Voice

Former NATO Commander Wants Alliance To Strike Syria

Writing in the New York Times, recently retired NATO commander James Stavridis urges the alliance to lead the charge in Syria—and  he sees no legal obstacles to its doing so:

Such action could be justified based on self-defense, owing to the threat posed to Turkey, a NATO member that has backed Mr. Obama’s call for an American-led intervention; the overall threat posed by weapons of mass destruction; and, more controversially, on the evolving international doctrine of a “responsibility to protect.” NATO has not moved forward so far, because of the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing action against Syria, but that is not required under the rules of the alliance — indeed, NATO has previously acted with force without such approval, notably in Kosovo in 1999. 

Whatever one thinks of the policy merits of his argument, his legal reasoning is thin. The self-defense argument on behalf of Turkey is a stretch, and Stavridis is reaching even further when he claims that NATO's rules don't require Security Council approval. In fact, the drafters of the North Atlantic Treaty went to great lengths to emphasize that the treaty doesn't alter members' obligations under the UN Charter. Article 7 of the treaty reads as follows:

This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Multilateralist

Good Government, Courtesy of the World Bank

One of the most frequent criticisms of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is that they impose one-size-fits-all solutions on developing countries. For years, skeptics and activists have railed against the "Washington Consensus" that these institutions impose, primarily through their lending conditions but also through expert advice and publications.

Is that charge still fair?  In a new paper, Matt Andrews of Harvard's Center for International Development looks in detail at recent World Bank projects. He concludes that the Bank has become deeply involved in defining "good governance" for many developing states. "[O]rganizations like the World Bank are increasingly shaping the ideas, opportunities, demand and supply of public sector reform in developing countries," he writes. He also finds that the Bank's prescriptions are pretty consistent across countries:

Countries are commonly supported in creating governments that are market-friendly, disciplined, and modernized; with specific types of common interventions introducing reforms like privatization, civil service modernization, the creation of autonomous agencies, and more.

At least in the paper, Andrews is agnostic about whether this good governance template is a good thing; many close observers of the Bank will not be.