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What Future for the UN? A Prelude to the 58th UN General Assembly

Author: Thomas R. Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills & Company
September 9, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations

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Speaker: Richard C. Holbrooke, Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC; U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1999 to 2001.
Speaker: Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Senior Fellow, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research; U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1981 to 1985.
Speaker: Thomas R. Pickering, Senior Vice President, The Boeing Company; U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1989 to 1992.
Presider: Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post

September 11, 2003
Council on Foreign Relations
Washington, D.C.

[NOTE: Introduction and first question were not recorded. We apologize for the inconvenience.]


Fred Hiatt: Let me start with you, Tom, if you think that's right and if there is anything that can be done about that?

Thomas Pickering: I think it's an unfair exaggeration. I think there may be issues where that's true. I found when I was there and there were probably some issues. There were folks who operated in those days -- 10 years ago -- out of the non-aligned but were pretty skillful and who had to be watched very carefully. But I never felt that on the critical questions, particularly the Security Council, we punched below our weight. But I think it's a combination, obviously the right issue, the right sort of strategy to deal with the issue and the rights of the tactical approach. And I approached the UN when I went there as if it were a legislature where you had to get votes and you had to operate, not just when you needed the votes but the whole time, as if you were building up your credits to make sure that, in fact, when you had to have those votes you at least had access to and the ability to approach the people who were engaged on the question.

I think secondly, you weren't going to win them all and you had to pick the ones that you had to win. And clearly you had to find a way to bring in other folks. So, say, in the Gulf War we established a method of dealing with resolutions. We never let the Council have a day of rest because we always had an Iraq issue. We always had a situation where we never put forward an issue until the Permanent Five were agreed. We never put an issue to the Permanent Five until the British and French were happy with what we had. And we always worked with a group of 10 in way that allowed them to have a role in the process without, I guess, eating our lunch.

There was a method and a rhythm and a way of working on that particular issue. Now that was maybe different than a lot of other questions, but it changed the Council in a serious way. And I think it's an example of how you can punch well above your weight, and I'm sure Richard's experiences on a lot of other issues are similar to that sort of an approach.

Fred Hiatt: Before I ask Richard about it, let me then ask you -- this winter the United States failed to get agreement on what it considered to be an extremely important question. What did they do wrong?

Thomas Pickering: I have two or three things that have occurred to me as I've watched that. I think you need to want to start out ahead of time with the knowledge of where you want to end up. And I don't think that working the international world community on the basis that we didn't need any help in Iraq, we were capable of doing it all our own -- the UN was an impediment and the Security Council was more of a problem than it was the answer to the issue -- really set the pattern that you could follow.

And I think the second issue that was extremely hard was that, if you go to the Council in February and you've been dealing with the problem since September, and you haven't been spending your time on a difficult issue like this in capitals and at the UN, building the consensus, developing the arguments, deploying the material, showing the pictures literally that buttress and strengthen your argument then I think you are risking a serious question. And I think that that was particularly hard.

I also have a tendency to believe that if you want for that final resolution at all, and there were real questions in a lot of people's minds. I think Dick maybe felt, at least from what he's written more sharply than I did about it, you want to find the right kind of construct for that. And that final resolution had two values for the United States if we had gotten it.

One was a legal value, that is, you could have said the world community, you went through the Council and you got something that endorsed what you wanted and it had a political value, which was even more important -- the international community was with you in making this process go ahead. But I certainly wouldn't have gone for anything complicated. I would have gone for -- and this is all 20/20 hindsight -- but a very simply resolution that would have said he continues to violate Security Council resolutions, continues to be a material breach, whatever forms of words you wanted. And I think you had a self-evident situation where it would be much harder if not impossible, because vetoes can be counter-factual but a much harder situation for a country to veto if that was the direction that you wanted to go.

If you weren't going to go there, maybe you shouldn't have gone and tried and lost on that particular resolution. Those are all nice comments by hindsight. The final point I would make is that, if you're going to bring people along in the after-combat phase, then I think it's important -- maybe not critical, I think we'll get the next resolution -- to bring them along in the pre-combat phase. They want to be in the takeoffs as well as the landing support. And I think that as you plan and look at your strategy those pieces are important now. Those are easy to say after the fact as I said before, but I think they all go to arguments that I felt were very important when I had to deal with this problem 10 years before under quite different circumstances, I admit.

Fred Hiatt: Richard, let me take you to the post-combat phase. The administration now says they do want to go back to the UN, but a number of senior officials also say the main purpose of it is just to provide some assurance to other countries. Is that in the same category as what Tom was saying -- sort of considering the UN an impediment? Are they going to have to give up more? What would be the right strategy now?

Richard Holbrooke: In time honored fashion I want to answer the question you didn't ask and go back to Tom's comments first. [laughter] First of all, a brief announcement -- the reason Ambassador Kirkpatrick is not here is because in the United Nation's Security Council a meeting called for 6:30 won't start until 7:30, so she'll be here I assure you. [laughter] There is a different clock in New York for the UN -- it's called UN time and meetings for 10 start at 11, lunches start at 2 in the afternoon; nothing ever starts on time. And the second thing is, some of you know this story, but I wore this tie tonight for a very specific reason.

At the end of each month, the president of the Security Council has to give a gift away. It won't surprise you that of the 15 nations in the Security Council, no matter who the other 14 are, our gifts are always the cheapest. [laughter] And of you who worked with the State Department understand why. This is the gift of the French ambassador. It's a beautiful tie. It's the current ambassador in Washington -- Jean-David Levitte, but a close examination will show that it is not only an Hermes tie, it is snails. And not because they're good to eat in France but because that was how we worked at the UN. [laughter]

I think the tremendous turnout tonight -- I am stunned at -- is evidence of the fact that the UN is relevant. You all may have different views on it, but if it didn't matter we wouldn't have this truly amazing turnout. I completely disagree with that quote that you read at the beginning, Fred. I don't even understand what it means. I do not understand what it means. First of all, in my experience in the Foreign Service and the government, which is a fraction of Tom's, and I want to footnote that when I was at the UN, and I always ask people about my predecessors, it was always Tom they turned as the model of the Great American ambassador.

And secondly, when I was at the UN and cell phones existed at that point, when we had tough votes -- and this is the way policy should be made -- Tom and I were on the cell phones and we had to vote. And I'd say to Tom we have a problem in country "X" or country "Y." He'd say, "I'll call you back in 10 minutes." He'd called the Foreign Minister and we'd get a new instruction, that's the way we worked.

Thomas Pickering: I didn't tell you that I learned to shut off my cell phone when I got instructions. [laughter]

Richard Holbrooke: Whatever was achieved was because Tom, with his vast experience at the UN and his position as Undersecretary of State and the respect he was held in, understood what is not apparently fully understood right now. And that is that the UN isn't where the thing happens. The UN is a building or set of buildings on the East River. Inside which ambassadors from 191 nations get instructions from capitals. If you want to blame the UN for what happens inside, blame Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks. [laughter] It is simply the place where things happen. In regard to the famous diplomatic train wreck in that second resolution, as Fred knew when he asked the question because he published my articles on it, that train wreck was completely foreseeable. I wrote two articles predicting it.

They didn't need the second resolution. Any decent international lawyer could have stated that the 1441, which was a substantial diplomatic achievement, plus the preceding 15 resolutions, going back to Tom's own masterpiece -- 687 in 1991, constituted a sufficient case for the use of force. And after all, the Clinton administration had used force several times without any resolutions. They went for the second resolution for two reasons: Blair demanded it for his own internal reasons, saying he had to have it for political reasons. And secondly there was a miscalculation within the US government that they could get it. That's not good performance.

On the first point, Blair didn't get it and he went ahead anyway. On the second point, we advertised and exacerbated what was a manageable difference between us and our European friends, particularly Berlin and Paris, also Moscow, instead of building on it. Who lost in this process? The Security Council lost, the United States lost, and at the end of it the administration went ahead with what everyone surely should have understand was their plan from the beginning.

Now, the UN is not just -- the UN is five different things. It's the General Assembly, a talk house, the so-called "parliament of man" (to use Tennyson's famous phrase), which simply has no importance except as a form for speeches. President Bush will speak there on September 23. He spoke that a year ago tomorrow and made perhaps the best speech of his presidency and the test will be up again in 10 days. It is the specialized agencies -- the UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, UNAIDS, many others. Some are indispensable, some are a mess but an aggregate no one can argue that they don't highly leverage the US foreign policy tax dollar.

It is the Secretariat, a bureaucratic mess of 8,000 to 12,000 people scattered worldwide, full of nepotism, inefficiency, even corruption and a pretty big mess. But you know, other bureaucracies are a mess, too. And finally it's the Secretary General as an individual, and that varies with individuals. We've ranged from non-entities to Nazis to Kofi Annan who's a very, very fine Secretary General. I think Tom and I would feel he's one of the two best since the birth of the UN. So when we talk about the UN, I've never seen since I entered the Foreign Service a very long time ago, an issues on which there is more deliberate misunderstanding. There is no such thing as the UN. There is what the countries want. Now to Fred's question.

Fred Hiatt: I should have known as [indiscernible] editor that it wouldn't really matter what question I asked. [laughter]

Richard Holbrooke: Because I consider the question sort of highly technical, highly wonk-ish and the answer is self-evident -- they're going to get a resolution. They can't not get a resolution. That's why Kofi Annan, again, asserting his leadership because he didn't have to do it, insisted that the five foreign ministers of the permanent members go to Geneva this weekend. That's a very smart thing to do -- get them out of New York, put them under pressure.

By the way, that resolution is not about 15 countries or even five countries, it's about two -- the United States and France. Whatever Colin Powell and Dominique de Villepin, who are not exactly in love with each other right now, decide is acceptable the Germans will go along with, the Russians will go along with, the Chinese will go along with. And the other countries will either abstain or support.

And it is a doable proposition. It is simply that this administration stockpiled so much hostility to itself with unnecessary statements about preemptive war, ascertain a right, which they had anyway at exactly the wrong time, about unilateralism, about "are you with us or against us." All sorts of things, all of which were self-evident and didn't need to be said in international forums. That when they finally came hat-in-hand people are kind of rubbing their hands, a little schadenfreude. But because of the objective reality, which is Iraq is a mess and because of the consequences of the tragedy last month, when so many UN people, including their best international civil servants -- Sergio Vieira de Mello— were killed serving American policy interests. I cannot stress that highly enough. What happened in Baghdad -- they were attacked because it was an attack on the US, so they're going to get the resolution.

The real question, Fred, is not about the UN. It's whether the resolution will produce troops from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Norway, whatever -- no one knows. Turkey is a tremendous issue. And secondly, will the troops make any difference? I would just submit, as a predicate for this -- the conversation -- there will be a resolution. That's not what this is about and it's not what the UN's future is about.

Fred Hiatt: You've heard Richard not only not answer my question but tell me the question I should have asked. [laughter] And he also reminded me what I should have done at the beginning, which is tell you -- most of you know, but some people watching out of this room may not remember -- Ambassador Pickering was in the was in the UN from 1989 until 1992 under the first President Bush in a diplomatic career spanning five decades. He was not Undersecretary, as Richard said, but also ambassador to Russia, India, El Salvador, Jordan, Nigeria, and Israel. And he's now Vice President of Boeing.

Richard was at the UN from 1999 to 2001 under President Clinton. He was also an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and an Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. A chief architect of Dayton Agreement and is now at Perseus.

Richard Holbrooke: Ambassador to Germany.

Fred Hiatt: Ambassador to Germany. You say it's just a building, but it is a building that has representatives from every country, many of whom don't share America's values. And even now you hear people in the administration saying it would be a mistake to do anything but have a sort of symbolic resolution at the United Nations. Because once you involve the UN in rebuilding you get bureaucracy, you get corruption, you get dependency -- in, I think, Secretary Rumsfeld term. And you will just delay the handover of power to the Iraqis.

Let me ask Tom and then Richard both . . .

Thomas Pickering: I guess my question to you, Fred, is we don't have that now -- all those problems? I think if you look at this question I think there are three areas that we need to pay attention to. One is security. Richard is right, the resolution produces troops -- we can be ahead [phonetic]. But those troops are not going to be the [indiscernible] in blitzkrieg formation. They're going to be able to handle some of the quieter areas. They're going to release our people to do more of the tough work.

I also think it's an extremely important message in the region politically that the world community is, in fact, where we, and I hope the world community ought to go in Iraq -- moving Iraqis. And there's no reason in my view why the UN should impede that. They talk as if, in general, the major member states are in favor of moving in that direction. I think they can play [indiscernible].

I am really [disconcerted], as Richard is, about the tragedy of the lost of Sergio. There are few, if any, I think, that are ready to replace him. And he had an uncanny ability to work with somebody like Jerry Bremer to get the politics moving and to get it right, and that's the second issue.

And I think the French will want to insist that there is a much greater role for the UN and them perhaps in politics, in government formation, in moving ahead with Iraqis. I think frankly, up until now, that's not been a terrible area; it's been quite a good area. I think that the council that's been chosen, the governing council, could be a lot worse than it is. I don't think it's necessarily a tremendously vital instrument for restoring Iraqi government but it's representative. It can take some decisions and move things ahead.

I think finally on economics and rebuilding the UN has real strengths. Despite some of the concerns that we all have about the UN as an international civil service, they also have some serious strengths in the specialized agencies and particularly those who can deal with this kind of problem.

Where I see the tragedy of Sergio is that we clearly need to see a leader for the UN portion of this that can handle the economic rebuilding, if you like, and the government formation aspect with the same kind of understanding, sophistication, finesse, and cooperation to make it work. I don't think that a resolution is going to determine the outcome of that. I think it will try to set the stage for who does what in one direction or another. I think in the long run the "who" is probably a lot more interesting and valuable than the "how." And I think that one of Kofi's principal challenges as well as one of his great opportunities is to find the right person.

Fred Hiatt: Do you have a candidate?

Thomas Pickering: I don't, and I think that that's kind of tragic that you've got a world organization 58-years-old and you have an indispensable man killed in Baghdad and we're now looking. It might well have to be somebody from outside the UN structure.

Richard Holbrooke: I have a candidate but it will never happen. I'll tell you exactly what I would do but I prefix this because a lot of people in the room are going to think this is crazy -- by saying there's no chance it will happen. I would ask Bernard Kouchner to go because he's French and because he is the most popular person in France. He claimed every popular opinion poll and because he stood up before the war and said -- when the French opinion was overwhelming behind Chirac and [indiscernible] that he would support the war and his popularity did not go down. And that may sound crazy to you but that's what we did in Kosovo and Tom was part of that decision process.

And the result of Kouchner going to Kosovo -- with an American deputy -- and all of the places that we dealt with, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor we had an international leader -- Sergio Vieira de Mello and his teamwork. Kushner in Kosovo and a series of people starting with Carl Bildt and currently today, Lord Paddy Ashdown in Kosovo and Sarajevo.

And in every case we put in an American deputy, many of you in this room knew them -- Jock Covey, Peter Galbraith, Don Hayes, Jacques Paul Klein and it always worked, it always worked. The American strategic interests were covered. The UN was more than marginally strengthened because East Timor was a success story. Bosnia is too complicated -- it was first a disaster now it's getting a little better and Kosovo is still unfinished, but the system worked. Sergio was the best. We all know that. And those of us who worked with him and loved him are stricken by what happened. But there are other people.

The UN has got plenty of good people and Kofi Annan can go anywhere in the world, it doesn't have to be somebody in the bureaucracy. His new man in Kosovo is the former Prime Minister of Finland -- Harri Holkeri an excellent person.

Fred Hiatt: Richard let me ask . . . and then I'll open it up to questions. You've heard this administration describe Kosovo as an example of why they don't want the UN in Iraq. What is the answer to that?

Richard Holbrooke: I have no idea what they're talking about. Their criticism of the situation in the Balkans in East Timor is based on fraudulent statements like, we don't want the 82nd Airborne to escort children to schools, which they never did but they're starting to do in Iraq. And they never understood the system. They never studied it. And then finally, when a man the world hadn't heard of was killed, they suddenly said what a great man he was -- if only he had lived he could have been terrific. Sergio was the best but there are other good people in the world.

Tom and I are so closely aligned on these issues, we're almost echoing each other, but leadership in the world needs people to follow you. As the leading nation, the first contributor, the host country, the founding member of the UN, if we lead other follow. And the UN is only as strong or as weak as we want it to be. The issue is do we want a strong UN? And the answer seems to me simple. The stronger the UN the better for us. The weaker the UN the worst for us. That is so self-evident that it's unbelievable for me to hear the ranters talking about the UN without actually thinking about what they're saying -- the UN is us.

There's a wonderful new book coming out next month by Steven Schlesinger called Act of Creation, San Francisco, 1945. I urge you to all read it if you care about this issue. It will show you that Roosevelt, Truman, and Churchill and company, plus the incredible delegation that went to San Francisco -- Mr. Stettinius, Harriman, John Foster Dulles, Arthur Vandenberg, Nelson Rockefeller, Archibald McLeish, Ralph Bunche. These people knew exactly what they were doing and they created the Security Council in order to protect our strategic interests and created a UN to avoid the tragedy of the weak [phonetic]. And it seems to me what they understood should . . . Adlai Stevenson [inaudible]. What they did should not be forgotten.

Fred Hiatt: Let me just welcome Ambassador Kirkpatrick.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: Thank you, I apologize, I flew in from California today. My plane was late. I'm breathless, I'm sorry.

Fred Hiatt: She heard that I had been watching the Democratic debate and might ask each of you what your favorite song is. [laughter] Ambassador Kirkpatrick was the UN Ambassador from 1981 until 1985 under President Reagan. She's a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, but just recently came back from serving as the president's representative to the UN Human Rights Commission. So, if you've caught your breath, maybe I'll just ask you one question and then we were about to open it up to the audience. These gentlemen have both made the case that the United States should be using the United Nations better and more wisely. And could, I think, with stronger diplomacy -- I think that's fair to say. Do you agree with that? Does your experience this year make you think we need different institutions or can this one be made to work?

Jeane Kirkpatrick: I don't think we're going to have different institutions, so I think it's sort of idle to say should we have better institutions. However desirable, I don't think it's going to happen. And I don't think it will be very easy to make this institution work better. I think that a lot of people have a lot of goals other than making this institution work better, frankly. Most of the people who work in the United Nations -- the representatives of our member states -- represent the interest of their member states as those states understand them.

Whatever we do, we do in the context of an institution in which most of the member states have goals of their own. We are not simple free to decide on those goals and shape them to our preference. We can try, but you have to understand the limits on our ability to do that.

I was reminded of that rather dramatically at the Human Rights Commission, in fact, this spring.

Thomas Pickering: Could I make a point? I tend, Jeane, a little bit to disagree with you and a little bit to disagree with Dick. I think that on the critical issues and the Security Council, instructions are invariably from capitals and are important. But I don't think, on those critical issues, some of those permanent representatives are not very influential in what you can get capitals to agree to. I have made deals on Iraqi resolutions in '90 and '91 with Security Council perm reps that they were able to persuade their governments to keep.

The other thing is I've got to figure out, and I'm just guessing at this, but I would say that on three-quarters or more of the issues in the United Nations more than two-thirds of the permanent representatives are not instructed, including all the committee work and all the other things that are out there.

And I think that they're malleable to some extent. I think the non-allied movement was pernicious for US influence. And the more we let it, in fact, work against us the more it created the kind of tidal wave that rolled over us in a lot of things, including Zionism as racism and other travesties in the UN system. But I don't think that's an iron law. And I think that diplomacy can help. I also, Dick, want to say that I think you're right -- if you're not leading in the UN and we have the capability of doing it, we have enormous power and we have an enormous influence in the UN. If you're not leading, then you are going to get rolled and you are not going to see the things that need to be done.

But you need to lead, you need good diplomacy, you need resources, you need a lot of people. You need trading material, you need influence, you need hard work in capitals. You need a whole lot of things that I think we all know and see out there. And if you don't deploy them than often you're surprised and you get rolled and you are going to get run over. I don't think that diplomacy can cure everything, but I think that a lot of the issues that are very important to us -- it's a place that is an instrument for us of foreign policy that can be made very, very important and valuable.

Richard Holbrooke: Let me just footnote, that is Tom is correct that on two-thirds of the votes most of the ambassadors are not instructed and he's probably right. Please understand that that's because two-thirds of the votes are completely unimportant and inconsequential [laughter] and it doesn't matter how you vote on a resolution that we should eradicate malaria within the next half century because it will have no effect and we're all for it.

The point is this, and again, our collaboration, Tom's and mine, was very relevant. If you identify an issue that matters then you work it in the capitals, not with these petty . . . the ambassadors range from very influential -- like the Russian in New York, who is a brilliant diplomat -- to utterly inconsequential and you pick them out. That's what diplomacy is -- many of you in this room -- I see you practice this.

But if an issue matters -- for us we wanted to keep Sudan off the Security Council. It was of historic importance to the reform effort, the billion dollar arrears, for the Helms-Biden and Reform package that we keep Sudan off. Sudan was the unanimous nominee of the organization of African unity and everyone said it couldn't be done.

Tom and I and Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton did it because we . . . Tom must have called 50 capitals. We sat in the room and watched the vote and we beat Sudan, and we beat them to a pulp and that was one of the reasons we got the billion dollars. So you identify what matters and you go to work. We got Israel to a regional group after 40 years in the wilderness by identifying it as an issue we cared about and getting President Clinton personally involved. It can be done. If you don't do it the institution gets weaker. If it gets weaker our foreign policy gets weaker. It's not the centerpiece of our foreign policy but it is an indispensable component of it.

Fred Hiatt: Let's give people a chance to . . . because we don't have that much more time. Please keep questions very brief and identify yourself.

Male Voice: I'm Al Millikan, affiliated with Washington Independent Writers and Solution Radio. How have you evaluated the work of the Human Rights Commission since the United States was voted off and how would you evaluate the leadership shown by Libya, Sudan, some of the nations which haven't had the same definition of human rights that the United States has had?

Richard Holbrooke: First of all let's be clear, they're back on it. Secondly, there was no excuse for being vote off it. That is the perfect example of what Tom and I have been trying to say. They didn't identify the problem, they took no preventive action, they were caught off balance, Washington was out of touch with capitals and they got caught. As soon as they got nailed, of course, everybody blamed the UN. It wasn't the UN's fault. It was a decision of 52 countries in that committee for various reasons, which are so trivial they don't need to be rehearsed. We got back on as soon as the Secretary of State went to the capitals and said, this is a life and death issue, and if you do it again the Congress is going to cut off the money. We had the leverage because we pay a quarter of the bills.

Fred Hiatt: Do you want to add something to that?

Jeane Kirkpatrick: I wholly agree with that. There are very broad limits to what the United States can do in the United Nations. Generally speaking, the issues on which we have the largest influence are the issues that are the most important to us and vice versa. And the issues which we have no influence are the issues that are not very important typically and we need to know this and then we can work on what's important to us.

Fred Hiatt: Sir.

Male Voice: My name is Jeffrey Winograd. I'm the editor of Focus Israel.com. The ambassadors are saying that you have to work the capitals. Are you saying that the quality of our Foreign Service is not what it should be, our ambassadors are not what they should be? What example do you mean?

Thomas Pickering: No, the instructions aren't what they ought to be [laughter] and the mobilization and strategy isn't what it needs to be if you're not winning.

Richard Holbrooke: The Foreign Service is the Foreign Service, it ranges from great diplomats, like the man on my right, to people who aren't so good. It needs to be led and mobilized and it's just the Foreign Service. It is the political leadership of the United States that determines the answer to your very, very smart question.

Female Voice: Thank you, Miriam Sapiro, Summit Strategies, International. I wanted to ask the speakers about Iran. The reports of its nuclear capabilities grow more alarming each week. At the same time -- in the past -- historically one of the most difficult issues to work with close allies, particularly with France and with Russia. My question is whether or not you think the time is ripe to try to move this issue from the IAEA to the Security Council? And if so, to what extent do you think the administration has been able to absorb some lessons from the Iraq experience and what the prospect is of a different outcome in terms of a consolidated position on Iran?

Thomas Pickering: I do -- I was in Russia yesterday and in New York last night and talked to some Chinese. Both of them, as well as the French and certainly the UK, show an increased amount of serious concern in what's going on in Iran, especially on the nuclear question. I understand a resolution is working now to deal with this particular issue. It's not going to be a friendly, cozy, happy resolution for Iran. But I have an uncanny feeling that every time I hear an Iranian explanation of what's wrong, I can tell you I heard the same thing in India and Pakistan, so I'm worried. And that's not the only reason. If you look at what we see for the evidence, I think we do need to be concerned.

One of the critical questions is will it get through the Security Council. I think there's a real chance that a tough resolution gets through the Security Council, then what and where is it going to go?

Fred Hiatt: Would that have an impact on Iran's nuclear program?

Thomas Pickering: I think if there's a resolution to postulates sanctions, and I don't know whether you can get sanctions or not. I don't know whether the members of the Security Council are there yet. But if you can't I think it looks kind of toothless and not serious. I also think that the Korean model is one to look at. I think the administration has been right in opening talks with Korea. I think they've been wrong in the whole approach to get there but they got there, and I think those will continue. And I think that you have to engage Iran on this particular issue and you have a lot of willingness. You had the French and the German and the UK foreign ministers writing letters to the Iranians -- something that I don't [think] we would have seen a year ago -- expressing solidarity on the issue and deep concern, and I think they've been very serious about it.

I think in Russia there's a serious reexamination of that particular issue. Not everybody in Russia who hadn't made money out of this issue is totally agreed, but I think the bulk of them are. And I think the president and the Foreign Ministry are concerned about it and I had a sense of concern on the part of the Chinese, so there is another opportunity to pull the Security Council to get it. I don't know that's the answer to all of these issues, but at least in bringing things to a head and beginning to impress the Iranians upon the deep sense of international concern, particularly among the P5, it's a good way to proceed and I compliment the administration on being able to push ahead with this issue. And I hope that the signs and portents that I see at the moment are right and that it will move ahead. But we have a very serious problem there and I don't see, frankly, an easy solution.

Male Voice: My name is Khalid Dawouda. I'm from Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram and I wanted to ask the ambassadors on their view of the expected, or if possible, the coming UN resolution -- Security Council resolution on Iraq and what the United States might be ready to compromise in order to attract more countries to take part in the international peacekeeping force? For example, ending Bremer's tenure and having the UN guy replacing him and keeping the military command in the US hands would that be a satisfactory deal?

Richard Holbrooke: Jeane, since we covered that before you arrived, you might want to address it.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: No, I'd like to know what you said. [laughter]

Richard Holbrooke: Just to repeat briefly -- we're going to get a resolution because failure is inconceivable, both for the institution and for the shadow it would cast over both the United States and the French internationally. A failure now would be equally a French failure. And even Dominique de Villepin has limits to how buffoonish he can be and he and Powell are going to have to work something out and it's the French national interest to do so. The details are really . . . these are words on paper and the diplomats will work out words on paper.

Fred Hiatt: Whether Bremer is running the thing . . .

Richard Holbrooke: There are two issues here: (1) is the multinational force and the other one is Bremer's role. The administration doesn't yet seem willing to discuss Bremer's role. They're locked in on Bremer because they've got so much of their own national prestige involved in the fact that an American is in charge. I think there was a better way to structure it in our own national interest in which we would have pertained control in a different way, but it's an intensely political decision now and they're going to have to sort it out.

And we can second-guess them but they'll work it out. And my guess is that they're not going to diminish Jerry Bremer's role at this time, even though it has now been publicly suggested for the first time in the last week by several influential people -- including at the Council in New York yesterday, Senator Lieberman.

Thomas Pickering: I would suggest, too, that security is going to stay in our hands. There is nobody ready, willing, and able to replace it. I think on this particular issue he who calls the shots on security has a huge advantage in calling the shots on the critical other issues that are out there. And I would think that the resolution will have some compromise, but I don't think it will give up on the central issues that we're engaged for and that we're going to continue to have to provide the bulk of the security to make it happen.

Richard Holbrooke: The most important thing to underscore about the security side, in reference to what Tom just said, is another one of these massive misunderstandings that is somehow abroad, that people are talking about creating a UN force. There's not the slightest possibility that there would be a blue-helmeted UN force nor could the UN do it; they're incapable of doing it as Rwanda and Bosnia proved and nobody wants them to do it. And what they're talking about is a resolution, which merely puts a different cloth, but the same uniform, over the existing system and brings in more people. It's really diplomacy 101.

Tim Wirth: Tim Wirth from the UN Foundation. Thank you all very much for being here -- a fascinating panel. The topic is "What Future for the UN?" Two or three days ago the Secretary General put out as his charge to the United Nations and General Assembly for the upcoming session a very broad and ambitious mandate for institutional change at the UN, going far beyond the old debate as to who should be on the Security Council and who shouldn't, to really beginning to try to address issues of redefining security, looking at the consensus that was developed at the time of the founding of the UN 55 years ago.

Looking at reorganizing or trying to rethink some of the other institutions beyond the Security Council. It's a very, very ambitious charter with which I know you all are familiar. Could you comment on this? Is this a serious set of requests to the UN to look at itself? Is it something out of which some real product can come and should come and what might we look forward to in what is the future for the UN? Thank you.

Richard Holbrooke: Reform is the single most important thing for the UN. And the reform that has gone on up to now has been -- I'm going to make up a number, but I'd defend it as roughly accurate -- about 20% to 25% of what should be done. Tim Wirth, who asked the question, was one of the key people who made that 25% happen because he and Ted Turner gave the UN, not a bridge loan but a bridge gift, of $31 million to bridge the transitional year, which allowed us to reduce our dues, restructure the financial system for the first time in 29 years and get the billion dollars paid back. So, Tim, of course, understands this.

The peacekeeping reforms of Brahimi -- the US pushed for the reform. We got kind of a B-minus proposal out of the Brahimi Commission. It was then watered down by the Secretariat and then it went to the committees that had to fund it and was watered down still further. So the peacekeeping division increased by 40% instead of by 200% -- it's better than nothing, it's still not there. But again we inserted Americans into senior positions as part of the reform, but no other reforms took place.

We have 425 people in the peacekeeping division in New York, that's the US Pentagon. That's why they can't run anything in Afghanistan and Iraq. But there are 800 people in the Office of Public Information -- a swollen monstrosity [laughter] that should be blown up. Papers are streaming down the corridors in eight languages on documents no one reads and the US taxpayer continues to pay for it. These are fixable reforms.

Secretary General Annan understands this, Tim understands it, and I would support that kind of reform. I agree with you, Tim, on the Security Council. It's desirable -- it wouldn't be structured the way it was in 1945 today can't by changed, primarily by the way, because the European Union, the two European Union members (Britain and France) will never agree to merge into a single EU permanent seat. If they did that then things would change, but that is the definition of those two countries' world role

Thomas Pickering: We will see a European foreign policy, Dick, when we see the Andreotti proposals for a single Security Council representative.

Richard Holbrooke: Absolutely, and it won't happen because Paris and Berlin give it up. It would change their entire world role. But I would hope that Kofi Annan spends -- he still has over three years left as Secretary General, he good do an enormous amount, particularly with the support of people like the UNF [UN Foundation].

Fred Hiatt: Jeane, is there one piece of UN reform you would like to see.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: I agree with everything that's been said, absolutely.

Thomas Pickering: Jeane, what about more contested elections. Obviously, Dick, you and the others put their finger on why we ended up in a mess in the Human Rights Commission. But what about the notion that we should begin to move and contest more of these elections, have votes, work them, pick the ones that are important to us and make sure at the end of the day we don't end up in the kind of mess that you were handed?

Jeane Kirkpatrick: Of course we need to contest more elections in my view, and we need to work for them and we need to win them. And we can win them by working them in capitals. We know how to do that. We have a good many of people who knew how to do it and we can continue to do it, but we have to have a policy that affirms the importance of doing it and that authorizes the perm rep and the team in New York to do it and then we can do it.

I don't have any question about that.

Thomas Pickering: It's a radical change, I don't know we'll ever get it. But I think the top grades -- I don't know what they're going to be -- but Kofi ought to have a kind of merit selection board. He ought to look around the world and find some really [inaudible]….and rather than have the quota system, start at the top and see if you couldn't begin to push down against the notion that everybody has got to have an Assistant Secretary General or whatever it is down there. I think that would really be a phenomenal shift in the way in which the organization is looked at and works.

Richard Holbrooke: It's really interesting because Tom appears to be giving a minor technical suggestion, but if it happened it would be a tremendous step forward. And by the way, Kofi Annan would love to do it.

Now, Jeane's point needs underscoring. There has been an attitude, particularly on the Israel issue, that it's hopeless. That the appalling, totally anachronistic non-aligned movement will always vote anything the Palestinian authority puts forward in meaningless empty rhetoric in the General Assembly. And, therefore, for year after year, under administration under administration, no one fought these resolutions. And the results would be on some appalling -- and this happened even more when Jeane was there than when Tom was there and when I was there. They would vote, let's say, 130 in favor of some outrageous resolution -- four against the US, Israel . . .

Thomas Pickering: And Micronesia . . .

Richard Holbrooke: And Marshall Islands, too.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: and Guatemala .

Richard Holbrooke: Well, we lost Guatemala -- and then some abstentions . . . and the EU would abstain. Everyone's answer to this was, bah, it doesn't matter -- these are meaningless resolutions, which they are. The General Assembly resolutions have no meaning. But, of course, in the Mid East they were huge headlines -- The World Votes 130 to 4 that Israeli is Illegally Occupying the West Bank -- or something like that. And it had a tremendous value and American foreign policy never addressed it.

Suppose we were to address it and start fighting it? Oh, by the way, there was a very important consequence to this -- it gave very great strength to those forces in the Congress who wanted to withhold funds. And I went repeatedly to the African nations and said don't vote for these things, it has no value to Nigeria or South Africa and you're only hurting yourself. Africa needs the UN more than any other continent. And they said we're bound by the commitment to the Non-aligned Movement -- the Non-aligned Movement should have been blown up a decade or two ago. It's run by Syria and Cuba and Libya and it only takes empty positions against the interest of most of its members.

By the way, countries like Singapore and Brazil are members of the Non-aligned Movement. It's nutty because, as you know, it was formed in '55 by Tito and it never was disbanded. If we start fighting on a selective basis, we can cut into that. We can raise the price of the Palestinian attempt to dominate in these meaningless things. The question is, is it worth it for the US?

I believed it was. Tom believed it was. Jeane, I think, believed it was. But time after time, American government officials said we don't want to waste our time spending our chits in Jakarta or Guatemala or Brazil to fight this trivial issue. I didn't believe they were trivial.

Fred Hiatt: Jeane, you gave a speech 22 years ago called "Standing Alone."

Jeane Kirkpatrick: Exactly, and it was on just exactly this issue as a matter of fact.

Fred Hiatt: Do you want to say something and then I'm afraid it has to be the last word.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: I want to say something. I want to share with this group my experience at the Human Rights Commission on just this issue. Because although Israel was admitted to the WEOG group in New York and people had thought that meant it would be admitted to the WEOG group elsewhere it was not -- that did not extend to Geneva. And when the effort was made to secure Israeli's admission to the WEOG group -- participation simply -- everyone knows it's the only country in the world that is not a member of any regional group and therefore cannot participate in most of the activities of the United Nations.

We undertook to challenge this WEOG group and our most important supporter was Sergio de Mello, who publicly stated his view, which everyone there should have shared but didn't. That this was the only fair thing and that it was unfair and unreasonable for Israel not to be permitted to be a member of the WEOG group. We thought we were going to get this Secretary General to make a public statement to the same effect. . .

Richard Holbrooke: Was this this year, Jeane?

Jeane Kirkpatrick: This is this year, two months ago -- about -- but it didn't happen and the reason we know why though. It's much easier to understand the dynamics of it in WEOG than it is in the General Assembly.

Fred Hiatt: Tell people what WEOG is?

Jeane Kirkpatrick: Everybody knows what WEOG is -- Western Europe and Others Group. It's the group that we and most of the other democracies in the world are members in the United Nations through which we participate in elections -- either do get elected or don't elected, the Human Rights Commission, etc., and that's what WEOG is. Once Israel was not admitted to WEOG, but it was clear who was preventing Israeli from admitted -- it was our European colleagues, our Democratic colleagues in WEOG, but not in New York, only in Geneva.

Richard Holbrooke: And the reason is critical to underscore -- we beat them in New York in the year 2000 because President Clinton personally called people like King Juan Carlos and Tom, again, -- I don't mean to suck up to the old man -- but he relentlessly lobbied. [laughter] And the reason we didn't get it in Geneva was a bureaucratic failure, which I deeply regret because I did, indeed, personally promise the Israeli Prime Minister that if he took WEOG in New York only, General would be next. And we didn't finish the job, we ran out of time. But Jeane's story is apropos, but don't generalize it. It only proves that you can win if you fight -- we did it in New York. And we could win in Geneva if the administration, at the highest levels, made it the kind of issue that Jeane has long advocated.

Jeane Kirkpatrick: Which was the grounds on which we were able to secure from the United Nations the repeal of the Zionism is racism

Fred Hiatt: We also have run out of time.

Thomas Pickering: But not out of gas. [laughter]

Fred Hiatt: We've work left to do. Thank you very much. [applause]

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