Essentially there are three pathways along which a nation may proceed in the conduct of its foreign and economic affairs. The first is the pathway of “do nothing” and hope for the best. Next, is the pathway that leads to some form of accommodation. Finally, there is a pathway that leads to finite resolution.
The finite resolution pathway rests on achieving specific objectives, which will ultimately lead to fixing the problem—by a successful resolution or conclusion of the matter or conflict. Conversely, accommodation is satisfied by a lowering of the noise level through a reduction in tensions or by simply postponing conflict and confrontation. We’ll leave the “do nothing” pathway for another day’s exploration.
The United States and a few other interested nations would like to see North Korea cease and desist in its development of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the United Nations seems to only want to see the “fuss” over the North Korean nuclear noise level reduced. One approach is not necessarily better than the other, but each is different from the other and can be expected to produce quite different results.
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that over the years the concept of concluding an international impasse with some degree of finality — of fixing it — tends more toward becoming an Anglo-Saxon concept. That is, English-speaking countries seem to tend toward seeking a finite conclusion to political or economic problems. Non-English speaking nations seem to lean more toward—but not always—some form of accommodation. Again, this is not to value one approach as better than another.
For example, as best as I can recollect from back in the days when I was a student studying French, there was no French word that directly translated the English word fair. This also applies to some other languages. In the French language there are words that can be translated as something being legal, just, factually correct or precise, but no one French word seems to fully embrace the Anglo-Saxon concept of fairness. Perhaps that is why occasionally when a foreign diplomat or businessperson shakes hands with an American who smiles and says, “This is a fair deal,” the foreigner may, quite properly and with good reason, be bemused.
It may also help explain why the U.S. often seems isolated when working through the mechanisms of the United Nations. While the U.S. is striving toward final resolution, our U.N. colleagues may simply be seeking some form of accommodation. Under such conditions it is only natural for the U.S. to appear isolated.
At the same time our actions in the international arena should be consistently predictable to other nations, especially to our friends. And, where possible, we should take the time to lay a diplomatic basis for future agreement with other powers, even though currently we may be going through a period of disagreement and isolation.
When U.S. interests can be fully protected by accommodation, the auspices of the U.N. is the perfect place to resolve such problems. However, when some form of finite problem resolution is preferred, such as in the North Korean nuclear matter, we will be forced to work around the U.N. and through coalitions of nations whose interests are more similar to ours. But we should never close the door to eventual U.N. rapprochement.
In some ways it’s like “bull dogging. If a cowboy gets a good grip on the bull’s horns and turns the head, the body follows. But if the bull keeps looking straight ahead, he can’t be thrown. Since many nations in the U.N. prefer accommodation, it is sometimes difficult to get a good enough grip on the horns of the Security Council or the General Assembly to turn them toward finite problem resolution.
For example, U.S. interests require a finite solution to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. But because China, Russia and a few others only want accommodation, getting a finite resolution through the U.N. may never be possible. Worse, if reckless and unstable Iran becomes a nuclear power, other Mideast nations will feel their security threatened and will insist that they too become nuclear powers in order to protect themselves from a predatory Iran.
So since it is not in our self-interest to stand by and do nothing while Iran develops a nuclear arsenal, and since it seems there is no acceptable level of international support readily available to help us achieve our ends, we must look elsewhere for a resolution to the problem. The recent statements by the President of France in support of our Iranian position are most welcome and are most helpful.
Here it seems that in order to successfully achieve our economic and foreign policy objectives we will have to work around the U.N. and build coalitions with nations such as France and Saudi Arabia who also have Middle East interests and concerns, and who are willing to join us in bringing about a finite resolution to the Iranian nuclear problem. If we are successful in building such coalitions, perhaps we can jointly figure out a peaceful way to get Iran to cease and desist in its destabilizing development of nuclear weapons.
In any event, we can currently expect little help from the U.N., which seems content with merely reducing the noise level of the Iranian nuclear weapons issue. At the same time, Iran’s pronouncements and conduct are much too dangerous, erratic and irresponsible to be ignored. Eventually some type of finite action is going to have to be taken to contain or disarm Iran.