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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Iraq: A UN Trusteeship?

Josh Marshall and Abu Aardvark have recently noted some odd political ideas coming out of the Bush administration. No, I mean really odd -- as in counter to their usual thinking.

Marshall, for example, references the President providing an odd answer to a press question about the future of Iraq:
I believe we can transfer authority by June 30th. We're working toward that day. We're, obviously, constantly in touch with Jerry Bremer on the transfer of sovereignty. The United Nations is over there now. The United Nations representative is there now to work on the -- on a -- on to whom we transfer sovereignty. I mean, in other words, it's one thing to decide to transfer. We're now in the process of deciding what the entity will look like to whom we will transfer sovereignty.
Marshall writes that he is "genuinely unsure what to make of that."

I'm starting to wonder if the Bush administration is thinking of transfering political sovereignty to an international body, rather than to Iraq. This would give the "UN seal of approval" to the handover, get the US off the hook, and allow for continued US military presence to provide security.

Abu Aardvark noted a similar report about internationalization that
appeared in today's generally pro-American newspaper al Sharq al Awsat and about which I have seen nothing else anywhere. But the story goes like this: a "high ranking Israeli source" told al Sharq al Awsat that the United States was about to propose turning Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan into an international plan with the EU and the UN, as well as Egypt and Jordan and in coordination with the PA.
These sound kind of similar, don't they?

Less than a year ago, Yale historian Paul Kennedy wrote a piece for the Japanese Daily Yomiuri that proposed internationalizing Iraq. He discussed reviving the Trusteeship Council, or a contemporary equivalent:
The Trusteeship Council is an odd bird. It is listed in the U.N. Charter as one of its so-called principal organs, alongside, for example, the Security Council and the General Assembly. It was created to supervise colonial territories that had been administered as League of Nations mandates, such as German East Africa (now Tanzania) or island groups in the central Pacific. Ironically, one of the first mandates of the League was British-administered Iraq, until it came into its own in the late- 1920s. Because of that earlier history, the Trusteeship Council suffered from two major weaknesses in the post-1945 age. First, so many colonial territories became independent, and so swiftly, that it soon had very little business. Second, to many developing nations it smacked of out-of-date imperialism and patronage. From time to time it was proposed that the council be abolished, but the United Nations' collective lethargy meant that such proposals were never acted upon.

Thus, it exists to this day, as Chapter XIII and Articles 86-91 of the U.N. Charter. The Trusteeship Council had to contain the Permanent Five veto members of the Security Council--which should keep Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing happy--plus those states involved in administering the lands in question, plus an equal number of outside states representing the world community. The council was empowered to make its own rules and to avail itself of other U.N. bodies and specialized agencies (for example, the World Bank) when appropriate. Originally, it was to report "on the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of each trust territory"--and the report was to go to the General Assembly, a body that has been totally sidelined by the current Iraq war, but still remains the only forum for world discussion and comity.

But if it has colonial overtones to many developing countries, it would not be hard to change its name: the Council for Reconstruction and Development, perhaps, or the Council for States Needing Help. Its membership could be statutorily fixed--the permanent five, plus perhaps another 20 members, representing in turn the world's regions. Once a conflict was over, the Security Council could hand the war-torn country over to the new body. It certainly should not try to micro-manage the rebuilding of society and democracy; more likely, it would appoint a special administrator and staff to work with local political parties, and to coordinate the international efforts to help the nation regain its full sovereignty as soon as possible. Since reconstruction is not a matter of war and peace, there should be no veto powers exercised in the council. And by reporting to the General Assembly, it should assuage the fears that this was disguised colonial tutelage.
It doesn't take much searching to find support for this idea in the Arab media as well.

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