Europe's Consitutional Quandary Three Essays on Europe's Future
Our Constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. Thucydides II, 37, epigraph to the European Constitution.
A DRAFT VERSION of the European Union constitution was published this week by the Praesidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe. Diplomatica will embark upon a full-scale analysis of this constitution and its implications upon its final adoption by the Union, and here will mainly explore the primary provisions as well as the reactions across the Continent.
The impact of the draft's publication was felt primarily in Britain, in which various elements of the anti-integrationist right have used it as a launching pad for a much larger national debate over Britain's fundamental place within Europe, its economy, and its increasingly unified government. The draft's publication has indeed come shortly after controversy erupted in Britain over the government's somewhat ambiguous stance on a referendum for the adoption of the euro as the country's primary currency. Elsewhere on the Continent, the draft was primarily met with apathy as voters confronted individual national problems- the focus was on local elections in Spain and Italy, while controversy over rollbacks of social benefits embroiled France and Germany. The candidate countries of Eastern Europe are encapsulated by their petty newfound glory in becoming surrogates for the American imperialist project in Iraq and are too consumed with grandstanding military summits to this effect to pay much heed to whatever emanates from Brussels. Nevertheless, the draft's publication has sparked anew some debate between small and large member states, the former of which claim their interests have been "run roughshod" over by the Convention's chairman, M. Giscard d'Estaing.
More truthfully, the document is a pathwork of compromise, a bit of grey matter which was therefore bound to cause little excitement amongst those who did not look for it specifically (such as the British newspapers). It calls for a relatively strong European presidency, nominated by the European Council (which best represents the interest of Europe's nation-states) and elected by the democratically-selected European Parliament. A coordinator of European foriegn policy would also be selected by the Council, but with the corollary that "member states shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the acts adopted by the Union in this area." However, there is validity to the arguments of the small states in that the one member-one vote Commission, which best represents their interests, sees its powers reduced quite dramatically in comparison to the Council, and even the Parliament (to a far lesser extent). The argument for the Commission's diminution was made by those who believe its composition simply cannot be sustained given the number of states composing the EU after the completion of accession in June 2004.
The potential pitfalls are many. The constitution solidly reflects British hopes and values as they correspond to Europe, but nevertheless the contingent of the British right has taken upon itself to ensure this is not seized upon by Britain's people. Their mythologising has done the document much discredit, and many Britons who would logically be arguing for the maintenance of this draft over the adoption of future, more integrationist models are instead finding themselves in a position advocating a type of regression within Europe to the primitive days of the nascent European Economic Community.
The constitution also fails to adequately address the issue of democracy, which was its designated intent. Europe was always seen as a rather non-transparent entity, a bureaucratic maze effectively divorced from public opinion. With pan-European public sentiment during the Iraq crisis proving the merit of the "European spirit" as a veritable force within European politics (if it could ever be coupled with pan-Continental governmental representation), one would think the Convention would have found a means by which to incorporate a greater degree of citizen participation in the European government. That it did not was a reflection of the degree large nation-states have held sway over the proceedings of the Convention. For it is not a more integrated Europe that is a danger to democracy, but the continuing concentration of power and representation within the EU in the hands of national governments rather than the votes of the European populace. This has resulted in circular arguments promulgated by those who would wish to keep Europe impotently divided through the continual invocation of "sovereignty." A more integrated Europe would be a less democratic Europe, they surmise, using this constitution as viable evidence. Nonetheless, loosening the ties that bind Europe would only dissolve the capacity of individual citizens to make decisions on pan-continental issues, as such retains the sovereignty of the nation but not that of the European citizen. The lack of transparency is not a Continentalist plot related to integration but a direct consequence of the expansion of powers of the Council and its appointed ministers representing national governments.
Finally, the constitution in its current form renders Europe inept to posing a necessary challenge to the United States' global leadership on the world stage. Provided, few European states have awoken to the necessity of this counterpolar arrangement, or would charge that it embraces a confrontational Cold War mentality, but nonetheless can be achieved via a more equally balanced partnership with the US involving gentle balancing and finesse rather than military aggression as practised by its former foe, the Soviet Union. Insofar as Eurosceptics are always posing the question of Europe's values and existence, they are stated concisely in the constitution's preamble ("values underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason...perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law...progress and prosperity, culture, learning, and social progress...democratic nature of its public life...to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world"), and should provide a basis on which to assert Europe's own independence and viability as an alternative social model as well as a bulwark to Washington's imperial proclivities.
I. Britain: A Question of Belonging
"YOU will pay for Europe's pensions!" blared the headline of the UK's Sun, perhaps the most abrasive news tabloid in Britain. It was part of a barrage of Eurosceptic charges leveled at the release of a draft of the European Union constitution under debate at the Convention for the Future of Europe. These have been primarily delivered by the right-wing outlets of the British media, which have made nonsensical claims and speculations over the content of the draft. The Guardian's Timothy Garton Ash calls them the "armies of Euroscepticism," which are "equipped with highly advanced weapons of mass distortion," among them the "chemical (the Sun), biological (the Daily Mail) and nuclear (the Daily Telegraph and the Times)." Ash warns that the constitutional issue may be the "end of [Tony Blair's] premiership." Of course, Blair has weathered significant criticism over a whole host of issues, several controversial wars included. Ash's paper continues to speculate as to exactly when the demise of the Blair government will materialise (yesterday the paper's website was headed by rumours he may "face a rebellion" over the inability to specifically locate weaponry of mass destruction in Iraq). At the same time, support for Blair's positions on Europe is embraced by the paper's commentators. While the rightist papers mentioned have all called for referenda on the draft constitution to stave off perceived losses of liberties or erasure of Britain's "thousand-year history," as this would inevitably prove the "will of the people" to be firmly in the lap of "sovereignty," the Guardian's columnists, specifically Mr. Ash, are smug enough to make the same assertion, believing in the ultimate commitment of the British populace to the European project.
Mr. Ash's musings on the subject are less overt than others on the British left, who seem to be convinced of a "silent majority" of Britons ready to pledge loyalty to Brussels. Nevertheless, credit must be given to Mr. Ash's conviction that the media has been obfuscating this issue for far too long while the government seems to aspire to the kind of ohmacht-sehnsucht (desire for impotence) usually reserved for those frozen out of power. "The matter of Europe," Mr. Ash begins, "really does pose the question: 'Who governs Britain?' However, the choice we face is not: 'Brussels or Westminster?' The choice is: 'Our elected government or the Daily Mail?'" The observation of the command of the rightist "Murchdoch press" upon the British political consensus is more than adequately expressed in the following passage:
Yesterday, the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, Mr. Charles Moore (aka the editor of the Daily Telegraph, but in reality a more formidable leader of a more formidable opposition than [Conservative party leader] Iain Duncan Smith), was...in ebullient form - until John Humphrys asked him if a vote against the constitution would not be a rejection of Europe altogether. Then Charles Moore reined in and juddered, like a huntsman suddenly faced with a very large ditch. After a fumbling pause he said no, it would not be, but "it would be a rejection of Euromania". It would be the rejection of "top-down Europe" and perhaps the beginning of "bottom-up Europe".
Leaving Mr. Moore's rhetoric, more blind slogans detached from the moorings of realistic implementation, or, indeed, articulation than actual refutation of the cogent snare set by his interrogator, as this is meant to be more a critique of the position of the British left, this exposure of the inherent flaws within the Eurosceptical argument do not necessarily amount to the need for a referendum on Britain's place within the European Union. Indeed, while Mr. Ash and his fellow pro-referendum leftists argue that Britain should become more engaged in Europe in order to inject its own interests into the Continental debate, his position is sabotaged by his own savagery of the ineffectuality of both a referendum and the stances espoused within the rightist media:
Will the whole of the rest of the Europe, all 24 states and 400 million people, exclaim: "Oh gosh, the Daily Telegraph has shown us the error of our ways, so let us now go back to the drawing board, and build a good old British-style 'bottom-up' Europe, not a dreadful, French-style 'top-down' Europe?" If you believe that, you'll believe anything.
While the British government has justifiably lashed out against its Conservative opposition and its ridiculous calls-to-arms over the draft constitution's release, it will achieve little via the deliverance of a referendum to the British population, which Tony Blair believes frivolous considering its lack of major adjustments to the British national constitution. Indeed, the document is rather inertia-based and involves no such drastic manoeuvres to alter the status of British sovereignty as, say, the adoption of the euro as the UK's official currency. Nevertheless, the greatest danger is in the rightist press' accusations that Blair is compromising British democracy, especially over fears he may "lose" the referendum. Indeed, a loss is entirely conceivable, due to the media's influence over the issue and its conversion of some potential apathetic individuals to a virulent anti-constitutional stance.
Should the British people continue to insist upon a referendum, the government cannot rest on the laurels of its esoteric positions on the arcane, mysterious bureaucratic drama that occurrences in Brussels are for the everyday Briton. Indeed, it must deploy (along with serious invective) the standard-bearers of its logic as ambassadors to the public in order to subvert the demagoguery of Rupert Mudoch's media empire and its allies. The vast majority of the British people are either clueless as to the content of the draft constitution or the reasons for its existence. Those who are tend to be under the sway of the Sun et al, and spit out fabricated syllogisms concerning the subordination of parliament's authority to the European Commission president, the subsumption of the fundamental rights of the British people via a European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the horror at an attempt to formulate a common foreign policy, which might, indeed, involve an end to the prostitution of the British state to Washington policymakers.
Ergo, Blair's government should either articulate immediately that the draft constitution will undergo voluminous amendment changes during the next round of the Convention's debate, and therefore postpone any referendum until then, or embrace the idea of a referendum (as Denmark has), while more effectively attacking the positions of the Eurosceptics. As the credibility of the Blair government is set to erode tremendously, Blair should enlist the assistance of notable Labour and Liberal Democratic party leaders in a transpartisan effort to promote what is really little more than an attempt to anchor the government of Europe in a reality other than a treaty. Before any progress can be made in strengthening Europe via the document itself, such essential steps must be taken to quell the illogically visceral reaction in the United Kingdom against it.
II. The Continent: A Question of Equality
CENTRAL to the quandaries facing the Continent as a result of the draft constitution's publication should be the balance between small and large states as well as the degree of transparency afforded by the new document vis-a-vis the government of Europe. The two are, in fact, intricately linked, for marginalising the smaller states risks the finale to the European project. "Do we want a directorate in Europe where the big six states decide everything?" asked German Christian Democrat MEP and convention member Elmar Brok. "If so it will be the end of the European Union." Indeed, to invoke a peculiarly American reverance for "founding fathers," Jean Monnet, instrumental in the establishment of the Treaties of Rome, who was a rather ardent European federalist and devised the idea of a European "community" rather than a Metternichean concert of powerful states, would not have approved of the new draft constitution.
The greatest and most fundamental challenge within the EU has always been the balance of the interest of the states and of the central authority. The central authority, about to be represented within a constitutional construct, cannot, therefore, simply ignore the needs and desires of the smaller states of Europe, especially as their combined power rivals multiple larger states within the "big six" of Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Poland. The EU cannot risk the consensus of cultures which it has been built upon being broken as smaller states perceive their domination by more "imperial" powers. In this way, Jacques Chirac's condemnation of Eastern European states for their support of the US in the Iraq war, so blatantly and overtly phrased, was seen as a dangerous step for European integration.
The recognition has been, for the smaller states, that the increased power of a central authority granting them equal or near-equal status to the larger states, specifically the European Commission, would be to their benefit. They have therefore been alienated by the document in its current form, which surrenders overriding powers to the European Council. Furthermore, the smaller states believed the position of a powerful European executive would diminish their capacity for imput on the EU's governance, as the rotating presidency would therefore end. However, with the expansion of the Union to 25 members, the rotation would most likely render such states equally powerless for most of the time. If the position of a European executive were fused with the capacities of the European Commission, it could both cement the necessary establishment of a European presidency as well as appease the interests of the small states with an expansion of the Commission's influence. He or she might still be nominated from within the Council, as a concession to the "six" powers.
Of course, the concept of a European presidency, among other measures intended to either increase the power of or centralise the Union, are seen as moves made to contribute to the development of some draconian European "superstate" which would act to dominate the lives of its citizens. As mentioned above, those who would weaken the Union for the gain of nation-states would argue such centralisation is implicit in the seizure of rights granted to the people by the state. However, as the Union's strength is weakened by the insistence of nation-states that their control must be central (e.g., it is Tony Blair's policy to secure a "Europe of nations"), the people of Europe continue to be just as removed from the decisions made in Brussels as before. While statist governments seem to concur that it is an essential element of Europe's purpose that measures must be taken in the sphere of law on a continental scale in order to address naturally continental issues, their desire to maintain a state-centred Europe disallows the citizenry from taking effective direct part in the debate on such laws (or "directives," as EU law will continue to be referred to as, due to British posturing for compromises on various language aspects of the constitution). Ergo, it is exactly this nation-centred Europe which maintains the esoteric Brussels bureaucracy. Only a Europe which breaks down borders and national influence, and allows for far more participation of its people in Brussels lawmaking would be an effectually democratic Europe.
To illustrate, let one look at the example of the United Kingdom. The Labour government there has claimed considerable success in its policy of "devolution," in which significant powers have been granted to the regional governments of Scotland, Wales, and, to a far lesser extent, Northern Ireland. Such moves were made to appease centrifugal sentiment among the Scots, Welsh, and Irish Catholics. Nevertheless, the people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are still afforded the opportunity to proportional representation granted to residents of the English counties. One would think it a ludicrous affront to democracy to merely include at Parliament in London a handful of representatives from each region, appointed by a Scottish or Welsh premier, as opposed to the current large contingent of MPs. Yet this is exactly what the antifederalist, or, more accurately, the nation-centred Europhobes propose for the European government. Control is maintained in the hands of a few elite ministerial appointees within the European Council while the European Parliament is essentially impotent and the intellectual technocrats of the Commission, whose ideas have shaped much of the Union's positive progress so far, are continually marginalised. Both Europe's brain trust and its people are relegated to symbolic positions while decisions are made by national ministers wrapping themselves in the cloak of patriotism, history, and sovereignty in order to deflect criticism. No one seems to have realised that in the history of Europe, patriotism and absolute sovereignty resulted in the catastrophic bloodbaths which led to the foundation of a unified Europe to begin with. The draft constitution is, indeed, "a step backwards," as Commission President Romano Prodi said in a characteristic eurofederalist criticism of the document.
Those British leftists who continue to insist the Prime Minister seek good relations with the Continent in order to introduce British values to Europe are submitting themselves to the same cocktail of nationalist sentiment which overrides the European debate. The Convention, and the constitution, are about the people of Europe, including Britons, being represented within the European government which already composes their laws. Europe does not need a rallying cry, it already has one: cementing the institution of democracy within the extant continental government. Should it not, the European people will ultimately become overly cynical about the purpose of their Union and its government, and increasingly will voice their distrust. The deception of the nation-centralists will have been complete, for the desire to leave at Europe's helm the elites of Europe's national cabinets was not one made in order to submit the continent to their despotic rule, but to destabilise the foundations in which the very ideas of European unity are cemented. The people of Europe must awaken from their apathetic nonchalance and delusions, discard for a few moments such pop cultural distractions as the Eurovision song contest, and vigourously involve themselves in the struggle for their future.
III. The EU on the World Stage
"Europa ist eine echte macht." -German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
THAT EUROPE should project its potential power for the mutual benefit of the planet is essential whether or not one subscribes to the aim of a European counterpole to American hegemony. In a world beset by innumerable severe humanitarian crises, an entity with the economic and military capacity of Europe has a responsibility to engage in producing the most effective solutions possible to global calamities. This includes such widely agreed-upon items as the deployment of a strong European Rapid Reaction Force and the promotion of worldwide sustainable economic development. United, Europe can achieve far more than it ever could as separate, individual nation-states. The reorganisation of the two million military personnel currently under the aspices of "the fifteen" current EU members into an effective peacekeeping force would both solidify the purpose of the EU in the world and serve as a necessary cost-trimming measure.
However, under the European government proposed by the current draft constitution, the European foreign policy coordinator (or "external representative" in Britannic parlance), who is to preside over the execution of common foreign and security policy decisions, is appointed and serves under the auspices of the European Council, this subjecting Europe's foreign policies to the same sclerotic divisionary schism experienced during the Iraq crisis, during which it almost seemed to be American policy to keep Europe divided and weak. One senior diplomat admitted of the draft that nothing within its contents would prevent such from happening again. Reality is even less encouraging- the EU failed to even stand by its declaration in Athens espousing the need for a "central UN role" in Iraq, its representatives on the Security Council co-opted into acceding to American demands.
On foreign policy, the constitution is explicitly vague. Europe is to "to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world," according to the preamble, it is to "due regard for the rights of each individual and for their responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth," which is "the great venture which makes of it a special area of human hope." It is more constructive on the specific provisions. On defence, it notes:
The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence.
This, however, seems more of a guidepost than a piece of constitutional law. Unfortunately, many clauses of the draft have such a composition, which gives it all a very tentative feel. One would hope the issue of European defence to be decided by such a landmark summit on the nature of Europe, as the history of such law-framing indicates that fundamental questions left unanswered in the interests of expediency (such as slavery within the US) often explode in due time. A more promising measure is the clause relating to the absolution of the Union's common foreign and security policy:
Member states shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the acts adopted by the Union in this area.
They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.
Of course, one wonders if and how this shall be enforced. Indeed, the issue of whether there will be an essentially judiciary to review whether decisions made by the European or other governments are within the boundaries as set forth by the constitution. Nevertheless, that this has been written down as law for the first time indicates it may be respected by a quorum of European states if implemented (with the consistently likely exception of Britain, the perennial anomaly), to the same extent at which today's EU directives are. Unfortunately, qualified majority voting rights under the new constitution are not extended concerning foreign policy, and the veto is preserved, allowing one state alone to throw the wrench into the EU's CFSP operation. One would think such substantial lessons as the demise of the 17th century Polish empire due to the liberum veto of individual nobles or the much more recent examples of UN vetos being cited as reasons to ignore the institution would have indicated to European statesmen that such systems are intrinsically failures, but concerning those whose policy is to dismantle the European project as soon as possible, or merely render it inept, it is a tremendous success.
Unified foreign and security policy is one if not the most touchy issue clouding over the entire constitutional debate, primarily because the ability for a nation to decide its own foreign policy is probably one of the most fundamental tenets of "national sovereignty." Therefore, it is of utmost necessity to provide reasons for the expression of such a common foreign policy. In the order of greatest acceptability to the European population, they are, firstly, the need to ensure the effectiveness of promoting European values in the world as stipulated by the constitutional preamble (by fusing individual national resources), second, to embrace the spirit and nature of the European project by avoiding the dangers of a divided Europe as were devastating in the past, and, finally, to ensure that the axis between the United States and Europe is a true partnership and not merely a means to extract unconditional support for Washington's policies.
The connection between the European constitution's development and the increasingly hostile attitude in the United States toward the assertion of any development regarding the unity of Europe, especially when expressed in the form of opposition to American foreign policy, was recently made poignantly by Nick Clegg, MEP (Member of the European Parliament). "America has changed," he notes simply. Indeed, fundamentalist Atlanticists like to believe that Europe's opposition to the war on Iraq represented a radical departure in trans-Atlantic relations which required immediate correction, rather than observing initial or corresponding reactions on the other side of the pond. American policy has now taken on the tinge of dualist moralism. "Concerns about the intended and unintended consequences of military action," Clegg explains, "are swept aside. If it's right, it's right. Period." This, furthermore, contributes to the notion among Washington policymakers that Europeans are "wimps" for engaging in a more pressing analysis of international politics than one's own personal interpretation of the Bible. Mr. Clegg mocks the overweening simplicity of the Bush administration's attitudes thusly:
Far from being a complex world in which nations bump up against each other in unpredictable ways, Bush's universe is an enticingly simple one of good over evil. It must be a blessed relief to absolve oneself of all the worries about how the world hangs together and replace it with a great moral gunfight at the OK Corral. I almost envy the succinct, neat symmetry of it all.
Unfortunately for Europe, Mr. Clegg notes, the Bush administration viewed Europe as gaining some backbone, if "evil" for its disagreement with the American president's positions, during the diplomatic scuttle preceeding the inevitable invasion of Iraq. "Not only," he observes, "is Europe condemned as weak and ineffective, there is now an emerging view that it might be in America's interests to keep Europe weak and effective." In staunch juxtaposition to the sinister machinations which pro-war Americans seemed to believe were taking place at the Elysee Palace or the Bundeskanzleramt, "it is impossible to exaggerate the fawning adulation heaped on Blair. Tony walks on water in DC. He represents exactly the kind of Europe they want - on side, loyal, decisive, 'one of us.'"
The policy of banking on the "New Europe" of Tony Blair and his opportunistic cohorts in Poland and Spain in order to deliver back the Continent seems, in any case, to be a non-starter for Washington, so long as reactionaries in Britain continue to insist Britain stay adrift from the Continent. "There's little point in Tony walking on water in DC if he's drifting without a paddle in Paris and Berlin," as Mr. Clegg states. Meanwhile, the unrestrained scepticism toward Brussels seems to make manifest Charles de Gaulle's warnings that Britain represents a "Trojan Horse" of American policy attempting to enter Europe, and therefore hardens Europeans' attitudes toward closer British collaboration within the Union. Indeed, Tony Blair could learn a thing or two from Polish leaders, who have been far more effective at maintaining both intra-Continental and trans-Atlantic relations, if only for the Machiavellian posturing of increasing Polish influence on both sides of the ocean.
Polish machinations, especially its ludicrous gamble on playing a part in occupied Iraq, are bad for a unified European foreign policy, but not nearly as bad as much of what Britain has achieved recently. Poland, at least, makes one fundamental recognition; that with all the wrangling over national sovereignty as opposed to a more "federal" Europe, some states, like Britain, have let their independence be surrendered long ago to Washington. Despite outward appearances, Warsaw is more effectively asserting its time-cherished independence, playing both sides. Europe's lesson should be to assert its own sovereignty vis-a-vis Washington, and to exposure the flagrant foot-soldiery of some European capitals for the Pentagon's deleterious endeavours. Mr. Clegg comes up short in attempting to surmise who has gained from such unwavering pro-Washington policies:
And then back to Britain. Back to the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Tories and their hysterical reaction to a surprisingly unambitious "constitution" for Europe. They, of course, would agree with many in Washington DC. Europe, for them, should also stay ineffective and weak. But to the benefit of whom? The present lot in the White House and the Pentagon, for sure, and a handful of anti-European newspaper proprietors. But what about us, what about us Europeans? It's enough to make you agree with the French.
America has indeed changed, and its new policy of promising to hand out nonexistant treats to lapdogs who help it secure new lebensraum has led to the enforcement, via cordon sanitaire against a truly ambitious European constitution, of a continental apartheid meant to subsume the incipient progressive aspirations for Europe held by Franco-German leaders. While they direct their foreign policy by the consensus of their citizens, no amount of Pace banners could have stopped the likes of Silvio Berlusconi from clicking his neofascist jackboots in the direction of West Texas. No wonder the leaders of the "New Europe" have such contempt for the idea of a true European democracy.
TARIQ ALI is a supreme pessimist. In his recent Guardianpiece, he explains that the purported divisions within the (relatively) wealthy and prosperous "global north" were merely temporary glitches. With the nearly unanimous (save for the absence of Syria's ambassador) passage of the UN resolution authorising the US and UK to jointly occupy Iraq with little oversight from the Security Council (resolution 1483), he believes, "the UN security council has capitulated completely" to the demands of the occupying powers. Other commentators concur, though with less "global justice" vitriol. Editorials in newspapers across the United States suggested the resolution marked the beginning of the UN's acquiescence to a new world structure of "benign US global hegemony." A BBC analysis concurred, noting that "This resolution gives official blessing to a new era, an era of what the American right like to believe is the 'benevolent hegemony' of the United States in Iraq, and maybe around the world."
More cautious commentators looked to the vote as the means by which the UN was to return to the central stage of global policy-making. That the United States needed to return to the Security Council in order to retract the sanctions on Iraqi exports and hence increase its petroleum output proved that it was once again "relevant," some believed. Nevertheless, some saw in this "relevance" hints of the "rubber stamp" fears which permeated the suggestion of a UN-approved attack on Iraq during the diplomatic furore of February. According to Barnaby Mason, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, "critics of the Bush administration will say [American policy] treats the UN as a tool - to be picked up when it is useful and ignored when it is not." The most negative reactions, predictably, came from the Arab media.Al-Thawrah of Syria asks "Has the ordinary citizen in the world understood the aims of the USA, which goes on about freedom but is the first to ignore freedom and human rights?" Al-Watan of Qatar declares that the resolution "was really about handing over Iraq to the USA." And the United Arab Emirates' Akhbar al-Arab (roughly, "Arab Glory") proclaims ominously that "the Iraqis will not put up with those who raid their wealth, nor will the occupation of Iraq ever gain any legitimacy."
Nevertheless, there is little to look for beyond the fact that this resolution was a recognition of situational reality. The United States and United Kingdom already control Iraq, and the most potent leverage held by opponents of the war- the ability to lift UN sanctions against Iraq within the Security Council- was only effective up to a point. Though France's position on sanctions waffled, my original prospectus on its strategy was once again in evidence during the final deliberations prior to the passage of 1483. France could not afford to be painted as antihumanitarian for arguing vehemently against the end of sanctions. Whereas it could invoke moral conviction during the February debates over a use of force against Iraq, the sanctions issue failed to present an issue clear-cut enough for such grandstanding. What would have been arcane diplomatic posturing for what in the long term may have been a greater good would be perceived by many (and, indeed, spun by the Murdoch and other radically pro-Bush press within anglophone countries) as a shrewd gesture, trading the welfare of the Iraqi people for an ideological stance or, worse, a mercantilist power-grab (as all French foreign policy decisions seem to be painted recently. A proposed French interdiction force in the Congo has been labeled by suspicious conspiracy theorists as an attempt to influence or gain control of the gold or diamond trade.) France seemed to have appealed to its declaration of "pragmatism" over Iraq, recognising that "the conquest of Iraq is a fait accompli and desir[ing] not to aggravate relations any further with Washington," according to a BBC analysis. Critics of the French position believe it hasn't the will to resist American economic pressure or the desire to weather a showdown with US representatives at the G8 Summit in Evian. Nevertheless, France, and, indeed, other European powers may be calculating that the US Iraq venture is inherently self-destructive, and that the less the UN (and Europe) is involved in such a disastrous policy, the better. This "to the victor go the spoils" (and, ergo, the disasters) philosophy was first expressed by officials within the Pentagon itself and has seemingly been turned on its feet in European capitals. The BBC notes, more moderately, that:
France has another calculation which may or may not be optimistic - it still believes it will not be long before America runs into real difficulties in Iraq and the wider Middle East, at which point allies like France will be needed once again. That consideration makes it easier to swallow the bitter pill of America's UN victory.
The tenuous balance Germany walked on the sanctions issue was ultimately untenable. Originally arguing for a lift in the economic restrictions placed upon Iraq, in order to inculcate once again close German-American relations, the Schroeder government ultimately found such unpalatable to its large-scale ambitions for its large-scale ambitions for greater independence within NATO and for a united European foreign policy. Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister, later argued that the German position had always been for a "suspension," rather than a cancellation, of sanctions, and a meeting in Berlin with Colin Powell was disastrous not only due to the lack of fundamental agreement with members of the Schroeder government but also due to the Bush administration's simultaneous interference with the German political system via its open courting of the opposition conservative Christian Democratic Union party. In the end, the tightrope of the German position was too thin to walk on, and the Schroeder government was facing entirely too much criticism over humanitarian concerns. The commentary on the resolution by the German ambassador to the United Nations, Gunter Pleuger, however, was gruff. "This resolution is a compromise," he said. "It does not fulfil every wish of all parties, but as compared to the initial draft of the co-sponsors, we have achieved substantial improvements."
The Russian response was similar. Seregi Lavrov, ambassador to the United Nations from Moscow, stated simply that the resolution "was a compromise." However, Russia had been its most vehement opponent from the start, primarily for realpolitik reasons. Moscow required collateral to ensure the preservation of its contracts with the Iraqi government, as well as guarantees of its unpaid loans. It immediately wielded its position on sanctions immediately, that they would not be lifted without significant concessions on these issues to the Kremlin. Washington, of course, has a history (since the fall of the Soviet Union) of continuing to accomodate Russia, which it sees as a legitimate power (due to its military strength, which is why some advocate a militarily powerful European Union.) Concerns about the humanitarian validity of withholding sanctions removal was not a concern, of course, in the capital which has executed for nearly a decade the violent war in Chechnya.
Russia having achieved its modest goals, and France and Germany's leverage squandered by domestic and international criticism, it made little sense for the remaining war opponent with a permanent seat on the Council, China, to continue to resist. The antiwar states were justifiably enthused to have achieved any changes to the resolution in their favour. To have achieved the UN role envisaged by the document in Iraq's future governance, as opposed to relegating the organisation to mere humanitarian purposes, was an achievement over absolutist imperialism. The recognition must be made, however, that it was none of the original antiwar states which forged such a role, but an allowance by the de facto occupation forces in order to give the appearance of allayed discord within the West. The UN role granted is almost purely symbolic, and the "compromise" is more of a sham legitimisation. The wording of the document appears to grant a major role to the UN's representative, but a holistic analysis brings one to the conclusion that the sole power to decide the fate of Iraq lies not in both but merely in one of the occupation powers- the United States.
Indeed, this was no capitualation of the Security Council. It was an achievement of all it could accomplish in the face of overwhelming American full spectrum dominance, in its manipulation of its allies' political systems, the exploitation of its opponents' moral consciences, the obfuscation of international law to provide "legitimacy" for plunder. The Security Council recognised the reality not only of the situation of Iraq, but of a unipolar world, and it was depressing. The vote was not so much marionetted by the puppeteers of the US State Department or motivated by transatlantic reconciliatory rhetoric, but almost preordained by the failure of a world which has not yet fused its advantageous resources to overthrow the global preeminence of the Washington neoconservatives, the Earth's new Marie Antoinettes, who proclaim of their critics on a ritual basis "let them eat depleted uranium shells."
The specifics (see full text) of the resolution are infinitely clever, designed to give the look and feel of international control while providing little structure for any international oversight, and essentially none for international enforcement vis-a-vis American decisions on Iraq's future. The structure of a UN resolution is divided, simply, into two primary parts, the precepts, which begin in perfect active participles, and the decisions, which are defined by present tense action verbs. Resolution 1483's precepts provide the initial illusion of a direction for Iraq's future. Nevertheless, one recognises, if the US decides to depart from such directives, there are no options for the Security Council to take action. Furthermore, with no mechanism for legal interpretation (such as a constitutional court) the resolution can be invoked for a plethora of scenarios. For instance, the second precept, in which the Security Council is "reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq," might be invoked to allow the United States to crush any factionary rebellion, a clear infringement upon sovereignity, though Washington could claim its actions are all in the long-term interest of Iraq's stability and integrity as a unified state.
The next precept involves Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction. Due to its inclusion in a UN document, one may be led to believe that any mention of such weapons would involve the work of UN weapons inspectors. Nevertheless, the Council is "reaffirming also the importance of the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and of eventual confirmation of the disarmament of Iraq" without specifically delineating the task for its own inspections regime. The US has hinted at allowing UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq, for limited activity at certain unrestricted sites, but only, analysts say, after the retirement of Hans Blix, which Washington perceives as an adversary. Nevertheless, no guarantee of UN inspectors inclusion in any of the Iraq reconstruction process is made in the resolution document. Hints made to allay fears hold little credence when not included in a document which itself contains multifarious half-truths designed to confuse the international community as to its intents.
This statement is followed by the Council's "stressing":
the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and control their own natural resources, welcoming the commitment of all parties concerned to support the creation of an environment in which they may do so as soon as possible, and expressing resolve that the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly
This statement is one in which a hopeful Security Council can be most outmaneouvred by a fiercely independent US, however. There are no guarantees within the document of an end to American rule in Baghdad, or any specific dates by which to vacate the country. Indeed, such statements mimic that of the US administration, which has paraded such rhetoric as propaganda in the effort to convince many of its "benign" intentions within Iraq. Ergo it is relatively insignificant. More troubling is the exhortation that the UN encourages:
efforts by the people of Iraq to form a representative government based on the rule of law that affords equal rights and justice to all Iraqi citizens without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender, and, in this connection, recalls resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000
Such endorses the general convictions of the United States that the Mideast much be "modernised" and "democratised" along the basis of Western states, rather than finding its own, popularly-endorsed path to such, as in Iran. It disregards the notion that progress may indeed be made via the apparatus of an Islamic state or other form of government, or via a long and arduous process of unimposed social reform. The UN, American conservatives have long argued, is too inclusive of undemocratic regimes, and they have always wished to see it either become an instrument of the imposition of an absolutist policy embracing both neoconservative-style "regime change" and the economics of the neoliberal "Washington Consensus." This may be a dangerous step of the UN in this direction, although it has always embraced open dialogue with governments in violation of its human rights charter. Nevertheless, with even Britain and Australia, active participants in the war, affirming support for an Islamic state if such comes about due to the desires of the people of Iraq, this seems to be a blatant item of support for the American absolutist doctrine. That the resolution acknowledges the "need for assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank" is troubling in this regard, given the uncompromising support for the enforcement of the Washington Consensus, especially upon such states as Argentina (during the 1990s) by these organisations.
The resolution further resolves "that the United Nations should play a vital role in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance" though the actuality of its directives gives little hope that the symbolic offices allotted for said purposes will amount to any impact on American policy if in any opposition to Washington's positions. Such may include whatever follows from the Council's affirmation of "the need for accountability for crimes and atrocities committed by the previous Iraqi regime," which not only endorses the American term for Iraq's previous government ("regime"), but seems to grant the impetus for a victor's kangaroo court to try ex-officials of the former Iraqi government for human rights violations while American crimes go entirely unpunished. This is further buttressed by provision three of the resolution, in which the Security Council "appeals to member states to deny safe haven to those members of the previous Iraqi regime who are alleged to be responsible for crimes and atrocities and to support actions to bring them to justice."
The precepts also manage to include some humourous bits, including the Security Council's advocation of "the need for respect for the archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious heritage of Iraq, and for the continued protection of archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious sites, museums, libraries, and monuments," indeed, too late after the savage looting of the Iraqi National Museum, the burning of irreplaceable scrolls in its libraries, the irrevocable damage to its archaeological sites and other sickening occurrences resulting from the anarchy that came with the downfall of the Hussein government. Provision seven of the resolution enlists Interpol and UNESCO in cleaning up the US' atrocious "mistake" in this regard. That the Council also determines "that the situation in Iraq, although improved, continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security" while simultaneously lifting the sanctions specifically designed to remain in place so long as such a threat continues to exists is quite amusing as well- even before recalling the lack of assurance such a threat can be minimised via the reintroduction of UN weapons inspectors.
The US and UK, "welcomed" as occupying forces in Iraq, are hence labelled (disturbingly) "the Authority," and are "called upon" (in provision four of the resolution) to:
promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, including in particular working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability and the creation of conditions in which the Iraqi people can freely determine their own political future
However, as with previous such actions, there is nothing the Council can truly do to ensure such ends (the same applying to provision five, hoping for American adherence to Geneva and Hauge Conventions guidelines for occupation forces, as if the US has paid any heed to such documents in the recent past.) Indeed, while US officials brag about how quickly the output of oil can be increased, vast swathes of Iraq continue to go without electricity, and to breed agitators openly advocating the immediate overthrow of America's colonialist regime.
Among the most important provisions of the resolution is number eight, the appointment of a UN "special representative" to assist in reconstruction tasks. Secretary General Kofi Annan has already acceded to US demands that he appoint UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The responsibilities of this much-touted "Special Representative" are to be limited, and his powers extremely so. He is to coordinate refugee return, humanitarian operations, infrastructure renewal, and other activities relatively detached from the formulation of the new Iraqi government, in which his sole role will be to "advance" efforts to construct one of "international legitimacy." He is given no real power to overrule US decisions in this regard, and is seemingly bound by a point placing him in charge of "encouraging international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform," a line echoing President Bush's sentiments that "reform" needed to be imposed upon the Mideast. The language of the resolution makes Mr. de Mello's position seem significant, however, he is given little specific inclusion or power within circles with true position to determine the Iraqi government. Provision nine, stipulating the need for a provisional interim administration, seems to fall in line with original Pentagon plans for a puppet government headed by Ahmed Chalabi. No time limit is set for its implementation or expiration- ergo, Mr. de Mello merely has the responsibility for its creation, at some point, in the future, rather than a detailed mandate to any end.
Provision ten formally lifts the sanctions, save those on arms, as the "Authority" probably surmises that Iraq will not be in need of a military during the creation of its so-called "independent" state, which, even should it come into existence, will surely be dotted with American military installations to a greater extent than postwar Germany or Japan. As per disarmament, provision eleven encourages the US and UK to report to the council on its progress, merely alluding to the previous inspections regime by promising to "revisit" their mandates, at an undefined point in the future.
Points 12, 13, and 14 call for the establishment of an Iraq Development Fund, to be granted $1 billion from seized Iraqi assets, among other sources (provision 17), which some have seen as one of the concessions made to the antiwar parties. The fund, nonetheless, will be overseen by the World Bank and IMF, aforementioned intruments of American neoliberalism, which will probably assure that it is not used to set up any protectionist regime but rather to allow for the invitation of American capital to Iraq's oil-rich sands. Bechtel and Haliburton, of course, have already been awarded favourable contracts. The fund, of course, "shall be disbursed at the direction of the Authority, in consultation with the [puppet] Iraqi interim administration," for what were probably meant to be specifically delineated purposes but are left to the entirely open-ended clause of "other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq," which could potentially be used to justify anything.
A primary concession to Russia and other creditor states is evident in provision 16, which channels the payment of Iraq's debts through the multilateral system of the Paris Club. Russia, Germany, and France had feared the US would simply cancel the debts, although some speculated that might have had too many reverberations throughout the developing world, especially in African states with tremendous debt problems which would inevitably agitate for equal treatment. Indeed, such a move may have violated the methods of the financial institutions enforcing neoliberal globalisation and hence led to the collapse of the American economic model in the developing world. One may have expected the troika of states to have agitated for a greater UN role by offering to waive the debt, but Moscow and Berlin were always more interested than anything in retaining their funds (not to mention that the EU also has a vested interest in the debt-repayment model of globalisation.)
Among the most controversial issues involving the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq was the oil-for-food programme operated under the auspices of the Secretary General. American conservatives had long argued it should be abandoned completely, as some investigations point to bizarre contracts granted through it which seem to favour certain states (notably, and predictably for those making such allegations, Russia and France.) Nevertheless, the bulk of these contracts seem to have been negotiated by the previous Iraqi government anyway. Furthermore, the programme has been instrumental in providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis. How the food distribution network would operate without it was under question. Russia, of course, would not support the resolution until it knew that contracts granted under the programme would be retained. Among the concessions granted to those states supporting the interim continuation of the programme were its six-month continuation until being phased out and the retention of (some) lucrative contracts. Provision 16 stipulates these as well as the transfer of control of the programme's operations to the occupation "Authority" following its six-month denouement under the Secretary General. This would, theoretically, allow for complete control by the US and UK of Iraq's oil supplies and the direction in which the funds gained from oil exports are allocated. With the necessity of providing large reparations to the Paris Club creditors, the retention of Russian and other contracts and (especially) the invitation of certain American energy firms coupled with the implementation of a neoliberal economy by the IMF and World Bank, one wonders how sufficient funds for food supplies will ever be achieved. Though the "Authority" and its (potential) puppet government are granted the ability, pursuant to provision 16b,
to review, in light of changed circumstances, the relative utility of each approved and funded contract with a view to determining whether such contracts contain items required to meet the needs of the people of Iraq both now and during reconstruction, and to postpone action on those contracts determined to be of questionable utility
the burden to the budget emerges with the need (16e),
to fulfil all remaining obligations related to the termination of the programme, including negotiating in the most cost-effective manner, any necessary settlement payments, which shall be made from the escrow accounts established pursuant to paragraphs 8(a) and 8 (b) of resolution 986 (1995), with those parties that previously have entered into contractual obligations with the secretary general under the programme.
Ergo, the concession to the contractual parties is a significant burden upon the provision of humanitarian relief, but is only so much so due to the unlikeliness of the "Authority" allowing for an Iraqi state oil agency (some in Washington even consider such socialist policies "Saddamite," as if on par with quasi-genocidal activity.) The initial Iraq Development Fund, as aforementioned, is ill-prepared to fill the gap, due both to the composition of its oversight agencies and the paucity of its funding. Even as provision 20 stipulates transparency measures for petroleum exports and specifically denotes that proceeds will be contributed to the fund, the fund's allocation is so vaguely defined as to make this irrelevant as to whether petroleum export funds are directly transferrable to humanitarian concerns. Provision 22 further places a restriction upon member states as to the interference with the unrestricted shipment of oil supplies, rendering future sanctions against any undesirable Iraqi administration, US-headed or otherwise, infeasible until 2008.
Provision 25 of the resolution allows for the Council to review the status of the occupation within a year, perhaps allowing for the original opponents of the war to take concerted action to intensely monitor whatever activities the US will have engaged in and hence prepare to, perhaps, take action against it, with damning evidence. If the role of the UN Special Representative is obstructed, for instance, it will be reported, as stipulated, at "regular intervals" to the Council, which should take note for the period at which the resolution is revisited in 2004.
Observing the UK's status as officially-recognised occupation force as well, one might speculate as to the potential implications. The UK has said previously that it hopes to achieve a central role for the UN on Iraq, but it has also been frozen out of important positions of power concerning the country's redevelopment. Decisions affecting the true administration of the country seem to be issued directly from Washington and from its resident proconsul, Paul Bremer. That the UK has lost significant trust in its commitment to the European Union, has a plethora of opponents to Blairite policy within its government and population, and that it has seemingly gained nothing but enmity from the Arab world unseen since its previous colonial ventures there following the First World War seem to indicate that it will not continue the illogical policy of abiding by every whim of the White House indefinitely. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that it would ever lead a charge within the UN against US Iraq policy, or that any yelps from Downing Street would make an impact on Pentagon strategy.
I suggested previously that the EU could reshape its elusive Common Foreign and Security Policy around achieving a central role for the United Nations in Iraq. It seemed to be a goal which every EU state- current and future- could agree, and was enshrined in a joint declaration at Athens which seems to be little-mentioned as of late. Nevertheless, there is still a chance for the EU to rally around this goal and put concerted pressure on the United States for more UN participation in Iraq's reconstruction. Of course, as some predict, Iraq's worsening status may force the US to request this in any case (as the UN role in Afghanistan has increased gradually with both the declining security and humanitarian situation as well as American disinterest in a region no longer at the centre of its attention.) Perhaps, by the time at which the UN is set to review 1483, EU CFSP will have been solidified by both increasing consternation and frustration with the US on the Continent and the ratification of the new European Constitution, which Convention officials hope to achieve by the expansion of the Union around the time of the resolution's revisitation in June of next year. Tariq Ali would have one believe the only significant resistance to US policy can only come from the "masses" of the "global south." Yet one would hope for the triumph of soft balance and enlightened reason over the violence of worldwide class warfare Mr. Ali seems to fantasize about. Ali's absolutism is as dangerous as Bush's, believing the West should be reformed by humbling uphevals in the "south" as opposed to a realignment within the NATO-Russia sphere.
Should the European states have truly adopted the mantra of allowing the US to live with the burdens of imperialism (and the implicit demise it invites) it is an unfortunate and dangerous option, but one which may, in the end, be the most effective in dissuading the United States from further "regime change" operations. Indeed, Iraq appears to be a time bomb waiting to explode in the face of those who championed its conquest. Nevertheless, past failures in imperial domination on the part of the United States, in the Philippines and elsewhere, are forgotten quite rapidly, and, indeed, it seems to have taken under 30 years to have recovered from the malaise that was the defence of informal empire in Vietnam. Failure does not deter a nation whose collective memory does not extend far, and whose respect for history was evident in the nonchalance at the incineration of precious Iraqi historical relics- the only consistent forces able to resist American "manifest destiny" have been counterweights to its voluminous power.
Without a balance of power within the UN to enforce its will upon the United States, the world will continue to see insignificant verbal opposition or unavoidable appeasement of its intentions emerging from the Security Council. In any case, for now, the only weapon seemingly remaining in the arsenal of those who would oppose Washington's current policies is time- bringing the destructive residue of its insalubrious and still illegal war on Iraq to haunt the United States for a generation, and gradually uniting the world against further imperialist activities. Until Europe (and hopefully a larger chunk of it) decides its ability to block American activity worthy of wielding again, a bloody quagmire in Iraq may be all that stands between the United States and its next target.