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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Zal’s Tips for Being An Effective UN Ambassador

Moments before Susan Rice’s confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN (which we’ll live-blogging shortly, as we did so vigorously with Secretary of State-designate Clinton’s) begins, it seems appropriate to reflect on some of current Ambassador Khalilzad’s pragmatic points from his “exit interview” at the New America Foundation yesterday.

  • “Reasonable” resolutions do wonders. Khalilzad revealed a simple strategy for reversing the Bolton-esque 14-1 votes, featuring a ham-handed U.S. veto, that made the United States look like a not very eager partner. If a country like Libya tried to introduce an inflammatory resolution on Israel-Palestine, Khalilzad related, instead of fulminating against it, he would take up the challenge and work to transform the piece of Israel-bashing into a reasonable resolution, including language, for instance, condemning terrorist attacks. Libya, beholden to its own domestic politics, could not then agree to its own resolution, and it would become the isolated 1 in the 14-1 vote, thus withdrawing its resolution.
  • Employ an “Adjective-Maker-in-Chief.” This is the term that moderator Steve Clemons used to underscore Khalilzad’s comment on the importance of coming to Security Council meetings prepared with a, er, flexible vocabulary. If one word doesn’t work, try another. A thesaurus can be a handy tool for diplomacy.
  • Listen! Clemons reported that all the other UN ambassadors with whom he spoke expressed pleasant surprise — and sometimes downright shock — that Khalilzad would call upon them in their offices. Once there, Khalilzad stressed, he actually listened to what his counterparts had to say. Style and tone, in turns out, matter a lot up at Turtle Bay.
  • And finally, Khalilzad admitted: always have a resignation letter tucked away in a drawer somewhere, just in case. READ MORE

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    U.N. Acquires Nuclear Weapon

    We are doomed! READ MORE

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    Khalilzad’s “Exit Interview”

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    Just returning from and event at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC in which Steve Clemons played host/inquisitor/moderator to a discussion with outgoing United States ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad.

    Khalilzad reflected that the United Nations was a “net positive” for the United States. He said he came into the job believing that “the United States needs the United Nations and the United Nations needs the United States” and left feeling the exact same way. When asked about his personal diplomatic style he responded that treating colleagues like equals — even those from small nations — can go a long way toward earning the United States the kind of trust and support that is required to effectively advance American interests at the United Nations.

    Perhaps the newsiest bit came when Khalilzad addressed the controversy surrounding the United States abstention from the Gaza ceasefire resolution. He said that Rice spent an “unprecedented” three days working on the resolution, and that the United States drafted a big portion of the resolution, which he described as “very reasonable.” He then made two somewhat contradictory points. 1) That there was an imperative to pass a resolution before Friday evening prayers in the Arab world because the United States feared that not doing so could result in violence directed at its embassies in the Middle East. 2) That the ultimate decision to abstain from the resolution was done to give ongoing Franco-Egyptian diplomatic efforts more time.

    What’s curious to me, at least, is why the United States would not vote in favor of a resolution that its ambassador considered “very reasonable” and its Secretary of State worked so hard on drafting?

    Still, it is hard not to like and respect Ambassador Khalilzad, who brought a level of competency and passion to three critical posts in US government- ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. He is unsure what his future holds, though he did rule out running for president of his native Afghanistan. He does, however, want to be an advocate for the people of Afghanistan and help that country in anyway he can. He suggested that he may work on projects related to education in Afghanistan. All the power to him.
    READ MORE

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    Restoring American Global Leadership, One Step at a Time

    I think it’s fair to say that after the last eight years we in the United States are not quite accustomed to what it is like to have a president that is genuinely popular oversees. This will clearly change under the Obama administration, and with Obama’s popularity comes tremendous opportunity to re-affirm America’s traditional role as a global leader. This will not happen automatically, or simply by virtue of his personal popularity. Rather, restoring American global leadership requires that the new administration take a number of discrete actions, the sum of which signals to the rest of the world that the United States is back–and ready to lead by example.

    Today, a group of 145 foreign policy experts, including former senior government officials, at least one ex-president (Jimmy Carter), academics, activists and advocates signed a letter spelling out exactly what policies would do the most to restore American global leadership and global standing. The letter is distributed under the aegis of the Connect US Fund and provides very specific markers for judging whether or not the incoming administration is willing to adopt the kind of policies that constitute a brave new era of American global engagement.

    Repair U.S. credibility and influence on international human rights and humanitarian law:

    * Issue an executive order that reaffirms an absolute prohibition on torture and ensures that all detainees within the custody of the United States are treated consistent with standards articulated in the U.S. Army Field Manual and international legal instruments; that halts the practice of secret detention; that ends rendition to torture and that directs a review of all legal opinions and policy guidance relating to treatment of detainees.

    * Announce your intention to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center promptly and to treat all detainees in U.S. custody in a manner consistent with international obligations and domestic law.

    * Re-engage in a positive way with international human rights institutions, such as by supporting the work of the ICC to investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Establish U.S. leadership on international efforts to address climate change:

    * Commit to binding caps on carbon emissions that would reduce greenhouse gases by at least 80% by 2050, and thereby effectively contribute to worldwide efforts to limit the average world temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; to funding and mechanisms to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, access clean energy technology and avoid deforestation and degradation; and to legislation that promotes domestic green jobs and renewable energy.

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    Musical Amplification of Genocide

    Susan Benesch at Opinio Juris calls attention to an interesting case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda:

    Simon Bikindi, the Rwandan pop star whose two-year trial at the ICTR was apparently the first attempt to criminalize music in international law, was just convicted of incitement to genocide but not, after all, for his songs, even though Rwandan genocidaires sang them like anthems while hacking people to death. The ICTR did find, notably, that the songs “amplified” the genocide, but it missed an important chance to develop jurisprudence on incitement to genocide.

    If the racist pronouncements broadcast far and wide over the infamous Radio Milles Collines throughout the genocide constituted incitement, then it seems logical that this acoustic jurisprudence would extend to inflammatory popular music. On the other hand, if a song just happened to be one that genocidaires liked to chant as they undertook their horrific acts, it would be difficult to prosecute the singer for incitement. But these songs were not the stuff you’d find Barney singing; and if the statement for which Bikindi was convicted is any indication, then Bikindi’s genocidal intentions should have been clear.

    In late June 1994, when most of the genocide was already over, Bikindi drove along a road in his native Gisenyi, calling over a loudspeaker, “The majority population, it’s you, the Hutu I am talking to. You know the minority population is the Tutsi. Exterminate quickly the remaining ones.”

    Unfortunately, in the murderous frenzy of the time in Rwanda, it’s no far stretch to imagine lyrics as ghastly as that statement. READ MORE

    | 1 Comment

    Musical Amplification of Genocide

    Susan Benesch at Opinio Juris calls attention to an interesting case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda:

    Simon Bikindi, the Rwandan pop star whose two-year trial at the ICTR was apparently the first attempt to criminalize music in international law, was just convicted of incitement to genocide but not, after all, for his songs, even though Rwandan genocidaires sang them like anthems while hacking people to death. The ICTR did find, notably, that the songs “amplified” the genocide, but it missed an important chance to develop jurisprudence on incitement to genocide.

    If the racist pronouncements broadcast far and wide over the infamous Radio Milles Collines throughout the genocide constituted incitement, then it seems logical that this acoustic jurisprudence would extend to inflammatory popular music. On the other hand, if a song just happened to be one that genocidaires liked to chant as they undertook their horrific acts, it would be difficult to prosecute the singer for incitement. But these songs were not the stuff you’d find Barney singing; and if the statement for which Bikindi was convicted is any indication, then Bikindi’s genocidal intentions should have been clear.

    In late June 1994, when most of the genocide was already over, Bikindi drove along a road in his native Gisenyi, calling over a loudspeaker, “The majority population, it’s you, the Hutu I am talking to. You know the minority population is the Tutsi. Exterminate quickly the remaining ones.”

    Unfortunately, in the murderous frenzy of the time in Rwanda, it’s no far stretch to imagine lyrics as ghastly as that statement. READ MORE

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