Tag Archives: Brian Ernst

If a coalition strikes Syria without UN approval, is it the end of the Security Council?

UN Photo/JC McIlwane

Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States (right), with Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations, prior to a 2012 vote on Syria. At left is Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN. UN Photo/JC McIlwane


The United States looks increasingly set to carry out an attack against Syria. BritainFrance and Germany appear to endorse it. At the sidelines, the United Nations looks on, hands tied by Security Council paralysis. If a majority of the Permanent 5 decide to act, absent a Security Council mandate, it would be a devastating indictment of the UN’s mission to address the world’s gravest crises.

Of course, action without UN approval is nothing new, and criticism of the intergovernmental body is frequent – many were sounding the death knell 11 years ago during the Bush administration. In an address to the General Assembly, President Bush forcefully argued that the UN faced irrelevance if it was unable to take action against Iraq, asking, “will the United Nations serve its purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?” The remarks started a debate over the United Nations as a whole, with the Bush administration arguing that the Security Council proved its obsolescence when it did not authorize the Iraq war.

Despite that disregard for the UN, the Bush administration’s ineptitude in acquiring widespread support for Iraq meant that the ‘irrelevance’ argument failed to gain traction outside of the United States. In fact, the Bush Administration’s snub of the international body damaged the image of the United States far more than the UN. International opinion of the U.S. soured quickly over the course of the next decade. The UN’s caution was ultimately vindicated by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, even as the Bush administration was increasingly seen as bad for global peace and security. Continue reading

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Madagascar Politics – Legitimacy and Popular Disillusion


After four years of undemocratic government, Madagascar looked set this year to hold competitive elections and begin the Indian Ocean island’s return path to democracy. Then, two former presidents and the current president entered their names onto the ballot in violation of international agreements, and the process has once again stalled. The short term effect of the delayed elections will be a continuation of Andry Rajoelina’s troubled rule and the economic stagnation of the country. The longer and more pernicious effect will be the ongoing erosion of the population’s belief in, and support for, the country’s governing structures.

Like many nations transitioning into competitive politics, the process in Madagascar has been a bumpy road. In 20 years, the country has already had an impeached president, a disputed election that split the island in two, and a military backed coup d’état. Democracy has yet to become ‘the only game in town’ and thus political movements willingly ignore or change the rules to fit their agenda. The result is not just coups and mutinies, but a population that no longer believes in the system or thinks it worthwhile to engage in government.
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