TWQ: The Illusion of UN Security Council Reform - Autumn 2003
October 1, 2003
Can changing the membership or procedures of the United Nations Security Council improve its credibility? In the controversy surrounding a possible UN imprimatur for the use of force against Iraq, the debate over the council’s credibility shifted from the question of adequate representation to whether the group can constrain U.S. power. Now, the obstacles to Security Council credibility go beyond issues of process—exclusive permanent membership and the right to veto—to include unparalleled U.S. military might. With the exception of the 1965 expansion from 11 to 15 members, efforts at Security Council reform since the organization’s inception in 1945 have repeatedly proved implausible; today, uncontested U.S. power makes such efforts largely irrelevant. At the same time, in choosing among available tactics and strategies, Washington should think twice about acting alone. Making better use of the Security Council in its current form—indeed, of the UN system more broadly—is usually in U.S. interests and should remain the preferred policy option.