The Case of Syria Shows The Need For Security Council Reform

Rachel Maddow makes a compelling case for caution on Syria in this clip, which an annoying WordPress feature does not allow me to embed. I think both propositions made in this clip — waiting for inspections to be completed and having an open floor debate in Congress on the matter — are sound. I like the idea of a possible intervention being secured in democratic processes.

But beyond those two sound propositions, the big question really isn’t how this matter is discussed in the US, but what kind of international support the action taken has. While I appreciate the celerity and diligence of the US in securing backing from its allies on the Syria question, the failure of the Security Council to debate matters divorced from the narrow, national interests of the veto powers is what’s really tragic about this situation. Throughout my lifetime, the UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion and stop humanitarian disasters. Each time, Security Council veto power has been the arresting force on the momentum of humanitarian relief and security forces.

The latest atrocity in Syria is one more, sad item added to the ledger of the UN’s failures. And the matter hasn’t even been broached at the UN. The US and its allies has been slow to take the issue to the Security Council because they know they’ll likely be vetoed by Russia. They know that the parochial, ridiculous interests of Russia still lie with the bloody-handed Assad regime, and while the population keeps suffering, the UN system loses more credibility.

But about an hour ago, David Cameron announced that he will attempt to move a resolution through the Security Council today.

I’ll be following how that develops closely. There’s a lot of political pressure on now. Maybe Syria’s allies will cave, but I doubt it. But the moral imperative demands action of some kind. A statement condemning the attacks should be literally the least they could do, possibly predicated on the findings of the weapons inspectors.

But nonetheless, the fact that Russia and China made sure the Security Council wasn’t even capable of securing a resolution urging a full and open investigation of whether or not chemical weapons had been used — they couldn’t even pass a motion to just have someone check the damn thing out! — shows exactly why the international community urgently needs reform of the Security Council. End the veto power and put security resolutions to a general vote. It’s time the great powers grow up and learn to take their lumps.

UPDATE: The UN Secretary-General urges for a diplomatic solution. Things are moving fast and I suggest following the Guardian live blog for updates as they happen.

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