Forget the French. They were obstructionist and went further than merely to declare themselves opposed to confrontation. Even though they knew weeks ago that the United States had decided to proceed with military action, the French solicited redundant support, notably from Russia and China, which didn't add to the power they already had as veto-equipped members of the Security Council. French focus went from blocking the United States through the veto to blocking the U.S. from the goal of achieving majority approval. To end up out-bargaining the U.S. for the vote of Cameroon or Chile was after all unnecessary, inasmuch as the veto was promised. The French effort accomplished only the mobilization of supplementary votes on the other side.
The question to ask now is how to think through the future of the United Nations, which hangs to a considerable extent on the future of U.S. participation in it.
What happened on Monday, March 17, was that we came face-to-face with the basic architecture of the U.N. As noted in this space before, we have had to contend with nations that were given a veto power because of their status as "victorious" nations. France was a victorious nation in a sentimental way, much as one might award a ribbon to a sports contender who, though knocked out before reaching the second round, needs consolation as a good old boy who did well on the penultimate fight.
We have to acknowledge that sentimental regard is, in the nature of things, attenuated by the passage of time. We do not have a parade to celebrate our victory in the Spanish-American War, let alone our victory in the Mexican War. Whatever special regard we had for France in San Francisco in 1945, when the U.N. Charter was drafted, has no governing influence on the distribution of power in the United Nations 58 years after the end of World War II.
The United States could call for a convention to reconsider the distribution of veto power. We could reasonably hold that by standards of population and/or wealth, Germany, Japan and India should be elevated to veto power. If we thought geographical distribution now critical, we might consider Brazil or Argentina, assuming they could scratch up the money to pay dues. And, if we went in that direction, Indonesia would certainly court a vote.
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