The time has come for an international police force – Column
Llewellyn D. Howell
The American government recently was referred to by The Economist as “the reluctant sheriff” in its sometime efforts to try to bring order to an increasingly disorderly world. The U.S., as much as any other country, indeed has been hesitant about jumping into a fray that has any indication at all that it ultimately might become another Vietnam-style quagmire.
The unwillingness of the U.S. to put troops on the ground in Bosnia has raised questions about how even international police action through the UN can be made a practical option in trying to maintain order in the international community. Part of the reason for the failure (thus far) of the policeman concept is the lack of a model for an international justice system as well as unwillingness to address the practical implications of seeking international order.
As the international system moves toward becoming a true international community (an idea thrust forward by the reality of an integrated global economy), the notions of a worldwide justice system – including common “human rights” – and an accompanying enforcement system need to come to the forefront in UN and regional organization forums. Specifically, the role and concept of the international policeman needs to be thought through, discussed, and confronted. How is this police idea supposed to work in a multi-national context?
Begin by asking how the police concept works in existing communities. First, the fact that law and police go together must be accepted. Without police, laws are only norms. Rules are followed if the societal members are socialized fully and appropriately, and the world is far from this circumstance in the international arena. Even the U.S. rejects rulings of the International Court of Justice when that suits its interests. If America wants to condemn Iraq for violations of “international law” or the UN wants to condemn petty dictators who slaughter their own citizens, it first is necessary to settle the question of exactly what constitutes international law and how it is to be derived.
As it stands, in most instances where multiple nations are involved or internal actions run against the grain of international expectations, the notion of law never is brought to bear since it would be meaningless without enforcement. To have a rule of law, police are needed.
Where should the police come from? Like it or not (and the Reagan and Bush Administrations clearly didn’t), the UN is the only body that can approximate the law-making ability of comparable national bodies like the U.S. Congress. If the UN establishes what the laws will be, it also is responsible for finding enforcers. Just as problems have arisen within the US. when white police forces try to impose rule on minority populations, the UN must guard against having a single national group represent it in applications of force, wherever they might be.
In this respect, the actions in Kuwait and Somalia have had a clear cross-national flavor, even though the U.S., and American troops, had a lead role. The US. still was seen as first among equals in both cases. In Somalia, the followers of warlord Gen. Muhammad Farrah Aideed specifically blamed the U.S. for actions taken by Pakistani and other troops, so identified is America with any type of punitive action. Indeed, the U.S. played the coordinating role in the efforts to respond to Aideed, primarily because of a lack of alternatives. No other nation’s forces were prepared, or perhaps capable, to take on the central police position. Other countries, or maybe a specifically combined UN force, need to be prepared to take this position and spare the U.S., and help avoid problems such as the Italians’ objections to the over-all direction the UN has taken in Somalia.
For example, a nation could be designated “police superintendent” and be responsible for coordination of all UN police efforts for a year (or two). Under a rotation arrangement, another country could be designated “deputy superintendent,” and then move automatically to the superintendent position the following year, providing continuity. The superintendent role could be rotated among the permanent Security Council members, also encouraging recent suggestions that the permanent membership be expanded (Japan, Germany, and India are candidates).
The makeup of the international police force and its structure are among several critical issues that should be brought forth for open discussion. Another is the question of funding. For an international police force to be broadly representative and therefore evenhanded, a source of funding would have to exist such that nations did not finance their own participation. Of course, as soon as discussion begins about central funding, that will necessitate talking about raising taxes for the international community government – the UN. With existing difficulties in getting members (including the U.S.) to pay their dues, developing a UN that has the capability of collecting taxes and managing international governmental finances will be an effort almost beyond comprehension. Even reasonably efficient nation-states like the U.S. have difficulty in bringing in tax monies that are legitimately due.
In the post-Cold War world, however, a global political system to manage a global economy (and there’s no backing up on the latter) is inevitable. As all nations become more interdependent economically, the development of an international political process that parallels national processes with all their functions becomes a requirement. These include lawmaking, police forces, and tax collection. Over the short term, human rights conferences; joint, but voluntary, efforts at policing, such as that in Somalia; and irregular dues collections will be the norm as the community of nations stumbles forward without many community functions.
Dr. Howell, Internationl Affairs Editor of USA Today, is Chairman, Department of International Studies, American Graduate School of International Management, Glendale, Ariz.
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