Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Paul Wright Responds.

He quotes me as saying:

he showed that he hasn't the faintest clue what multilateralism is, what the point of it is, what the "coalition" term stands for in this context, what the U.N. charter says, what the U.N. does, what the role of the Security Council is, what the role of the General Assembly is, where the point of conflict is right now, what happened during the first Gulf War, or, well, anything.

All true, although it's telling that he only quoted this one paragraph.

He then responded:

Which gets it off your chest, but doesn’t answer the questions:
So you want a Coalition? Then define your terms please. After all, this is your idea:
1. How many nations? A firm number please.
2. Which nations?
3. Why not the others?
Interesting. He neatly ignored everything but that one "coalition" issue, when the response (and the article it responded to) was about the role of the U.N. in general. Why use the reductive tactic of trying to bring up coalitions over and over again? It's especially odd when you consider that he attempted to accuse me of the same thing by ignoring a ridiculous ending paragraph about supposed U.N. racism- a passage I omitted out of a sense of good taste and no small amount of empathetic embarrassment.

Still, responses in order:

1)Firm numbers are impossible- it depends on the severity of the action, the region, the countries involved... it varies from situation to situation.

2) Usually it would be a good idea to have the security council members either onboard or abstaining as they represent Great Power nations (in the case of Russia, the U.S., and China) or general regional interest (France and England). Obviously you'd want at least some regional governments onside, as they'll have to deal with the fallout of your actions most directly. The support of regional powers will make the job a lot easier as well, although it's not necessarily required. Finally, you'd want some sort of consensus in world public opinion (or at least elite opinion)... it wouldn't have to be ironclad, but it should be strong enough that the country in question couldn't be accused of unilateralism.

3.) Why not indeed? Again, it depends... some countries (like China) are hardliners on national sovereignty, so you'll never get them to agree to any sort of domestic intervention, but they'd likely abstain. Some regional powers may either publicly oppose the coalition or at least stay away from it due to their own political and strategic interests; that's to be expected. (They might back it, quietly, so as not to inflame domestic opposition). And world opinion rarely reaches an absolute consensus; there will probably always be those who oppose a particular action for one reason or another. It isn't something that can be quantified; politics is as much an art as a science, after all.

Then again, to a large extent the U.N. can and does fulfill these roles; it's a pity that Mr. Wright seems unable or unwilling to do the basic research required to understand what exactly the U.N. does and how it assists in the creation of a coalition as a diplomatic, agenda-setting, and multilateral body.

Finally, he asks what I'd consider a justifiable conflict, and asks for concise reasons. Sadly, as that's a topic that libraries of books have been written on, concise reasons are impossible for anybody who isn't satisfied with mouthing simplistic catchphrases and self-serving talking points. As blog entries are theoretically supposed to be short, I'll have to get back to him on that.

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