Courtesy Reuters

Sidelined in Kosovo?


Break It, Don't Fake It

By Thomas M. Franck

Michael J. Glennon has announced the end of the U.N. peacekeeping system ("The New Internationalism," May/June 1999). He cautions us not to mourn the "death of the restrictive old rules on peacekeeping and peacemaking," however, since they have "fallen out of synch with modern notions of justice."

Glennon sees the United Nations' antiquated rules as responsible for the fact that most bloody conflicts in recent history have been simply ignored as "domestic matters" that lie beyond the system's jurisdiction. He asks that we now celebrate "America's new willingness to do what it thinks right -- international law notwithstanding."

These musings might have seemed plausible several months ago, when NATO was just gearing up to bomb Yugoslavia over its treatment of the Kosovars. NATO action was more attractive then, especially since the Security Council was paralyzed by Chinese and Russian support for Yugoslavia. But even then, Glennon's description of the United Nations' problem was wrong and his remedial prescriptions destabilizing.

The U.N. system is not hobbled by "old rules" that restrict forceful responses to situations of "domestic" violence or that preclude action in new situations of internal civil conflict. It is a mistake to cite Article 2(7) of the U.N. Charter as a ban on intervention "in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state," for this restraint does not apply when the Security Council decides to impose "enforcement measures" under Chapter VII of the charter. Thus Glennon is wrong to argue that the rules bar action to halt intrastate violence: they simply require that the intervention first be approved by the Security Council.


Indeed, the council has authorized forceful tactics in numerous civil wars and against various regimes that oppress their own citizens: in Bosnia, Somalia, Rhodesia, South Africa, Haiti, and Iraq. And in December 1998, the Security Council used a Chapter VII resolution to demand that

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