The Case for a Collective Push Against Terrorism: PART TWO

Since the global debate on how to combat the threat of terrorism began, the common phrase ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ has dominated the dialogue, as unfortunately, it is relevant. Moreover, since the fall of 2000, multilateral organizations have continued efforts to develop a comprehensive convention on international terrorism with little or no success. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has stated; “the reality is that, like war, terrorism is an immensely complicated phenomenon with multiple objectives and causes, a multitude of weapons and agents, and virtually limitless manifestations”. Furthermore, the unique issue of the lack of multilateral coordination on basic policy and definition makes the future of multilateral institutions quite bleak, as a less realist approach to international relations must be adopted by key states in order to successfully institute the use multilateral framework for combating international terrorism.

Of the various issues related to instability in the multilateral framework against terrorism, it would appear that an individualistic realist mentality of world powers is at the forefront. No matter what multilateral institution is being examined, the issue of powerful states acting out of self-interest is a prominent trend, even if that realism is often (allegedly) fueled by commitment to human rights and democracy. According to Giuseppe Nesi in his book International Co-Operation in Counter Terrorism: the United Nations and Regional Organizations in the Fight against Terrorism, we can adopt endurable measures if the rule of law, democracy and human rights are strengthened by their implementation. It is exactly this Westernized realist mentality that makes success at the multilateral level so difficult. If all states looked at the drafting of security implementation in this way, the states involved would be exclusively democratic, thus excluding a large portion of the international system.

Further, the need for a framework that is acceptable for all nations is required, and striving towards an agreement that is exclusionary of more diverse states is counterproductive. The lack of cohesion is not exclusive to the UN and the global multilateral system, as regional multilaterals also struggle with the same realist mentality also. Both NATO and the EU have had prominent states act out of self-interest since intense counterterrorism policy development began after September 11th 2001. For example, The United States decided against officially involving NATO in the War on Terror because they felt as though the war could be fought without NATO’s support, and thus, the United States avoided ceding control of the operation to NATO forces. By initially excluding NATO from the War on Terror, the United States effectively entered Afghanistan on their own terms, as well; they were joined by many of NATO’s member states, so the United States essentially cut out multilateral involvement to promote their own self interests.

The flaws with regional multilateralism do not begin or end with NATO; the EU has also acted out of self-interest and ignored collective security measures in recent history. Immediately following September 11th 2001, the EU had no formal international counterterrorism strategy, as many EU member states believed that it was unnecessary because they were not likely targets of international terrorism. Furthermore, the lack of group cohesion in regional and global multilateral systems because of realist mentalities on the individual state level is the reason multilateral organizations are not as successful at countering international terrorism as they could be.

Now that it has been established that multilateral organizations are made up of prominent member states that consistently act out of self-interest, it is clear that effective multilateral counterterrorism strategy is dependent on unanimous decisions. However, this is not the only difficulty faced by multilateral organizations, as the lack of international legally binding policy makes it very difficult for multilateral organizations to properly deal with something as serious and as criminal as international terrorism. This lack of legally binding power in multilateral organizations makes ratification and enforcement of proposed sanctions against terrorism nearly impossible. According to Hans Kelsen in his book The Law of the United Nations: A Critical Analysis of its Fundamental Problems with Supplement, “A state may refuse to comply with a recommendation made by the General Assembly because the state considers it as an intervention in a matter which is essentially within its domestic jurisdiction. This however is of minor importance since recommendations by the General Assembly have at any rate no binding force”. The lack of institutional legitimacy when it comes to legal aspects of the UN makes it a requirement for member states to act individually to prosecute terrorists through their own legal means.

By having no enforcement mechanisms, multilateral bodies like the UN cede any control they might have had over global issues like international terrorism to powerful individual nations. The only real ability the UN has in implementing legally binding conventions in any regard is if they are adopted and enforced by member states. Unfortunately, the multilateral organization in this sense just acts as a drafting body for conventions that are ultimately at the liberty of the individual states involved. Thus, the realist mentality of multilateral member states is supported in favour of a more universal approach, as conventions can only be legally binding in nature if individual states choose to ratify the proposal. The UN itself can only recommend resolutions, it cannot legally enforce them. Moreover, the nature of multilateral organizations today is indicative of a platform to further promote the interests of individual member states. Until a universal and legally binding convention can be created and enforced unanimously, multilateral organizations cannot act as a significant counterterrorism method.

The issues associated with multilateral organizations and their ineffectiveness in producing useful and recognized counterterrorism strategy really comes down to the realist mentality of the various organizations’ member states. Whether it be the lack of legally binding power at the multilateral level, or disagreement over the basic definition of ‘terrorism’, individual member states act out of self-interest and prevent multilateral organizations from being as effective as they can be. According to Jusuf Wanandi in the article A Global Coalition against International Terrorism, the future of multilateral organizations lies in cooperation, and compromise. Wanandi states;

“The new international order may prove to be a mixed system. The overwhelming material capabilities of the United States suggest that U.S. dominance in the military realm will continue. The September 11 attacks and global reactions to them, however, show that neither isolationism nor unilateralism will suffice in the fight against terrorism. Thus even in military matters, the United States will need the assistance of various allies when taking specific actions. In the policymaking field, different coalitions have already begun to emerge—with impetus from the United States—to tackle a variety of political, intelligence, law enforcement, and financial issues. Whether a concert of great powers built around the Group of Eight will develop is unknown. What is clear is that the United Nations plays an important role in providing legitimacy for U.S. actions, and that it will continue to be involved in, for example, such activities as peace building in Afghanistan.

Wanandi’s statement concludes that individual states in the multilateral system will continue to act out of self-interest, but the global span of new issues, like terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction will require multilateral cooperation at a greater level. Bentley states that multilateralism requires a high level of cooperation and trust, and outlines the importance of states ceding power and control to global and regional multilateral institutions in order to achieve success in counterterrorism. Future threats like terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction will require an unprecedented global approach to politics.

As issues become more and more global, individual states will have to learn to cede power to multilaterals in order to extinguish threats on both the national and international levels. Furthermore, although the current state of multilateral organizations are not equipped to deal with issues related to counterterrorism, if future cooperation were orchestrated to grant more legal and political power to multilateral organizations, issues such as international terrorism would be dealt with much more efficiently than they are currently.

The first portion of this essay looked at the prominent Western multilateral organizations today, specifically the UN, NATO, and the EU. It was concluded that both regional and global multilateral organizations have difficulty managing the hard issues associated with international terrorism, however, they have been valuable for proposing conventions, restoring order, and freezing terrorist finances. After introducing the global and regional multilateral organizations of prominence, this essay explored the various issues facing multilateral policy today. First, the difficulty of unanimity in drafting a universally accepted definition of ‘terrorism’ has plagued policy makers at the multinational level since September 11th 2001. Without an accepted definition, multilateral organizations are rendered useless in counter terrorism strategy, as individual states with their own definitions of ‘terrorism’ take control.

This leads to the second main issue, which is the lack of legally binding ability in multilateral institutions. As a result of member states realist agendas, multilateral organizations cannot properly enforce the proposals they make, therefore, states can choose to ignore proclamations made my multilateral bodies if they do not fit their specific interests. This essay finally looked to Michelle Bentley, and Jusuf Wanandi’s separate proposals for the future of multilateral organizations, which concluded that in order to properly deal with a threat as large as international terrorism, individual states must cede some legal and political power to multilateral organizations so that counterterrorism strategy can be developed and enforced collectively.

In conclusion, if the individual states that make up the current multilateral organizations were to cede some of their legal and political liberties to the global or regional collective, issues such as international terrorism would be dealt with in a much more efficient manner. However, the current state of international affairs is indicative of an anarchic realist state where individual nations act of their own personal interests on issues that should ideally be handled collectively.

By Andrew Majoran

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Europe, Middle East

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One Comment on “The Case for a Collective Push Against Terrorism: PART TWO”

  1. January 3, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    However, the current state of international affairs is indicative of an anarchic realist state where individual nations act of their own personal interests on issues that should ideally be handled collectively.

    This last sentence leaves one hanging in anticipation of further elaboration, with specific examples of individual nations’ acting out of personal interest when it comes to counter-terrorism. A simple analogy to describe reaction to the article is those movies where one is kept extremely interested throughout the film, then the film ends in an awkward manner that leaves one saying to oneself “where’s the rest of the story?” If a future writing can nail down/fully explain those “personal interests”, then the discussion will have arrived at a much more important, progress-in-understanding place. Thanks.

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