Rather than chat about his Concert of Democracies idea, Ivo Daalder decided to talk about multilateralism in the context of nuclear weapons. Americans haven’t debated the topic since end of the Cold War. This is going to change – a lot of policy heavyweights have brought up the issue, and the three remaining candidates have pledged to make this an issue.
Panel 4: Reinventing Multilateralism
The panel on multilateralism was split between those that focused on multilateral approaches to specific policy problems, and those that focused on the best way to leverage the multilateral system more generally. Let’s review!
Daalder thinks there needs to be a change. First, the U.S. doesn’t need nukes, given America’s overwhelming advantage in conventional forces. Second, terrorist networks badly want nuclear weapons, so the more tightly they are controlled the better. Third, the Non-Proliferation Treaty is cracking badly Iran and North Korea are treaty members, yet under the guise of the NPT treaty are pursuing their nuclear weapons programs. Finally, global warming issue will create new demand for nuclear plants, which means there needs to be a way to permit nuclear energy go forward while allaying proliferation concerns.
To restart the NPT, the nuclear states must jump-start the process, and the United States must jump-start cooperation among the five recognized nuclear powers. This means the U.S. should think about the purpose of nuclear weapons. According to Daalder, the primary function of nuclear weapons is to prevent the use of nukes by others. To deter, the U.S. only needs 1,000 nuclear weapons. The United States should therefore pledge to eliminate its surplus nukes by 2016. Then get other states on board. Start with Russia and move on from there.
Charles Grant can envision two possible futures for multilateralism. The first is the neoconservative’s dream: an Axis of Democracies and an Axis of Autocracies. The problem with this is that it cannot solve any of the pressing global public goods problems – global warming, non-proliferation, pandemics, etc. Also, it gives the Europeans the heebie-jeebies. The second possibility is a multilateral, multipolar world, in which everyone accepts the United Nations. Grant was unclear about whether ponies are free for everyone in this possible universe.
Europeans have multilateralism imprinted into their DNA, so Europe must take the lead in convincing everyone else to sign up.
China is the swing country that will determine which system is more likely to emerge. The Chinese are just as split on this issue as the Americans, and this plays out across a whole plethora of issues. Take global warming – if China does not sign onto reduction of CO2 emissions, Europe will impose tariffs on Chinese products. Within China, the key is whether officials in Beijing can convince the regions to comply with emission cuts. Africa and North Korea are areas where China is beginning to act in a more constructive manner. On global governance reform, China has mostly tried to look invisible. Their most notable accomplishment in this decade was blocking Japan from a permanent seat in the Security Council. With regard to the WTO and G-8, China has shied away from being a responsible stakeholder. So they will be the pivotal actor in the future.
According to Jaime Shea, NATO’s role in Afghanistan has been a mixed blessing. Sure, NATO can do the military thing, but it cannot do statebuilding on its own. NATO’s mantra now is a “comprehensive approach.” The alliance is having more success with multinational/plurilateral arrangements. In Afghanistan, for example, Australia and other countries are playing a role – and they are consulted in the planning process as well. NATO wants to keep this network together post-Afghanistan.
The real problem is getting traditional international organizations – the United Nations, the European Union, the IMF – to function in a world of complex, overlapping policy problems. It’s tough to get organizations to sign onto new, risky tasks. There are too many ad hoc arrangements on the ground.
There has been too much overweighting of military as opposed to civilian capabilities within international organizations. Shea advocates “synergizing” roles within organizations to avoid duplication and waste.
Kurt Campbell participated in a 18-month effort to get national security types and climate scientists to talk to each other. He came away from that convinced that global warming is now a national security issue. And it’s going to be extraordinarily painful, will require lots of leadership on this issue to bring populations along. The thing is, it’s tough for politicians to lobby for actions to prevent long-run catastrophes.
So, what are the essential components of moving forward on this? The United States is not a leader on this issue, so this is an opportunity for Europe to lead. It’s a problem that is too unwieldy to move forward at the U.N. level – too many actors to coordinate. And there will be no progress unless China, India are brought on board. China will join if they don’t think that they are alone. India is tougher – they want to be on the outside on this issue.
The biggest danger: that the American public switches from denial to despair without pausing at trying to solve the problem.
Having spent the academic year in Shanghai, Anne-Marie Slaughter has seen how the global supply chain works up close. She wants the multilateral system to operate more like this chain, in which a firm identifies the demand for a product, orchestrates which factories can do the job, and gets them to link together in a network. It’s how the EU gets things done – networks of national bureaucrats. That’s how NATO is working today – developing partners, channels of communication, etc.
The problems of the 21st century require the creation of different clusters of countries to figure out a solution. Fundamentally, the United Nations should be reformed so it can be a network orchestrator, getting the right national government officials and regulators on the same page. Same with counterterrorism, anti-corruption, non-proliferation and other issues. This is the way the corporate sector works, the way global nonprofit sector works, and the way transnational criminal organization works – the multilateral system should work this way as well. Simply creating new agencies or new bureaucracies will worsen these problems, not solve them.
Professor Slaughter is the reason I’m attending this conference, so let me just say that her comments were absolutely brilliant and should be read by everyone, everywhere, for all eternity.
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