December 21, 2006
ANYA SCHMEMANN: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Anya Schmemann with the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you all for joining us on such short notice and at such a busy time of the year.
Our topic today is the transition at the United Nations. We're pleased to have with us Lee Feinstein, who's a senior fellow for foreign policy and international law. He directed a council-sponsored task force on the United Nations and was a principal drafter of the congressional task force on U.N. reform, chaired by Gingrich and Mitchell. He's also author of a forthcoming council report on preventing atrocities.
And I can't resist mentioning that Lee and his wife had a baby just a few days ago. So we are particularly grateful that he has found time to be with us today.
Lee, after 10 years of Annan's leadership, Ban Ki-Moon enters the arena and inherits a daunting agenda, including threats of nuclear proliferation, terrorism, potential genocide, and a stalled reform effort in the United Nations.
Last week we saw two snapshots: first, a departing leader who, with all his characteristic eloquence, took what some saw as a parting shot at the United States, and the second from the incoming leader, known for his bureaucratic skills, promising to restore trust and smooth relations between the secretariat and the member states.
What can we expect from this so-called “slippery eel,” the "Teflon diplomat," as he's called?
LEE FEINSTEIN: Well, thanks, Anya, and thanks to all of you for allowing me to take this call in my pajamas, which I appreciate. And happy holidays to everybody.
I guess I would slightly disagree with the characterization of this Truman speech as a "parting shot." It's nothing that Annan hadn't said before, certainly much tamer than something that, say, Robert Gates or James Baker has said recently about the Bush administration. And actually the key message in that speech that has been reported so widely was really about the ways in which the United Nations needs the United States. But we can talk a little bit more about this.
Let me say something a little bit about Ban Ki-Moon and in general about this transition.
The first thing just to take note of is that a secretary-general is like a Supreme Court justice -- you never know what you're going to get. Ban Ki-Moon, like his predecessor, was Washington's choice. He was selected because he is seen as non-confrontational and pro-American, which was very much the calculation that was made when Kofi Annan was chosen when Bill Clinton was president. In the case of Ban Ki-Moon, he was also chosen because of Washington's long experience with him in nuclear diplomacy, particularly with North Korea, and his views on this issue are seen and are constant with U.S. policy views.
When Ban Ki-Moon ran for the job, he ran as a reformer, not as an innovator, and this was congenial to the present administration, which was uncomfortable with Kofi Annan's effort to set new standards. This administration wanted an implementer, not a speechifier.
The odd thing about this -- getting back to Annan for a minute -- is that the main themes of Kofi Annan's tenure -- democracy, human rights, genocide, even the unilateral use of force and also on certain specific issues like Iraq, Darfur and the Middle East were very much in keeping with the United States' traditional agenda. They were really an American agenda, and they were particularly sympathetic with the views of this administration. But there were a variety of reasons for the frictions between Annan and the administration, and they went in both directions, and we can talk about that.
Let me say a few words briefly about Ban Ki-Moon.
He comes to this job at a very difficult time. I guess every agenda is daunting, but in this case, Ban Ki-Moon inherits the proverbial problem from hell with Darfur. And even though this problem unfolded on someone else's watch, his reputation may rise or fall depending on how the U.N. is seen to be handling the situation, and there are a couple of things that I think he could do early in his time that would put the United Nations on a good footing.
One would be first to rally the African Union to deploy the number of troops it needs to reach its maximum stipulated force. There is already an international force -- this peacekeeping force which was authorized last August but which hasn't yet been sent in, and we can talk more about this later.
And there are longer-term issues Ban Ki-Moon can do to put the United Nations in a better place in an effort to prevent, stop mass atrocities.
On the reform set of issues, Ban Ki-Moon has described himself as a reformer, and he said in his few press availabilities so far that he wants to focus on the secretariat. That's his office. And that makes sense, because the secretariat is the area where he has the most authority to make changes. He doesn't need the consent of 192 countries or the approval formally in any event of the Security Council, either.
He has emphasized the secretariat -- it's a deliberate effort to distinguish himself from Kofi Annan, who had a very poor management record, and, despite many efforts and pronouncements, did not do well in reforming the secretariat. We can talk more about that if you're interested.
Just turning back to Kofi's legacy a little bit. As I said, a lot has been said about the Truman speech. But when I look at Kofi Annan's legacy -- of course, any secretary-general, any political figure who's been in office for 10 years has wounds and battle scars -- but I think of Kofi Annan as a secretary-general who espoused values that were very much in keeping with the American tradition, and I would go so far as to call him the secretary-general of unilateral action, that he found -- he said in many speeches that there were higher values than getting Security Council approval.
And he made these points, you know, diplomatically, but nonetheless directly, with respect to Kosovo and even after the Iraq invasion in 2003. And if you look at his speech before the secretary-general in September of 2003, you'll see that it was far from a denunciation of unilateralism and more a criticism of the Security Council for failing to come to some unanimity about what to do with Iraq.
Iran is also in the news today. I'd be happy to talk with all of you about that, as well. And with that introduction, why don't I turn it back to Anya.
SCHMEMANN: Okay. Thanks, Lee.
You mentioned Darfur. In his final press conference, Annan made a last push to try to resolve the crisis there. And U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios has said that Sudan must accept an international force by year's end, or else. So the question is, or else what?
FEINSTEIN: Right. That's a good question, and Darfur is important.
Well, the first thing is that Ban Ki-Moon has made a statement that he's saying that there's no military solution to this problem. And of course, a political solution is the best solution to dealing with the Darfur crisis. But the problem we find ourselves in now, at this late date, after three years of slow-motion ethnic cleansing, is that the regime in Khartoum interprets the continued focus on diplomacy as a permission slip to do as it pleases.
And so I'm not sure that Ban gets off on the right foot in emphasizing the diplomatic approach. I think, as I said earlier, the best thing he can do right now is to cajole member states to pledge concrete commitments of troops to this peacekeeping force in waiting, one, to send a message to Khartoum that the international community, such as it is, is willing to do something; two, to reinforce international political will, which is undercut by the absence of military capacity to carry out our peacekeeping operations; and three, to be ready to be deployed when and if it's called into action, in order to stabilize the situation.
Natsios has, you know, issued this January 1 ultimatum, and it's unclear what Plan B is. The Security Council, a couple of years ago now, and the Sudanese government itself have authorized a ban on offensive military flights over Darfur. The Security Council hasn't enforced that, so it's conceivable -- and it's something that I recommend, as well -- that this ban be enforced. And there are a couple of ways one could do it, and we can talk about the details of that.
That is what people are talking about, though I find it unlikely that the United States is going to support or call for a no-fly zone in the short run.
SCHMEMANN: Okay. You've touched on a number of topics, from Darfur to Iran to the United Nations reform agenda. I'm sure there are a lot of questions on the line. So at this point, operator, we'll be happy to take questions.
OPERATOR: At this time, we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the star key, followed by the 1 key, on your touch-tone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, please dial star-2.
And our first question today comes from Elif Ozmenek from the Voice of America.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Can you hear me?
QUESTIONER: Yes. Hi, sir.
I was wondering: how do you think that Ban Ki-moon would react to the Cyprus problem? What kind of initiative that he's going to take? Will the Annan plan still be on the table? Or what would -- you know, what kind of a procedure that he will follow as the new secretary-general? Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Now there is a detailed question. I have to say that I don't think he has focused on the Cyprus question yet. None of the myriad priorities that he listed in his opening press conferences referred to the Cyprus question, so I don't see this as being at the top of his agenda at this time.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Bill Varner from Bloomberg News.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Lee. Congratulations.
FEINSTEIN: Thanks a lot, Bill.
QUESTIONER: So the U.N. Security Council votes tomorrow to impose sanctions on Iran, coming on the heels of sanctions on North Korea, coming on the heels of sanctions on Sudan. The problem is, or one of the problems is that these sanctions committees operate by consensus, and the committees on Sudan and North Korea have virtually gotten nowhere. What do you think of sort of the sanctions tool, the efficiency or the effectiveness of this sanctions tool as a way to move these regimes?
FEINSTEIN: Well, you listed three cases, and two of them are proliferation cases and one is a different kind of case, it's a genocide case. Let me just unpack them a little bit.
I think the U.N. is not the optimal place to do nonproliferation diplomacy. In fact, it's a poor place to do nonproliferation diplomacy. And I think that the track record bears that out. You go to the U.N. for reinforcement of your diplomacy or to send strong messages, but you don't make that the main place you do the work.
And in the case of Iran, I think that the string has run out on Security Council action on Iran, at least for now. The fact that they got a resolution is better than not having a resolution at all, but this protracted negotiation, months-long negotiation serves to highlight the rift among the P-5 rather than reinforcing determination to act together about it.
I think the issue now is to get off the U.N. track and go back to the U.S.-EU track, which had looked very promising. The U.S. and EU can take action much more quickly and much more resolutely than the Security Council can. Of course, the Security Council includes two of Iran's major nuclear suppliers, who have the veto.
So I think that's much more promising and I think the U.N. track has been a diversion and sends basically the wrong message to Iran. This is a very weak resolution. This whole idea of vigilance as opposed to travel bans essentially leaves it up to the discretion of every state to do what it wants.
I think on North Korea, as well, the Bush administration has used the U.N. primarily to delay action on diplomacy with North Korea, and now -- (inaudible) -- the administration is keen to reach a deal with Pyongyang, there's little talk about the United Nations Security Council, and they're back to the six-party talks and offers of full diplomatic relations and the rest.
So when the United States is ready to do business diplomatically on nonproliferation issues, it almost always circumvents the U.N. or makes bilateral or multilateral negotiations with regional parties the centerpiece of actions.
In the case of Sudan, here you have Security Council resolutions that were authorized but not enforced, and issuing threats and not following through undercuts your credibility. And it's really, in the case of Darfur, narrowed the options. The options now, you know, are -- it's as if the options are doing nothing or sending in the Marines. And by this I mean that the Sudanese government, the Bashir regime, views a continued focus on diplomacy as a sign of international weakness and division, and it interprets that for its own purposes. And convincing it of international seriousness is going to be very, very difficult at this point.
It points toward some kind of military action. That doesn't mean sending in the Marines. It might mean enforcing the no-fly zone. But military action is inherently risky, and it's unclear that it could be successful in this case. And it is certainly clear that it will not have broad international support.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Evelyn Leopold from Reuters.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Lee. Evelyn at Reuters at the U.N.
QUESTIONER: A couple questions. And you may have answered one of them already, because I tuned in late. On Iran, on that resolution, I'm curious why you think it's weak because of the travel ban. I would think a travel ban's highly insignificant compared to putting sanctions on some dangerous nuclear materials. It would be the first time Russia and China would do so. And I'm, you know, curious your opinion, not long-term that the U.N. should be in charge of it, because I agree with you it shouldn't.
Secondly, what do you know about Ban Ki-Moon? To the rest of us he's still a blank slate, you know?
FEINSTEIN: On the first question, Evelyn, I think you make a good point. I think what I said is that a resolution is better than no resolution.
The resolution is weakened. The Sanctions Committee's going to have greater authority to interpret what's on the list of proscribed exports and what's off it. And that's going to be a --
QUESTIONER: No, I don't see where they have any authority.
QUESTIONER: On that point, where do you think -- where do they see they have --
FEINSTEIN: Well, they're going to have to come up with a list and decide what's in and what's out --
QUESTIONER: No, the list is there, in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Chapter 1.
FEINSTEIN: But these will be the subject of negotiations among the committee.
QUESTIONER: No. No.
FEINSTEIN: And there's an extended period of time to report how countries are getting on --
QUESTIONER: Yeah, that's true. But it's not -- that list is what they've been yelling about, because that's it. And with -- yeah --
FEINSTEIN: It also -- there's also an exception that swallows the rule --
FEINSTEIN: -- which is that Bushehr is excluded from this ban.
QUESTIONER: Right. Right. Right. Yeah.
FEINSTEIN: So like I said, I think this is better than not having a resolution. But I think it's much weaker than the United States wanted. It's weaker than the EU-3 wanted. And I think it's going to be very, very hard to go beyond this at the U.N.
That's why I said what I said earlier, which is that I think that the string has really run out on the U.N. route. I think the United States and the European Union have gotten the maximum they can now get. And the only proviso I would put in that point is that you could, of course, get more Security Council action if there are very troublesome developments coming out of Iran. But that would not be -- you know, that's not a good --
QUESTIONER: No. I think you're right. This is as far as they can go. But I think the travel ban is insignificant when they're compared to the other stuff they did or didn't get.
Can you tell us a bit on Ban Ki-Moon?
FEINSTEIN: I can tell you a little bit about Ban Ki-Moon. I can tell you -- I don't know Ban Ki-Moon personally, but I can tell you what I know about his reputation among diplomats, which is a very tough and very patient negotiator. He played a very, very pivotal role in the nuclear diplomacy with the United States during the years when the United States was engaged in negotiations on the Agreed Framework and since. The United States' record in working with Ban Ki-Moon has been very, very positive on that front.
He has got certain skills that are probably very good for a secretary-general. And in some ways he's more in the mold of a traditional secretary-general, in the sense that he's unlikely to make public statements that will give offense to one party or another, and much more of a conciliator, although not to be confused with somebody who's not strong.
Kofi Annan, on the other hand, was somebody who liked to make speeches which were intended to establish how he was different and his positions were different from those of certain member states. And in that sense, I think there will be a very strong difference between the new secretary-general and the one that's leaving.
SCHMEMANN: All right. Thank you. Let's take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Just a reminder: If you would like to ask a question, please press star-1 on your touch-tone phone now.
Okay. Our next question comes from Takaaki Mizuno from Asahi Shimbun.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I just want to follow up the previous question about Ban Ki-Moon.
QUESTIONER: I think his first message will come by how he reshuffled Kofi Annan's cabinet in the secretariat, like how he picked up the deputy secretary-general and how he rearranged undersecretaries from PK office and other things.
I heard a report that the United States would like to take over PKO, you know, bureau --
QUESTIONER: -- which has such money and power. And I wonder whether it is true or not, and if you have any comment on that.
And the following regular question is if you want to see any countries which can supply more resources for another UNPKO opportunities, there would be only two major players: India, for the PKO force, and Japan, for finance.
FEINSTEIN: Yes. Yes.
QUESTIONER: But unfortunately, those two countries are very, very, you know, offended by their failure to be a member of a permanent security seat of the Security Council.
QUESTIONER: So on the one hand, Ban Ki-Moon is so reluctant to pressing Security Council reform after watching Kofi Annan's failure. So how do you think he can make a balance between those two dilemmas?
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. Well, on the first question, it is true that the United States has indicated it wants to get the appointment of the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This is interesting, because additionally or at least in the recent past, the tradition has been that an American is in charge of U.N. reform issues -- (off mike) -- tend to be management and budget issues.
FEINSTEIN: And now the United States is signaling an interest in wanting to do the peacekeeping job. And, you know, I actually think that this, at least in terms of what it could mean for the U.S.-U.N. relationship and the future of DPKO in its effort to continue to make improvements, that this could be a good thing. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is operating at peak levels, historic highs in the number of troops and civilians in peacekeeping operations. And when there was last a peak in U.N. peacekeeping, the United States -- at that time under a Democratic president -- was very, very critical of how the U.N. did its business and unsupportive and withheld payments. So I think that there would be a lot of utility in having a U.S. official at the helm of DPKO.
QUESTIONER: But don't you think it's a different case for United Nations if they consider it to be a pro-American -- you know, accused of American imperial, you know --
FEINSTEIN: Yes, I do think that putting the United States in charge of DPKO in that sense poses some political problems within the institution. I think that that has also proven to be the case when the United States was also in charge of the Reform Office, and I think it's the inevitable price, if you will pardon the phrase, of being number one.
Now, good diplomacy can mitigate the impact of that, but it's part of the job that any American serving in the U.N. capacity faces, which is how you manage the fact that you are needed and resented at the same time.
QUESTIONER: My second question, the Security Council --
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. Ban Ki-Moon has, you know, talked about the importance of Security Council reform, but he hasn't made clear what, if anything, he's going to do about it. By reform, I mean, Security Council expansion. And I haven't heard anything from him about how he -- other than to say that he believes it's important how he plans to do it.
My -- you may know the circumstances in Japan better than I do, but my sense of the diplomacy around this issue is that while there is disappointment, particularly in Japan, and to a lesser extent in India, that it's not going to preclude deeper and sustained participation by either country in peacekeeping operations or financially. I guess I would also say that there are other places for peacekeeping troops, too. I mean, India is a major contributor.
You know, China is becoming a bigger contributor of peacekeeping, versus --
QUESTIONER: Yes, yes. I think the country’s --
FEINSTEIN: And that's obviously a big area for growth. And one thing I think China could do and one area where Ban Ki-Moon might consider making a diplomatic move is to push China to volunteer forces for a Darfur operation, should one actually take place.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thank you.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mark Turner with the Financial Times.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Can you hear me?
QUESTIONER: Great. Look, I just wanted to explore a little bit more of the issue of China. We've seen, you know, a certain evolution in the way China has behaved on the Security Council as its basically commercial frontiers expand. It's taken a more active interest in policy across a range of issues, specifically Africa, maybe that it didn't so actively take part of before. Now, the general question has been, you know, what will this global role of China be? Will it be a force for bad, as it were, by encouraging and protecting autocrats? Or as it begins to face, you know, more challenges to its own interests, will it actually join the U.S. and Europe, as it were, in trying to pursue, you know, softer things like human rights and so forth? So I'd just be interested in your view of the evolution of China.
And at the same time, I'd be interested in your view -- there's a widespread perception that Ban Ki-Moon was basically a stitch-up between China and the U.S. and that Europe was left kind of on the back foot on this. Do you have sense that as China rises and the U.S. increasingly does deals with China on the international security architecture, that Europe's influence is declining and that Europe is actually finding itself a lesser power in this new world?
FEINSTEIN: Well, Mark, that's a very interesting and important question.
I think that, you know, the working assumption about China in the Security Council context was always that it did not want to be up front on any issue except those that touch directly on what is perceived to be its vital national security interest, and that it hid behind others, whether it be France or Russia. And I think that that is still true to a large extent, but I also think that, Mark, you pointed to something else, which is much more activism by China on a range of issues, and, I would also say, much more sensitivity by China about how it is perceived internationally.
And you can see China's ambivalence in how it has handled the Darfur question. China has been the guardian angel of Sudan over the past three years. At the same time, it did go along with the Security Council resolution in August that authorized this peacekeeping force, of course at the, quote-unquote, "invitation" of the Sudanese government. And China has since said privately but very widely to a whole range of people that it is pushing the Sudanese government to relent.
And I think what China is doing is taking the international temperature on this issue, and to the degree to which it perceives international seriousness about the conflict in Darfur, it will then have to make a decision about who's more important, Sudan or its international reputation.
The other point I think is extremely interesting, I still think it's the case that the key to effective Security Council action or U.N. action on almost any issue is partnership between the United States and Europe, the transatlantic partnership. When the United States and Europe work together, it's very difficult for others to get in the way. When they are divided, as we saw particularly in the late '90s and then, of course, you know, up to and including the invasion of Iraq, it's easy for spoilers to get in the way and throw wrenches into the works.
But yes, there's also the possibility of the United States and China doing deals together. And yes, I think that Ban Ki-Moon is a good example of that. And when the United States and China can agree on an issue, it's very, very difficult for others to interfere with it.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thank you. We're hopping around the globe here. Let's take some more questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Again, if you would like to ask a question, star one. We do have another question, from Mr. Mizuno from Asahi Shimbun.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I want to ask you about how the United Nations should deal with Afghanistan, because, you know, Iraq is -- (inaudible) -- but Afghanistan is a commitment by Security Council, but still the situation is rather, you know, on the same (path ?), from the (path ?) as Iraq.
FEINSTEIN: Right. Well, you know, I would say that both on Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Nations has a significant role to play. Ban Ki-Moon has specifically talked about Iraq, and the U.N. playing a larger role in Iraq. But certainly in both cases, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the United Nations has a large role to play, particularly in the governance area and in the development area as well.
SCHMEMANN: Thank you. As we wait for another question, Lee, I have one for you. Last week Annan, at his – or rather this week, at his last press conference, Annan said that one of his proudest achievements was the approval by the U.N. of the responsibility to protect. Can you tell us what is the significance of that principle? And how can the United Nations inject meaning into those words?
FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Anya. The U.N. General Assembly, as you all know, passed the responsibility to protect in a General Assembly resolution last year, and this really was an outgrowth of the dilemma that the U.N. faced after Kosovo when the Security Council was unable to act and NATO took independent action, and then went back to the Security Council after the fact for a kind of approval.
And I think that this is potentially a turning point in the U.N.'s history. You know, it wasn't too long ago, in fact it was very recently, that member states would cite interference into their domestic affairs as a reason and as a way to fend off international criticism about the treatment of people within their own borders. And the responsibility to protect begins to take away that excuse. And that's had an impact, to go back to Mark's earlier question, on China's behavior. And China very rarely invokes this idea of illegal interference into the sovereign affairs of a nation, and partly because of this developing notion that sovereignty has rights as well as responsibilities, particularly when it comes to the issue of mass atrocities.
So the question is how you can make the responsibility to protect into something more than three empty words, and Darfur is not a promising beginning.
I think Ban Ki-Moon has a good opportunity here on this issue. He has talked about being a reformer and implementing the reforms that were set in the world summit in 2005 as well as some other reforms. My recommendation to him would be to make genocide prevention, prevention of atrocities a centerpiece of the U.N. reform effort and to build reforms around this mission, and that would have direct consequences for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, for the Human Rights Council, which has failed to live up to hopes and expectations so far for the secretariat for a variety of different U.N. functions. And giving reform a political reason as a reform for that has the potential to give U.N. reform a much greater impetus than it's had so far.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thank you. All right. We've touched on China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Africa, Cyprus. Let's get some more questions on the table.
OPERATOR: Okay. We have a question from Peter Heinlein from the Voice of America.
QUESTIONER: Hello, Lee.
QUESTIONER: Go back to something you said I think in answer to one of Mr. Mizuno's questions -- you said the key to effective Security Council is partnership between the U.S. and Europe, and yet, what we're seeing today -- I know for the past few months -- is U.S. and Europe to a great extent unified in their stance on Iran, but the naysayers on the Security Council are always in the driver's seat. And I would like your comment on that.
My other question -- secretaries-general come and go. The bureaucracy stays. Ban Ki-Moon has said he wants to reform the secretariat, but to what extent are you concerned that this powerful force, the bureaucracy, could resist his overtures? And do you think he has just a brief window of opportunity or do you think he can continue this push for reform over an extended period?
FEINSTEIN: Well, on the first question, no U.N. resolution on Iran would have been possible were it not for the very determined support of a resolution by the Europeans. If the United States pushed this and the Europeans were uncertain, this would have been -- this would have died an early death. And the fact that a resolution could come out -- even one that isn't as strong as hoped for -- is testimony to the importance of the United States and the Europeans working together on an issue. With the two of them together with the Transatlantic Partnership working together, the Security Council is able to -- if not overcome then circumvent and sidestep the concerns of China and Russia.
As to the second question about the U.N. bureaucracy, there are a lot of steps -- there are a lot of things about the way the U.N. works that it makes it very difficult for a secretary-general to be effective. You know, one of them, for example, is that the secretary-general lacks hiring and firing authority for a substantial portion of his staff. In that sense, it's not entirely unlike a secretary of State. But he has control, really, over his political appointees and not over others, so it's very, very difficult to get rid of what Annan himself referred to as deadwood in the institution.
So, yes, this is a serious problem, and it's one -- particularly the personnel system -- it's a problem that Ban Ki-Moon is going to have to confront head-on if he's going to be successful, and this is (degraded ?) by the fact that the developing world -- if I can put it that way -- very much sees the effort to clean up the secretariat and more generally the push for U.N. reform as a move by the United States and other powerful members to usurp control from them. So this is a very, very difficult task, and it puts the D on this daunting.
SCHMEMANN: Thank you. Another question?
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Steve Swanson from the Chicago Tribune.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Lee, and congratulations on the new member of your family.
FEINSTEIN: Thanks a lot.
QUESTIONER: I was wondering, on the question of U.S.-U.N. relations, what you think Ban Ki-Moon can or should do. And just as a preface: With Kofi, he was educated in the United States. He was, you know, seen as America's SG, in a way. That doesn't seem to be the case with Ban Ki-Moon, not being educated in the U.S. Do you have any sense of how well he knows or understands the U.S., and then also, whether he should more or less be passive until 2008 or if there's anything he can do between now and then to try to improve the relationship?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't think that the U.S.-U.N. dynamic is going to change dramatically between now and a new American administration, whether it's a Democratic administration or a Republican one. U.S.-U.N. relations were very, very difficult when there was a Democrat in the White House and a Republican in Congress, and they're very difficult when it's the reverse, which will be the case next year with the Democrats controlling the Congress and Republicans in the White House.
So I think Ban Ki-Moon needs to, you know, act now to improve relations. And he has worked very, very hard. He's made it very clear that that's a high priority for him, first in soliciting Washington's support to get the job in the first place, and secondly, in the kinds of statements he's made. And this is why he's emphasized the issue of management reform, starting with the secretariat as his first order of business. You know, whether that is successful or not is another matter.
Part of the issue with the U.S.-U.N. relationship is that the differences aren't only about the policies of one secretary-general or another. They're structural, which is that there's principled opposition to the U.N. being a strong institution coming from ideological conservatives. This is a principled position, which just views a stronger U.N. to come at the expense of American power. And this kind of difference of opinion about what role the U.N. ought to have in American foreign policy is going to endure, you know, no matter who is in control in the United States.
And you have to remind me of the second part of your question.
QUESTIONER: Well, do you have a sense of how well he knows or understands the U.S., since he wasn't educated here and hasn't spent that much time here?
FEINSTEIN: I think he's very sophisticated about the United States, with a very sophisticated understanding about how the United States government works; has worked with the United States government at a variety of levels, has witnessed and understands how the U.S. interagency process works. I think he also understands the impact that the American Congress has on American foreign policy. So I think in those ways, he begins his tenure with some significant advantages over Kofi Annan, who never really operated in those channels before he became secretary-general.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thanks. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Maggie Farley from the L.A. Times.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Lee.
You said that Ban Ki-Moon has an opportunity on R2P, responsibility to protect, to make genocide prevention a centerpiece of U.N. reform. But Kofi was unable to convince nations to sublimate their national interests to the collective good. What makes you think that Ban Ki-Moon can do it? He seems less likely to use the moral bully pulpit than Kofi.
FEINSTEIN: Right. Well, let me put it this way. It is unfair to expect a secretary-general to be responsible for preventing and stopping the atrocities that happen around the world. And it's unfair for a variety of reasons, including the inherent nature of the U.N. It's a weak institution. It's underfunded, and it's militarily stretched, and of course the decisions ultimately are the decisions of the member-states.
But that doesn't change the fact that the success or failure of a secretary-general is going to depend to a large extent on the degree to which the U.N. is perceived as successfully responding to mass atrocities. And for proof of that, you just have to ask Kofi Annan, right, who was the director of the Peacekeeping Office when the Rwanda genocide happened. And in some ways you can look at his tenure as a 10-year effort to exorcise the ghost of Rwanda.
And so what I'm saying is that for Ban Ki-Moon, there are moral and practical reasons to make this a high priority in terms of how he pursues reform.
And -- now, that's not the same thing as saying that he's going to be able to convert institutional reforms at the U.N. into political will among the member states to take action. But what he can do is to build capacity within the U.N. which removes certain excuses for doing nothing and has -- will also have the effect of reinforcing political will when and if it develops.
So for example, if you had a more -- a ready peacekeeping capacity that could deploy quickly and effectively, at least in a vanguard capacity, soon after a peacekeeping operation is authorized, certainly sooner than is the case now, you would, I think, take a step in the direction of building an institutional capacity to be effective.
If you could also take steps to work much earlier and on a preventive basis, diplomatically, when there are the first signs of killings or conflict that's ethnic in character, then you build a certain type of preventive capacity that can also be effective, and reinforce and help to develop the political will that's necessary.
But I don't disagree, Maggie, with the ultimate point that, you know, very often when people say the U.N. failed to prevent genocide, what they really mean is members of the U.N. have failed to take action to prevent genocide.
QUESTIONER: It's in the U.S. interest to promote that capacity at the United Nations, isn’t it, Lee? How can the U.S. support that effort?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I guess it's a two-part question. And the first part is, is it in the U.S. interest to promote that kind of capacity? And I guess I would say the answer to that is yes, if only because of the failed state analysis that began in the Clinton administration and carried over and was even reinforced by this administration, which is that failed states matter, and disorder in different parts of the world has the potential to affect us very directly. And of course the United States doesn't have the capacity to act in these areas alone, and even if it did have that capacity, it's not -- disinclined to do so.
The United States can do a lot of things to improve the capacity in DPKO, in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. And it has a number of things it can do in terms of its participation in NATO, as well, to help to reinforce the U.N.'s capacity. There's a proposal pending at the United Nations now for a small permanent staff of peacekeeping professionals who would be on a career track at the U.N. to be in place to help establish and manage peacekeeping operations as they go along. At present, the -- this is done on an ad hoc basis, and you more or less have to start from scratch with every peacekeeping operation. And that's one way of supporting a proposal like that and providing concrete assistance in that area where the United States can be helpful.
SCHMEMANN: Okay. Let's take another question.
OPERATOR: Okay. Our next question comes from Cumin Lee (sp) from the Yonhap News Agency.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Thank you. My question is, you talked specifically about what the incoming secretary-general could do. Could you talk a little bit about what he should not be doing, given the experience of past secretary-generals?
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. Well, I think one of the -- I meant to say this when people -- when I was asked the question about advantages Ban Ki-Moon has. Kofi Annan got himself into very serious and unnecessary trouble when he made a series of ill-advised, frequently off-the-cuff comments about U.S. policy. He did this on several occasions, but most damagingly during the last presidential campaign, first with a statement that he made about the Iraq war being illegal -- this was kind of in a -- several of you are familiar with this. You were -- several of you were probably there when this happened. It was a back-and-forth encounter with press where he, after several questions, finally said that he thought the intervention was illegal.
This was just a huge, unnecessary self-inflicted wound by Annan. He also sent a letter to President Bush late October -- actually, it was on the eve of the presidential elections -- advising against the assault on Fallujah. And this was perceived very negatively in Congress, principally by Republicans, but nobody thought it was a very smart move, whatever their party affiliation may have been.
The one thing that Ban Ki-Moon can avoid doing is he doesn't need to speak on every issue. One of the positive things about Kofi Annan was that he was prepared to take on taboos. And I guess what I would say for Ban Ki-Moon is he's in the good situation of following a secretary-general who has helped to establish some new norms in the areas of democracy, in the areas of unilateral military force, in the areas of sovereignty, and he doesn't have to reinvent those positions and he can focus instead on implementing the mandates that have been laid out over the course of the last few years.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mr. Mizuno of Asahi Shimbun.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I just wanted to follow up your advice for Ban Ki-Moon. You said the agenda of humanitarian intervention would be very convincing and popular for United Nations and Europe and maybe a little bit for Japan. But the problem is, when he goes to African Union summit in January, how he should persuade African leaders by this regard?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. Well, I didn't use those exact terms. I didn't say "popular" and I didn't use the term "humanitarian intervention." But let me go to the specific question of the African Union summit.
The African Union has been -- was created and its mandate was established very much with the Rwanda experience in mind. And it speaks specifically to the question of sovereignty and intervention in cases when governments don't live up to their responsibilities to protect those within its own borders.
So when he speaks to the African Union, he's speaking to a group of countries that is composed principally of states that are worried and genuinely concerned about another -- about Darfur and about more Darfurs.
But the most effective way to address these issues -- and this goes back to a question that Anya raised, as well -- is to build regional capacity. Another thing that the African charter says is African solutions to African problems. And here it seems to me that when Ban Ki-Moon meets with the African Union, he can talk about the importance first of all of the African Union going to its maximum levels of peacekeeping troops within the AU mandate that already exists in Darfur; and for Africans -- capable African states, including the Rwandans, to stand up and volunteer for the international force that was authorized in August to be ready and available when and if that force is called into action; and then finally, to make the point that having Africans in the lead, supported by others, doesn't in any way detract from the African Union's leadership role, and over the long term that's the road to greater African self-sufficiency.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Lee, on another part of the world, the Middle East.
SCHMEMANN: Ban Ki-Moon also said last week in his remarks that peace in the Middle East is a priority for him, and mentioned that he wants to revitalize the Quartet of Mideast peacekeepers – the U.N., EU, Russia, and the U.S. He also expressed concern about Lebanon.
What kind of role can he play there?
FEINSTEIN: Glad you asked that question. I had meant to mention that. I was surprised to read what he had said on this issue, particularly about the role he said he wants to play on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But there's no question that the U.N. has played a greater role. You know, the Quartet was established to include the United Nations. And the U.N. played a very important, really critical role, a role that in the past had been played by Washington in Lebanon after the UNIFIL operation was expanded. Kofi Annan, rather than an American secretary of State, went around the region talking to all of the parties to the conflict to get their political support, which was necessary for the UNIFIL operation to have any chance of success. And the degree to which this thing has held -- and it hasn't been perfect, but it has been better than expected -- can be attributed in large part to the fact that there is the political support of the different countries in the region behind it, and Annan was the guy who provided the glue to keep that together. That's the kind of role, it seems to me, that Ban Ki-Moon can play.
This goes back to something that Mark said, it's an expansion of Mark's point. Not only do we have a circumstance in which the EU is marginalized internationally, but you also have a circumstance in which the United States, (embedded ?) down in Iraq and focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, is not as active a player on a whole range of issues as it once was, and it does open up and create a requirement for others to step in, as Annan did, after the UNIFIL operation was approved.
SCHMEMANN: Okay. Maybe we can squeeze in one, maybe two more questions before we wrap up.
Operator, do we have anyone else?
OPERATOR: Yes. We have a question from Stephen Gilbreath (sp) from Public Radio Worldwide.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Feinstein, good afternoon.
FEINSTEIN: Good afternoon.
QUESTIONER: The title of this conference is "The Future of the United Nations." One question here with the establishment of the Euro, which I ask you if you see the Euro as a threat to the United States' dollar. And as a specific question related to the future of the U.N., is -- will those countries that are or becoming a part of the EU -- will they continue to have independent sovereignty in the United Nations? Or will there be some resolution to give the EU one voice?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I'll take your second question and pass on the first. And the second question goes to I think the earlier issue we discussed about Security Council expansion and whether one way that could be addressed is through a seat for the European Union as opposed to the present circumstance in which two of the five permanent members are members of the European Union, and usually more than one are -- of the rotating members are also members of the European Union.
My own sense is that neither France nor the U.K. is going to be prepared to give up its veto on the Security Council. And the reality is that this was a greater problem at the end of the 1990s than it is now, but it is still a complicating factor that on certain foreign policy issues, the EU speaks with one voice and gets many votes to express that opinion.
SCHMEMANN: Okay, thank you.
OPERATOR: Yes. Now we do have one question from Mark Turner with the Financial Times.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Sorry to hog the questions again. I just wanted to go back -- just to pick a point you made before about the difficulties of reforming the U.N. due to the suspicion by developing countries that U.N. reform is a Trojan horse for the increase of U.S. influence.
Now, the U.S. has said that reform is one of its priorities, but it clearly faces this problem -- that the more it makes noise about it, the more people are reluctant. Now, I wonder within that context whether the U.S., against its own valid principles of reforming the organization, forced through its own head of the World Food Program, forced through its own head of UNICEF, is now trying to get hold of peacekeeping and does basically behave in a way inconsistent with a meritocratic-based choosing of officials, whether, you know, it actually has any leg to stand on when asking reforms by other member states on management and personnel choices?
SCHMEMANN: Okay, Lee, this'll be your final word.
FEINSTEIN: That's a good question. And thanks, Mark, for hanging in there.
I would -- I mean, the United States views -- I mean, there are two issues. One is just, within the bureaucracy, the degree to which it is meritocratic as opposed to principally reflective of demographic realities, the need to represent 192 countries in the staff. You know, first of all, there's nothing wrong with trying to reflect the diversity of the United Nations in its staff, and there's every reason to do so. But there's -- but that is one of the things one has to balance against, you know, first, keeping people who are not qualified for the job in jobs for long periods of time, denying the head of the organization the ability to hire and fire people within guidelines.
So that, I think, is -- and if you're asking for a criticism of the U.S. perspective, I do not disagree with that perspective. I think that the secretary-general needs more authority, more hiring and firing authority over the bureaucracy. And that will -- that does not preclude regional representation and, you know, things that in the American context you might describe as affirmative action. In fact, it's absolutely necessary, given the nature of the United Nations.
And as far as the United States insisting on one post or another, and acting as the bully on the block, I guess the U.S. position on this is -- and it's -- I guess the U.S. approach to this is that it's paying a substantial portion of the bill, more than others, and so that somehow ought to be reflected in the operation of the institution. And countries that contribute, you know, under 1 percent of the budget ought not to be able to veto budget decisions that are taken by the other members, including the ones that pay the bill.
So this is -- you know, this is a difficult problem, but I don't have a disagreement with the idea that those countries that bring a lot to the table, whether it's political influence, peacekeeping contributions or financial contributions, or other kinds of expertise, ought to be able to exert their influence at the U.N.
SCHMEMANN: Okay. Thank you all. Thank you, Lee.
We're going to have an audio file and a transcript of this conversation up on our website shortly. And I do encourage you to be in touch if you have any follow-up questions or issues, and wish you all happy holidays. Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.
NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.