Does the U.S. need the UN to fight terror?

Mario Tama/Getty Images The U.S. needs the UN according to a new report by Alistair Millar and Eric Rosand, of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation titled, Building Global Alliances in the Fight Against Terrorism. Both authors spoke on Friday afternoon at the New America Foundation along with Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and ...

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595102_080509_un_728087582.jpg

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S. needs the UN according to a new report by Alistair Millar and Eric Rosand, of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation titled, Building Global Alliances in the Fight Against Terrorism. Both authors spoke on Friday afternoon at the New America Foundation along with Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens. The speakers point out that if we can stress the common security interests of all nations, the UN will once again function as an effective international body. Fighting terrorism is one issue that requires nothing less than the whole world's attention, but it is also a divisive issue. The UN has so far failed to even agree on a definition of terrorism, though Eric Rosand had a good working one: "Politically motivated violence against civilians."

The main argument is that the United States is missing an opportunity to work with the United Nations in its global fight against terrorism. The speakers were careful to stress they are not suggesting the fight be handed over to the UN. Instead, the U.S. should use the platform as underlying support for its existing efforts while maintaining sovereignty over U.S. interests. They believe that many bi-lateral negotiations are perceived as American sledgehammering and may be better received through the lens of third party. Policy recommendations include the appointment of a counterterrorism czar in the White House (non-military in nature), and the formation of a global counterterrorism body.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S. needs the UN according to a new report by Alistair Millar and Eric Rosand, of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation titled, Building Global Alliances in the Fight Against Terrorism. Both authors spoke on Friday afternoon at the New America Foundation along with Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens. The speakers point out that if we can stress the common security interests of all nations, the UN will once again function as an effective international body. Fighting terrorism is one issue that requires nothing less than the whole world’s attention, but it is also a divisive issue. The UN has so far failed to even agree on a definition of terrorism, though Eric Rosand had a good working one: “Politically motivated violence against civilians.”

The main argument is that the United States is missing an opportunity to work with the United Nations in its global fight against terrorism. The speakers were careful to stress they are not suggesting the fight be handed over to the UN. Instead, the U.S. should use the platform as underlying support for its existing efforts while maintaining sovereignty over U.S. interests. They believe that many bi-lateral negotiations are perceived as American sledgehammering and may be better received through the lens of third party. Policy recommendations include the appointment of a counterterrorism czar in the White House (non-military in nature), and the formation of a global counterterrorism body.

While I agree that the U.S. cannot “go it alone” in the war on terror, the bottom line is that unilateralism is a direct result of international lack of will. The United States has gone it alone in part because of the inaction of the UN and its member states. Hezbollah is a prime example of this inaction. Under UN resolutions enacted in 2004 and 2006, Lebanese militias were to be disarmed. In April of this year, the security council adopted a presidential statement reiterating this. Instead, over the past few days Hezbollah has taken over half of Beirut.

While I like the idea of a future with international cooperation and committment to fighting terrorism, I think we need to first make sure the international community is interested in bearing the costs to achieve results. And state-sponsored terror is going to be a big obstacle in this process.

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