DAWN - Opinion; July 7, 2005

Published July 7, 2005

A dismal performance on home front: The worst US president ever?-II

By Huck Gutman

MR Bush has not been kinder to American people, nor secured their well-being as their elected leader is supposed to do. He has redistributed wealth from the middle class upward — to the very wealthiest families in America. Two tax cuts which give the biggest benefits to the top one per cent — those who earn more than $337,000 annually — have raised the tax burden on the middle class.

This past year, for instance, President and Mrs Bush earned $784,219 and Vice-President and Mrs Cheney earned $2,173,892. (Yes, they are both clearly in the top one per cent of income earners). The Bush-enacted tax cuts slashed their tax bills, 12 per cent for Mr Bush, 18 per cent for Mr Cheney so that they paid $110,182 less than they would have paid had the legislation not been enacted.

Meanwhile, in the longer run the only way to pay for these tax cuts — which turned a federal surplus into an enormous deficit that the Bush administration projects at $521 billion in this year alone — will be to reduce government spending on the programmes which underwrite the quality of life for poor and middle class Americans: food and income support for the poor, education and health care and pensions for the middle class. Thus, the massive tax cuts to the wealthy will be paid for by hacking away at, bankrupting and terminating programmes that support the working people of America.

In his administration, more than any other during the past three quarters of a century, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class has shrunk. America is currently an oligopoly run not only by, but for, the wealthy class.

Mr Bush has embraced deficits which will undermine the long term health of the American economy. The numbers are staggering. The budget deficit is $512 billion. The current accounts deficit for the first quarter of 2005 was $195.1 billion, which projects to a deficit for 2005 of $780.1 billion. That means that this year alone the United States has financed its lowered taxes, its costly war in Iraq, its hunger for cheap goods, by a total of $1.29 trillion.

Numbers can by themselves be numbing, so let us try a comparison. Pakistan’s government budget expends $16.5 billion, India’s 2004 $104 billion, China’s $348.9 billion, all including capital expenditures. The three governments spend barely over a third of what the United States borrows through deficit spending and balance of payments debits.

Although Mr Bush would prefer to hide the fact, this money in one way or another will have to be repaid. Those repayments will hold the United States hostage, exactly as developing nations today are often held hostage by the IMF and the World Bank. Even a vibrant American economy would be strained by the enormous obligation of paying interest on and paying down the national debt, and repatriating the dollars ‘borrowed’ by the balance of payments deficit.

But the American economy is not as vibrant as is claimed: more and more of America’s productive capacity, both in manufacturing and in the intellectual work done by white collar workers, is being supplanted by the productive capacity of other nations, China and India chief among them. Consumer spending has been fuelled almost entirely by low interest rates which have created a housing boom — now at the stage of being a speculative bubble which may soon crash, bringing the economy to a halt.

Thus, the American standard of living, already in modest decline, will likely plummet fairly rapidly in coming decades. And American economic pre-eminence is likely to be challenged — though this may well be a fine thing for other nations — by China and the other nations of East Asia, the EEC, India and South Asia, and perhaps the nations of Southeast Asia.

Mr Bush has initiated an attack on civil liberties almost unparalleled in the history of the United States. With the passage of the Bush-initiated “Patriot Act,” the federal government was given enormous powers to invade privacy and intrude on basic freedoms which had been guaranteed to Americans for over two centuries. The legislation gave federal authorities the power to obtain medical records, tax records, book buying and library borrowing records — all without requiring a probable cause or a court adjudication that national security is imperilled. Federal police are now authorized to break into a person’s home and do a search without ever informing the person the search has been conducted. Not only have civil liberties been curtailed, the chilling effect on freedom of speech and association means that more and more Americans are afraid to exercise their most basic liberties.

Mr Bush has politicized the American nation beyond permissible bounds. He has politicized the judicial system by forcing the judicial appointment of ideological conservatives who pass a ‘litmus test’ on such issues as abortion (opposed), class action suits which allow collections of individuals to sue corporations which have injured them (opposed), and the rights of labour (opposed). The sole credential for important government positions, too, is ideological purity. Recently, Mr Bush and his cohorts tried to slash the funding for public broadcasting because he thinks it too ‘liberal.’

He refuses to work with the opposition party, the Democrats. Just as he adheres to unilateralism in foreign policy, in domestic affairs it must always be his way, with no negotiation, no meeting half-way, not even consultation. He seems — and this if far more frightening in fact than the mere statement of it suggests — determined to turn America into a de facto one-party state.

And then, there is the corruption in which political cohorts get huge government subsidies and gifts. His defence department gives huge contracts to ‘friendly’ corporations without even the semblance of open bidding or fair awarding of contracts. Halliburton, for instance, was awarded a $7 billion contract, non-competitively, to repair Iraq’s oil infrastructure. (The former CEO of Halliburton is none other than the sitting vice-president, Mr Cheney.)

Mr Bush has played the religion card — what South Asians call communalism — often, and with a vengeance. Elected in large part with the support and money of fundamentalist Christians, Mr Bush has turned American politics into a religious battleground. His communalist ‘game’ seldom addresses religion per se, instead using coded words and battles about social phenomena to communicate to fundamentalists that he is committed to turning America in a profoundly religious direction.

Thus, in recent years, Mr Bush has opposed abortion (while 63 per cent of Americans said, this month, that they do not want to see the federal court legalizing abortion overturned). He has opposed stem cell research (58 per cent of Americans approve such research). He has campaigned against a homosexual’s right to marry (55 per cent of Americans do not want to see homosexual marriage. But an even larger 58 per cent opposed the Constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage that Mr Bush called for.) Increasingly, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and non-religious people in general feel social pressure from the Bush administration to be like other people — meaning, to act like Christians or shut up.

There is much that can be said about America not living up to its ideals, but in the separation of church and state — enshrined in the nation’s Constitution — it has been a model of religious tolerance and freedom for most other nations. No longer. No other American president has injected religion and religious doctrine as deeply into the discourse of American politics as Mr Bush. Expediency has won out over tolerance; accordingly, the religious divide between Americans seems more profound than at any moment in its history.

Whether it is world peace, religious tolerance, the American economy or social and economic justice, Mr Bush has hollowed out much that he should have been strengthening. Nor has he learned from his experience: in not one of the 10 areas highlighted has he changed his course or his thinking. In fact, his mind seems permanently made up, untouched by experience, and untouchable. He sails serenely forward, towards disaster, trying to drag America and the world along on his misguided journeys. The only good news is that, more and more, the American people are not sure they want to be his fellow sailors.

The writer is a professor at the University of Vermont, US.

Preventing a rise in prices

By Sultan Ahmed

SINCE an immediate political compulsion of the coalition government is to win the forthcoming local bodies elections, it finds itself compelled to undertake some urgent measures to make essential goods available to people at fair prices.

The forthcoming elections are of unusual significance for a variety of reasons, one of them being the decision of a number of federal and provincial ministers, members of national and provincial assemblies to seek the office of the nazim.

The urgent measures include import of wheat and atta without import duty and six per cent withholding tax. Earlier only the import of wheat and atta was exempted from duty; but now they have been exempted from the withholding tax as well. Atta is to be sold at Rs11.50 per kilo through the utility stores which number 400 officially and 360 non-officially. But to increase the outreach of the utility stores, largely confined to big cities, the government has come up with a prime minister’s atta relief package under which 59 vehicles will carry atta to the surrounding areas. Each carrier would make 24 trips every month.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz made a surprise visit to a utility store in Islamabad on Sunday, and subsequently discussed the issue of high prices with President Musharraf. He says hoarding of essential items would not be allowed. And now the provincial governments have been asked to play their part in stabilising prices. Certainly, the provincial governments have not done enough in this area. They have to become truly proactive and warn the traders that they mean business and would not spare any hoarder or profiteer now.

What is clear now is that in spite of its patronage of the private sector the government cannot leave this task to it. The government has to keep a vigilant eye on its operations and supplement its efforts promptly wherever there is slackness or misdemeanour.

The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet has also decided to authorize the Trading Corporation of Pakistan to import 400,000 tonnes of sugar on an urgent basis for quick distribution to bring down the prices which have touched Rs29 per kilo. The private sector has been allowed to import raw sugar without duty to bring down prices close to Rs23 per kilo. Both the sources of supply should help bring down the prices and frustrate the efforts of the sugar mills to keep the prices high.

The government accusees the sugar mill owners of breaching an agreement under which they were supposed to bring down the prices — a familiar happening in Pakistan where profiteering is more the norm rather than the exception. That this should happen in a period in which the government fully subscribes to the free market economy is painful.

The government has done away with withholding tax of six per cent on 160 items. However the tax on three of the industrial inputs has been restored to correct an error. Efforts are also being stepped up for the import of meat and live cattle, potatoes and onion and garlic from India, but that seems to be a slow process. There has to be better coordination with India in this regard and not mere issuing of import licences for such items.

On the other side, prices have gone up in several key areas. Prices of POL have risen by 5.2 per cent to 9.2 per cent. Gas charges have risen by 5.2 per cent to 12 per cent. Power companies which depend on furnace oil are clamouring for high increases in power rates and will get them, although the enhanced rates may not be as high as they seek.

Railway fares are to go up by seven to eight per cent and far more for longer routes. Increase in energy prices, both POL and power, have a multiplier effect on prices. They increase the cost of production, transportation and exports. They raise the cost of living and travel. All that pushes up the demand for higher wages with their total inflationary impact.

Cement prices have shot up again. The rise is as high as 31 per cent to Rs. 34,000 a ton. Increasing exports to Afghanistan makes the cement so costly. The government has given ten days for cement companies to bring down the prices. The speculation now is that the price may stabilize around Rs275 per bag. And the government is thinking of a regulatory export duty to bring down the prices. Pig iron prices have shot up to by Rs8,000 a tonne. That is the result of a failure in production in Pakistan Steel following a mishap which has reduced the output of pig iron sharply.

Along with all that, interest rates are going up. Interest on loans for locally made machinery has been raised to 10.5 per cent. Export refinance rate has gone up to nine per cent, inviting sharp protests from exporters.

Despite an upset in several sectors along with high economic growth, the government has collected more than the budgeted revenues for the financial year that has just ended. Against the budgeted Rs580 billion it collected Rs586.64 billion. Though it is short of the revised projection of Rs590 billion, total collection for the year is expected to exceed the higher target. Higher economic growth and larger tax payments by the industry and the corporate sector account for this success.

As a result of the current rise in prices of many essential commodities and its multiplier effect on POL prices, inflation in the new financial year is expected to exceed the anticipated eight per cent. It is projected to be in the double digit and, hence, increase the hardships of the masses. And it is not unlikely as money supply and bank credit are on the rise sharply.

All that increases the money in circulation and pushes up the prices. The money supply increased in the just-ended fiscal year by Rs360 billion against Rs280 billion the year before. Private sector credit rose by Rs80 billion to Rs280 billion. Along with that, home remittances last year rose to 4 billion dollars and a good part of that went into the market, including the property market and the stock exchange.

The federal cabinet has approved two significant pieces of legislation. One seeks to control and neutralize the land mafia. The other is an anti-money laundering law. How good the law is only a part of the story. What is far more important is how well that is implemented and sustained. Both laws go against the forces which are well-entrenched and resourceful. They are powerful forces which can disregard such laws. But if the government succeeds in neutralizing them it can be successful in enforcing law and order in a big way.

That can also help combat corruption in government offices. Such crimes cannot flourish without official assistance or collusion. And the reward for collusion in such crimes is very large. The land media in Karachi some years ago was, it is estimated, making Rs20 billion. By today’s soaring land prices that reward should have by now risen to Rs100 billion. So the government should have no illusion about the dimension of the problem and be prepared for a long haul and disappointments.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the ruling Muslim League, says his party is coming up with a special package for Sindh. A survey in Sindh shows that unemployment of persons between 15 and 24 age group in Karachi is 33 per cent and in the rest of Sindh 26 per cent. People without employment in rural Sindh are estimated at 1.5 million. The package, on the line of that brought out for Balochistan, should be large enough to take care of these persons lest they join the ranks of dacoits, or terrorists or seek relief from the miseries of their life through suicide.

But in Sindh what matters is not only the size of the package but also how well that is utilized or how that truly benefits people. The unemployment problem in Sindh shows a peculiar dimension of the province, particularly of Karachi.

Here, people come from all over the country to seek employment. Besides, nationals of the countries in the neighbourhood also come here for the same purpose. The result is an abnormal rise in the number of unemployed in the city and in other towns of Sindh. The other provinces are able to get rid of their jobless people in this manner but Sindh bears the burden. A large number of them are illegal immigrants and take to crime if they don’t get proper jobs. That keeps the police outstretched. And the immigrants have the means to keep the hands of the police well greased.

A special Karachi package should take into account all these factors, which make life too tough for its citizens. That is why the Sindh government is asking for special consideration through the National Finance Commission Award which has been delayed unduly.

Meanwhile, the country has to cope with the floods and Sindh has to get ready to face the challenge effectively, unlike in the past when it could not handle even small floods.

What all this means is that the government should learn to stabilize the situation at home on the economic front. Good growth is not enough. A fair deal for all, particularly the very poor, and the unemployed, is imperative. That should be achieved without moving from one emergency to another emergency, but in a normal manner.

But such a normality cannot be achieved without cooperation of traders and industrialists. If instead of relieving the country of shortages they exploit the situation and make it far worse, they should be dealt with sternly. Making profits from shortages and high inflation should not become the norm of society although that has been the case for a long time now.

Why the FBI can’t be reformed

By William E. Odom

OF all the failures that allowed Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, to succeed, those of the FBI are the most egregious. Yet none of the commissions or congressional committees investigating them has proposed more than platitudes about the FBI’s reforming itself. Blistering criticism has been abundant, but not a single serious remedy has been demanded.

Meanwhile, evidence of the FBI’s inability to reform continues to pile up. It has botched expensive programmes for state-of-the-art information technology systems. Its intelligence personnel still take a back seat to its crime fighters. Its expanded role abroad has been more disruptive than productive: Populating legal attache offices in US embassies, usually with G-men, the bureau creates tensions with CIA stations and displays its incompetence to foreign counterpart agencies.

A few members of the commission on weapons of mass destruction belatedly seemed to realize that leaving counterintelligence responsibility within the FBI wasn’t a good idea. But they would still leave it in the Justice Department, even if it were taken out of the FBI. That would be a fatal mistake. It cannot be effective there.

The problem is systemic. No one can turn a law enforcement agency into an effective intelligence agency. Police work and intelligence work don’t mix. The skills and organizational incentives for each are antithetical.

Consider the different incentives. FBI officials want arrests and convictions. They want media attention and lots of it. They have little patience for sustained surveillance to gain more intelligence, preferring to gamble on an early arrest and an intimidating interrogation that might gain a confession. Intelligence is something to be used, not shared. Getting the credit is far more important than catching the culprit.

Intelligence officials don’t want public attention. They want to remain anonymous. They want to follow spies and terrorists secretly, allowing them to reveal their co-conspirators. Their reward comes from providing intelligence to others, not hiding it. They are quite happy to let the FBI make the arrests and take the credit.

There is overlap between the two cultures; namely, gathering sufficient evidence to make an arrest and prove guilt. But counterintelligence agents tend to be more thorough, taking their time to develop evidence both for trials and for operational use. They know they cannot let spies or terrorists get away without risking considerable danger to the country. Cops worry much less that a criminal will get away. Criminals are abundant and there are plenty more to arrest.

Spies and terrorists will almost always defeat police officers, backed as they usually are by large state bureaucracies or non-state organizations with abundant resources and worldwide operational support. Criminals seldom are. Thus FBI techniques of recruiting “stoolies,” tapping phones and conducting rough interrogations often work with mobsters but not with spies and terrorists.

The FBI’s record vis-a-vis Soviet intelligence operatives throughout J. Edgar Hoover’s reign is saturated with disgraceful failures. The famous Venona file of decryptions of Soviet agents’ communications during the 1940s yielded more than 200 names of US citizens. Of those, the FBI could follow and gain adequate evidence to support the conviction of only two: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Scores of others duped the FBI completely.

The only hope is the creation of a separate agency, equal to the CIA and under the new director of national intelligence. Sometimes called the “MI-5 solution,” after the British example, it has been dismissed by lawmakers who say the public won’t tolerate a “domestic spy agency.” This is simply untrue. For decades the public has tolerated such an agency - the FBI - and it is not known for respecting Americans’ civil rights.

Congress celebrated passing the intelligence reform law, pretending it will “fix” the Sept. 11 problems. It will not. At the same time, Congress refused to do the single thing that could fix them: create a national counterintelligence service. — Dawn/ Washington Post Service

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general of the US army and a former director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988.

Big Brother on TV

BIG Brother is alive and well. I met him in Lafayette Park on a park bench where he was eating lunch.

Big Brother works in the White House, and is in charge of monitoring TV. He keeps track of how much time the stations devote to President Bush.

“What’s new?” I asked.

“I think I’ve got control of public television. I’m going to make sure they don’t put Bill Moyers and other left-wing liberals on the air ever again.”

“How are you going to do it?”

“We’re going to appoint all the president’s men — and women — to key management positions. We’ll make sure that PBS stations carry only ‘fair and balanced’ programmes.”

“Seems to me Fox uses the same slogan.”

“They said we could have it.”

I asked Big Brother how he could control the stations.

“We’ll do it through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS programming. The money comes from Congress, and the Republicans don’t like Bill Moyers any more than the White House does.”

“How will you know when a show is too liberal?”

“We’ll have ombudsmen monitoring content. They will report on what they see to the chairman of the corporation. If a station violates the ‘fair and balanced’ doctrine, it will be cut off from future funding.”

I said, “Some people may complain that it’s too political, but I think you’re doing the right thing. What are your plans for ‘Sesame Street?”’

“We’ll probably dump it. Only kids watch it, and we would like to appeal to the 18- to 49-year-old group, even though we don’t sell advertising.”

“But you announce sponsors at the beginning of the show?”

“We no longer call them sponsors. We call them donors. Once the large companies know who controls public television, they will underwrite any programme we want to put on the air.”

“I imagine you’ll hire more conservative commentators.”

“The public is more conservative, so why shouldn’t we be?”

“Poor Bill Moyers,” I said.

Big Brother told me, “The president received a mandate from the people in 2004 and he has a right to put anyone he wants in charge of public broadcasting, as long as it’s not political.”

I said, “I didn’t think he had time to get involved.” “He doesn’t. That is where I come in. I’m his watchdog.”

“It’s not a Cabinet position, is it?”

“It’s not, but it should be. Don’t get me wrong. We have no intention of dictating what goes on the air. All my staff and I will do is advise the producers.”

He continued, “We hope there will be more upbeat stories about anti-abortion activists and heterosexual marriages, and more religious content.”

I agreed. “That is what Americans want, and if you don’t give it to them, Rupert Murdoch will.”

He said, “I guess I’d better get back to the White House. I want to make sure Charlie Rose doesn’t interview any liberals.”

I told him. “It was nice talking to you, Big Brother. You’re a great American.” — Dawn/ Tribune Media Services

India’s defence ties with US

By Ghayoor Ahmed

THE United States and India have signed a defence pact which charts a course for defence cooperation between the two countries during the next ten years and will be an element of their broader strategic partnership based on shared strategic interests.

President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would hold a historic summit in Washington on July 18 that would reflect the emerging global partnership between the United States and India.

The defence pact, which is basically aimed at upgrading military ties between Washington and New Delhi, marks a new phase in defence relationship between the two countries. The US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukerjee, have also said that the two countries have “entered a new era” in their bilateral relationship. Nicholas Bruns, Assistant Secretary of State, during his visit to New Delhi last week, said that “developing a strategic partnership between the US and India is one of the highest priorities for our president. We see India as a rising power in the world, as a democratic power and as a friendly country”.

It may be recalled that during her visit to New Delhi in March this year, the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, had also said that “the president very much values the enhanced relationship between the United States and India, the fact that we are becoming in many ways important global as well as regional partners”. This statement testifies that Washington recognizes the vitality and importance of India to its long-term interests in South Asia and beyond and is, therefore, keen to develop a strong relationship with that country. Washington also believes that Asia is poised to become strategic centre of gravity in international politics.

Alan Kronstadt of the Congressional Research Centre has also confirmed this assertion, saying that “the US appears to be placing a bigger bet on India”. He has also said that according to many analysts, “India and Pakistan are no longer perceived as equals in Washington. Pakistan is viewed as a middle power and India has the much greater potential down the road. You won’t hear ‘strategic partner’ being used much with Pakistan but you will hear it with India”. It is thus clear that Washington’s foreign policy has now changed in India’s favour and that the doctrine of parity between the two nations of South Asia has been abandoned.

The US-India framework for defence cooperation stipulates an expansion of defence cooperation between the two countries to strengthen their security, reinforcement of their strategic partnership and greater interaction and understanding between their armed forces and defence establishments. Joint exercises, collaboration in multinational operations, when it is in their common interest, expanding collaboration in missile defence, technology transfer and co-production are also envisaged as part of defence cooperation between the two countries.

Washington and New Delhi have also established a defence policy group to serve as the primary mechanism to guide the bilateral strategic defence relationship and to ensure advancement of the US-India defence cooperation. A defence procurement and production group has also been set up to oversee the defence trade and look for technology collaboration between the two sides.

Analysts believe that the US-India defence pact is designed to help India become a “major world power in the 21st century” to contain China which, according to a recent Pentagon report, might emerge as a strategic rival to the United States. It may be interesting to note that when President George W Bush came to power in 2001, he called China a “strategic competitor” rather than a “strategic partner”, the term that was used by the Clinton administration.

It is also worth mentioning that in recent months senior US officials, including the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and director, CIA, Porter Goss, have also voiced their concern about the growing Chinese economic and military power. Washington, therefore, fears that its vital interests, particularly in South East and South Asia, could be threatened by China, making it necessary to contain it.

In a statement issued on June 30, a spokesman of the Pakistan foreign office expressed concern over the US-India defence pact, saying that Pakistan had already conveyed its concern to Washington over its negative consequences, in particular, over the induction of new weapons system such as missile defence that would destabilize the strategic balance in the region and may trigger an arms race here. Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri has also spoken in a similar vein.

These statements were, however, rhetorical and not sufficient to match the gravity of the situation and therefore a deeper evaluation of the implications the US-India defence pact for Pakistan’s security is called for, with a view to drawing a strategy to meet this daunting challenge. Washington needs to be told, in clear terms, that its defence collaboration with India, which it has justified on grounds of meeting the global security threats and its perceived strategic interests in South Asia, may not only have a perilous effect on Pakistan, but in the long run, its consequences may turn out to be harmful to the United States itself.

It is rather intriguing that the successive governments in Pakistan blissfully remained unaware of the fact that during the last many years a fundamental transformation in relations between the United States and India has taken place. The US-India defence pact was, in fact, in the offing since January 1995 when the two countries had signed the “Agreed Minute on Defence Relations”.

The defence pact, signed on June 28, only marks the culmination of the process that had been initiated ten years ago and allowed sufficient time to Pakistan to persuade the United States to abandon it. Apparently, this opportunity was lost for some inexplicable reasons which the nation has every right to know.

The writer is a former ambassador.

Reforming the UN

SECRETARY of State Condoleezza Rice was correct when she started off the administration’s contribution to the UN reform debate by declaring that the burning question of who should join an expanded Security Council must not overwhelm other issues, among them, in her words, “management reform, secretariat reform, peace-building, issues about nonproliferation, issues about how we build a democracy fund.”

Indeed, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has put forward practical suggestions on how to reform his office to make it more effective. The administration is also rightly supporting Mr Annan’s proposals both to reform the UN Commission on Human Rights — to make it smaller and to prohibit non-democracies from dominating it — and to put together a “peace-building commission” that would expand the United Nations’ expertise in postwar reconstruction.

Not only are these changes good in and of themselves, but they will also strengthen the institution by making it less open to charges of hypocrisy on human rights and accusations of incompetence in post-conflict situations.

Nevertheless, because it is so difficult and because it could so deeply affect the entire institution, Security Council reform will be the most hotly debated part of any UN reform package. The self-designated “group of four” contenders for permanent membership — Japan, Germany, Brazil and India — have already been lobbying for so long, in fact, that the administration’s belated declaration that it supports two new members, one of whom should be Japan, is sure to have offended three large countries.

But beyond pleasing Japan and offending Brazil, India or Germany, it isn’t clear what any Security Council reform that does not involve more comprehensive changes will achieve. After all, even adding one or two countries will involve a huge commitment of diplomatic energy and a vote, or even multiple votes, by the entire General Assembly, taking time away from other issues.

The result is unlikely to make the Security Council more “legitimate” in the eyes of most of the world or more reliable, from the American point of view. Without guaranteed African and Latin American membership, major geographic imbalances will remain.

Such reforms would obviously entail major changes, even to the UN charter itself.

— The Washington Post



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