Obama administration officials were absolutely venomous after the Russian (and Chinese) veto of the UN Security Council resolution draft on Syria. “Disgusting,” said U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Secretary of State Clinton called it a “travesty.”
Their revulsion was misplaced — the Russians did what they said they would do; they defended their ally with a veto. The problem here isn’t Russia.
Consider the document upon which Amb. Rice and Sec. Clinton appear to believe the fate of the Syrian people hinged. There were sixteen clauses in the draft resolution:
- Clauses 1 and 3 condemn violence.
- 2, 5, and 11 make demands of the Syrian government, including a demand that it dissolve itself.
- 4 and 12 demand respect for human rights.
- 6 calls for an “inclusive” political process.
- 7, 8, 9, and 10 demand restoration of the Arab League mission under rules favorable to the League and unfavorable to the Syrian government.
- 13 and 14 praise the UN Secretary General.
- 15 calls for a 21-day review of the prior clauses.
- 16 announces that the Security Council will “remain seized” of the matter.
Well, that makes that clear. Certainly had the Russians and Chinese not vetoed the draft, Bashar Assad, having murdered thousands, wounded and tortured tens of thousands, and imprisoned and “disappeared” thousands more of his own people, would have read it and said, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?”
If there is a travesty, it is in thinking the Security Council can prevent humanitarian disasters in the face of governments intent upon unleashing them. What is revolting is that the Obama administration believed “demands” by UN diplomats “seized of the matter” would stop Assad from using all means at his disposal to remain in power, when from his point of view the alternative is the massacre of himself, his family, and his Alawite cohorts at the hands of the majority Sunni population.
Despite the administration’s best efforts to give the UN credit, the Security Council at best will acquiesce to the decision of other countries to take independent action. In September, the president lauded the Security Council for its role in Libya:
Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. … We cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world. [But] there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale.
The difference between the horror of Libya and the horror of Syria is unclear, but what the UN achieved in the former was simply to agree not to veto NATO’s already clear determination to oust Gaddafi. The Security Council certainly did not “stand together as one.” Russia, China, Germany, India, and Brazil, representing the majority of the world’s population and a great deal of its economic clout, abstained. The two permanent members declined to exercise a veto, perhaps because Libya wasn’t the client of either; Syria is.
Secretary Clinton announced after the Russian veto:
Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations.
The Security Council was neutered long ago, and the General Assembly and Committees of the UN have become automatic vehicles for the battering of Israel, the West, and free institutions. Recognition of its ineffectuality is a step in the right direction — recognition of its perniciousness would be another. And best would be a determined effort to constitute a “club of democracies,” banding together to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace,” in the long-neglected words of the United Nations Charter.