Council Special Report

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Partners in Preventive Action

The United States and International Institutions

Authors: , General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action, and , Senior Fellow

Partners in Preventive Action - partners-in-preventive-action
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date September 2011

56 pages
ISBN 978-0-8-7609-478-5
Council Special Report No. 62


The unipolar moment, to the extent it ever existed, has now truly passed. The United States is part of a globalized world, in which the flows of goods, finance, people, and much more connect us to other countries as never before. But for all the myriad benefits globalization brings, it also means that the challenges of the coming decades—be they generated by resource competition, climate change, cybercrime, terrorism, or clas­sic competition and rivalry—cannot be solved or even mitigated by one country alone. Countries will need to cooperate on policies that extend across borders to address issues that affect them all.

In this Council Special Report, CFR scholars Paul B. Stares and Micah Zenko argue that the United States should increasingly look to international institutions—the United Nations and regional organiza­tions like the European Union, the African Union, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—as partners in conflict prevention and peacemaking worldwide. These organizations can serve as a platform for developing and enforcing international norms; provide a source of legitimacy for diplomatic and military efforts; and aggregate the opera­tional resources of their members, all of which can increase the ease and effectiveness of American peacemaking efforts.

The CSR explores the ways these institutions are already contribut­ing to the creation and maintenance of peace, from the UN's conflict monitoring systems to the dispute resolution mechanisms at the Orga­nization of American States and the nascent African Standby Force of the African Union, before turning to a series of recommendations on ways the United States can improve its interaction with these institu­tions and maximize their potential.

To reduce the risk of conflict, the authors write, the United States should work to expand and institutionalize international norms against both intra- and interstate violence. They also suggest that the United States further efforts toward economic growth and good governance in the developing world, both of which reduce the potential for con­flict, and work to institutionalize a limited form of the responsibility to protect. To head off brewing conflicts, the authors recommend closer cooperation among the United States and international institutions on conflict monitoring and intelligence sharing, coordination on aid dis­bursements, and increasing American representation on and funding to bodies working in these areas. And where conflict has already broken out, they note, the United States could still enable a rapid response by enhancing international capacity to quickly deploy civilian and military assets to new conflict zones.

Partners in Preventive Action raises important issues for U.S. poli­cymakers contemplating a world of increasing complexity at a time of decreasing means. It provides a comprehensive look at the conflict pre­vention capacity of international institutions and poses thoughtful rec­ommendations on how they can be improved. While there will continue to be a place for independent action, ad hoc coalitions, and formal alli­ances, this CSR successfully argues for the present and future impor­tance of international institutions.

More About This Publication

Paul B. Stares is the General John W. Vessey senior fellow for conflict prevention and director of the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Prior to joining CFR, Stares was the vice president and director of the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the United States Institute of Peace. He worked as an associate director and senior research scholar at Stanford Univer­sity's Center for International Security and Cooperation from 2000 to 2002 and was a senior research fellow at the Japan Institute of Interna­tional Affairs and then director of studies at the Japan Center for Inter­national Exchange from 1996 to 2000. From 1984 to 1996, he was a research associate and later a senior fellow in the foreign policy studies program at the Brookings Institution. He has also been a NATO fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the MacArthur Foundation's Moscow office. He is the author or editor of ten books and numerous articles and reports, including most recently the CFR publications "Enhanc­ing U.S Crisis Preparedness" (Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 4), "Military Escalation in Korea" (Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 10), Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action (Council Special Report No. 48), and Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea (Council Special Report No. 42).

Micah Zenko is a fellow for conflict prevention in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he worked for five years at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in a number of research positions, and in Washington, DC, at the Brookings Institution, Congressional Research Service, and State Department's Office of Policy Planning. Zenko has published on a range of national security issues, including articles in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Parameters, Defense and Security Analysis, and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and op-eds in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, and the websites of the New York Times and Foreign Affairs. He writes the blog "Politics, Power, and Preventive Action," which covers U.S. national security policy, international security, and conflict prevention. Zenko tweets at @MicahZenko and was named by Foreign Policy as one of "The FP Twitterati 100." He is the author of two other Council Special Reports, Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action, with CPA director Paul Stares, and Toward Deeper Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons, which was published in November 2010. Zenko received a PhD in political science from Brandeis University. His book, Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post–Cold War World, was published by Stanford University Press in September 2010.

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