the adoption of resolution 1973.
This latest triumph of multilateralism over US unilateralism is, however, only part of the story. The Arab uprisings have helped focus the attention of Mrs Clinton and her team away from South East Asia. The State Department’s diplomatic drive in Asia last fall, aimed at inaugurating a containment policy directed against China, has now all but fizzled out. One of the collateral victims of that policy has been key Clinton ally and fellow China hawk Seiji Maehara, the Japanese foreign minister, who resigned on March 6. He leaves behind a legacy of dramatically increased Sino-Japanese tensions, which have brought bilateral relations close to boiling point some three months ago.
The UN has proved its usefulness in a crisis by authorising the humanitarian intervention in Libya quickly. The situation on the ground in Libya, however, is far less promising, as the rebels lack military training and coordination, whilst the allied bombings have so far failed to impress Gaddafi.Florian Pantazi