Fri, 12 Dec 2003

Part 2 of 2 : Multilateral peace needed to avoid unilateral war

Hassan Wirajuda, Foreign Minister , Jakarta

History is full of examples of regional countries unable or unwilling to solve their intramural problems, waking up one day to find that an external power has muscled into their home grounds.

Hence, we fervently pray that the Iraq war will be the last of its kind in history. Indeed, we will all bear the weight of its impact for many years. But again I say that the Iraq war did not bring about any significant change in the nature of the world's problems.

If there was any significant change in the structure of the problems arrayed against the world in recent times, it took place not during the Iraq war but soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. This was when the United States government declared a policy based on the doctrine of preemptive war and gave notice that it would wage that war with or without the support of other nations.

Had the United States been more patient, had it waited until it could secure the approval of the UN Security Council, the occupation forces in Iraq might not be in the quagmire they are in today. Unfortunately, the United States thought that its military power alone would carry the day.

This is something radically new in the United States. American Presidents, since the end of World War II, have sought to strike a balance between the use of military power and the quest for global cooperation.

President Harry S. Truman, even while he was enunciating the Truman Doctrine, which reversed the isolationism of the Monroe Doctrine, took care to affirm the need to work with the United Nations in global affairs.

President John F. Kennedy, the American president who most frequently and eloquently spoke of the limits of military power, frankly admitted that "the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient... we are only six percent of the world's population... therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem." That was a clear tribute to multilateralism.

But all that has changed. The United States has taken an entirely different course of policy since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. And the policy seems to assert that there is an American solution to the problem of international terrorism -- a unilateral solution based on superior military power.

So far, the lessons of the experience of the Iraq war have not changed this policy. To my mind, and to those of many observers, it would be to the interest of humankind, including the American people, if the United States returned to a policy that, again in the words of John F. Kennedy, will match its military strength with our moral restraint..." A policy, I should like to add, that affirms America's solidarity with the community of nations.

And as for the rest of us, there is also a great deal of thinking that needs be done. Though the Iraq war did not change the essential nature of the global situation, it amplified the elements of that situation and made it easier for us to see them.

The situation compels us to reexamine many things that we used to take for granted. These include the institutions on which we have pinned our hopes for a better world -- the United Nations and its bodies.

We must ask ourselves if they are still relevant and can still serve the longterm survival of the human race. We must review not only the structures of these institutions but also the efficiency and effectiveness of their procedures and methods.

And let us make sure that they are faithfully and equitably representative of the world community that they represent -- for until these institutions are truly democratic, they will never be fully efficient and effective.

It is not enough to say that events have proven unilateralism to be an utter failure. We must ask ourselves if we believed enough in multilateralism to make it work, and to adhere to it when it is not convenient to do so.

That is a difficult commitment to make -- but without that commitment, we cannot hope to reform the United Nations. We cannot make it the ultimate instrument of our long-term survival.

This is true not only in the field of security. It is also true in the sphere of development. We cannot accomplish the Millennium Development Goals and the goals of the Johannesburg Plan of Action unless both the developed nations and developing nations are committed enough to multilateralism to act as a single community.

A community is a group in which every member acts responsibly for the sake of the group's common welfare and objectives. In a community, there is room for disagreement but there is no room for irresponsibility.

As the world must become a community to solve global problems, so must each of the regions also become a community to solve its own problems. In the larger Asia-Pacific region, we must continue cultivating the habit of dialogue and cooperation to maintain security and stability and to advance the cause of development.

In this regard, Indonesia vigorously supports the six-party dialogue on the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, and we will contribute whatever we can to foster that dialogue and make it work.

In Southeast Asia, we are now striving to make the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a true community. We must become an Economic Community because that is the only way that the developing economies of the subregion can keep their heads above the turbulent waters of globalization.

We must also become a Sociocultural Community because that is the best way to develop trust and confidence and to cultivate the spirit of multilateralism.

At the same time, we must evolve into a Security Community.

This does not mean that we are going to form a military alliance. It means that we will raise our level of mutual trust and confidence so that we can attain a regional order where we can solve our own problems, settle our own disputes through peaceful means and, in general, take full responsibility for the security and stability of our part of the world.

In this regard, we are grateful that Papua New Guinea, China, and India have acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia and that very soon Japan and Russia will do the same. Their commitment to the good conduct stipulated in the Treaty is a major force for stability in the region.

With the support of these and other external powers interested in peace in the region, we are confident that we can attain an ASEAN that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, and able to focus on the challenge of development. If we can achieve that, we have largely ensured that what happened in Iraq this year will never happen in Southeast Asia.

To my mind, the basic problem of the world today is neither poverty nor terrorism, nor the unilateralist trend in world affairs. These are probably the symptoms of the fundamental problem of alienation that makes human individuals and groups and nations go their own way. And going their own way, they pursue their narrow agendas at the expense of the collective welfare.

The antidote is, of course, the affirmation, through action, of our interconnectedness as human beings, and the fact that humankind has but a single destiny: Either we are ruined together or we achieve a common salvation. That salvation is what the United Nations has been all about.

Thus, at the opening of the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in April 1945, President Harry S. Truman told the delegates:

".. We can no longer permit any nation, or group of nations, to attempt to settle their arguments with bombs and bayonets.

"If we continue to abide by such decisions, we will be forced to accept the fundamental philosophy of our enemies, namely, that "Might Makes Right." To deny this premise, and we must certainly do, we are obliged to provide the necessary means to refute it. Words are not enough.

"We must, once and for all, reverse the order, and prove by our acts that "Right Has Might."

"If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace."

Some fifty-eight years have passed since those words were spoken. They still ring true today.

Indeed, to avoid the death that unilateral wars can bring, let us learn to live in multilateral peace.

The above article is an abridged version of the minister's keynote address at the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) conference in Jakarta on Dec. 8.