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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

¿Tiene la ONU autoridad moral?

 

 

 

For U.N. and Ban, Morality Is a Double-Edged Sword

By Richard Gowan, on         
   
 
Does Ban Ki-moon fall prey to the sin of envy when he thinks of Pope Francis? The two men are arguably the leaders of the two most significant global institutions, and idealists have dubbed the secretary-general of the United Nations a “secular pope.” Ban does not subscribe to this grandiloquent self-description. But he may wish he could communicate moral themes as effectively as the new pontiff.

Francis impressed even nonbelievers last month with a deeply felt attack on the rising “economy of exclusion and inequality.” Ban, who hopes to forge a new international deal to end extreme poverty by 2030, may well echo those concerns. But he has been fighting two other moral battles in recent months, trying to focus international attention on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) while also continuing to lobby for peace, justice and humanitarian help for the benighted people of Syria. His words on CAR have had some effect. Yet he may have to retreat from some of his firmest denunciations of the Syrian regime as Western powers accept the need for a compromise peace deal with Damascus.

Ban, accused in the past of lacking a clear ethical purpose, now often resorts to strong language. In August, when the Security Council still seemed wary of authorizing serious action in CAR, he warned of a “total breakdown of law and order” in the country. In November, with France finally preparing to intervene alongside African troops, the secretary-general tried to win over doubters by predicting a “spiral into an uncontrollable situation, including atrocity crimes” in the absence of a stabilization effort.

Ban’s deputy, Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson, has claimed that he and his boss are “disappointed” that they frequently have to use the phrase “never again” to rouse governments into action in the face of potential genocides. But Ban and his advisers appear increasingly willing to take robust moral stances.

This is, in part, because they were shaken by an internal report published in late-2012 that severely criticized the U.N.’s failure to speak out against mass killings by government forces during the final phase of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. As I noted in an article for Aeon magazine in September, this inspired prolonged discussions led by Eliasson on both the organization’s overall vision for defending human rights and the changes to personnel and training policies needed to put this vision into practice.

One of the main themes of the Sri Lanka report and ensuing policy debate, now encapsulated in an action plan entitled “Rights Up Front,” is that U.N. officials must “tell members states what they need to hear” about looming crises, rather than try to mitigate them through behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Ban and Eliasson’s forthright approach to events in CAR appears to be an effort to do just that. Whatever happens in CAR, nobody can argue that the U.N. secretariat has downplayed the violence.

The same can be said of Syria. Well before the Sri Lanka report was published, Ban had adopted a hard line toward President Bashar al-Assad, repeatedly condemning the Syrian regime’s assaults on civilians. He has not relented. This September, in the midst of the U.S. debate over whether to launch military strikes against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons, Ban declared that Assad had “committed many crimes against humanity” and expressed hope that he would eventually face justice.

Other top U.N. officials have backed the secretary-general’s position. At the start of this month, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke of “massive evidence” directly linking Assad to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet such statements could backfire on the U.N. in the coming year.

Diplomacy over Syria is in flux. The U.S. and its allies, having focused on ousting Assad for more than two years, are now increasingly worried about the radicalization of the Syrian rebels and the growing power of al-Qaida and its affiliates in Syria. As my colleague James Traub has argued, Assad could become “the lesser of two evils, not only for the West but for many Syrians, who loathe the holy warriors even more than they do the regime.” Sooner or later, Western leaders may be willing to settle for a peace deal in Syria that keeps large elements of the government, military and security services in place to fight al-Qaida, while also ensuring that even if Bashar al-Assad steps down, he won’t end up in court.

Such a deal may prove necessary to contain al-Qaida and save Syrian lives. And even if Assad eludes justice in the short term, he may not do so forever. Other appalling leaders, including Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, participated in U.N.-sponsored peace agreements but eventually ended up facing international tribunals. But if the war ends in a rotten compromise that leaves Assad unpunished and his erstwhile allies in office, Ban’s reputation will be profoundly tarnished: His moral stance on Syria will look less like a display of principle than a bad misjudgment of the conflict’s direction.

This would be unfair. Ban may have underestimated Assad, but he has done what he feels to be right; moreover, many other observers, including the Obama administration, also expected Assad to fall long ago. But some U.N. officials have previously warned in private that the secretary-general’s uncompromising moral line was reducing his strategic options over Syria, making it impossible to act as a credible broker with Damascus. If these criticisms are justified by events, Ban and other U.N. officials could end up questioning their recent focus on human rights and gain a renewed appreciation for the virtues of quiet diplomacy. Moral statements are all well and good, the secretary-general may ultimately conclude, but perhaps they are best left to the pope.

Richard Gowan is the associate director for Crisis Management and Peace Operations at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. His weekly column for World Politics Review, Diplomatic Fallout, appears every Monday.