IN THE DAYS of the Cold War, when there was a very real sense of common threat, the art of alliance maintenance was easier than it is now. Western countries cohered with only relatively minor grumbles around the senior partner the United States in the principal alliances put together in the late l940s and early l950s. These were NATO, of course; the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-Korea Mutual Security arrangements and ANZUS Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Although New Zealand, as I have said, has been dropped from ANZUS for anti-nuclear heresy, these core alliances built around close patterns of military and political collaboration have lasted, even though the Cold War is long since over. This is because they bring member countries into a uniquely intimate relationship with the U.S. the focal point of world power. More than that, they remain germane to the security issues member countries face.
To make my point from the opposite tack, let me remind you of two collective security pacts long since consigned to the dustbin of history. SEATO and CENTO were tacked together by the U.S. in a fit of what was called pactomania. The principal sufferer from this malady was the U.S. secretary of state of the day, John Foster Dulles. SEATO and CENTO were vaguely designed as part of a policy of containment of the Soviet Union to cover the gaps in the chain in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. They were never real. Members did not share common commitments or ideals. SEATO was accurately described by the Chinese as a paper tiger; Im not sure that anyone ever took CENTO even that seriously. Collective security, in other words, will only work if solidly based in real collective interests.
Now there is another concept of collective security, one based essentially on the notion of gathering together what are coalitions of the willing in response to particular problems in particular circumstances. [Conference coordinator] Erik Jensen, who must be a fan of the titanic struggles between good and evil brought to us by western movies, has introduced the concept of the posse for our consideration at this conference. There they go! The evil ranchers or the gallant cowboys galloping off through the sage brush in a cloud of dust. Posses are essentially coalitions of the willing put together to hunt down a particular bad guy or do nasty things to a lone sheriff defending the wilting heroine. After its all over Shane rides off into the wild blue yonder.
But, of course, Erik is quite right. Posse-making is at the heart of current thinking about how best to develop international responses to the rash of challenges to international order now so much a feature of our world. NATO action in Kosovo was essentially a posse going out after one particular bad guy, Slobodan Milosevic, and to try to put a stop to what he was doing. In Kosovo, the nature of the military problem and the need for urgency were such that it became essential that the U.S. take the leading role. But it is interesting that the second strongest contingent committed to the air war against Serbia came from a relatively small ally the Netherlands.
It is not necessary that the United States always be the sheriff in the forefront of these actions. There are often other powers capable of making useful contributions. Smaller partners will, however, look for U.S. endorsement and will seek the reassurance that the superpower will come to their aid if they get into trouble. The United States need not lead all posses. But it will be fundamental if global collective security is to work that the U.S. whether through the UN Security Council or not give its backing to its partners engaged in major peace operations. The U.S. should not aim to be the global cop so much as the lead member of the coalition on occasion and global back-up squad on others.
In Southeast Asia the East Timor operation was a case in point. Australia and New Zealand were able, along with some others from the region, to get forces into that deeply troubled territory quickly. The U.S. was supportive but, for a number of reasons to do with the importance of its role in the region, especially in relation to Indonesia, could not take the lead role. Instead, by offering logistical backing and support which was also provided by other major powers, notably Britain and France the operation could go ahead. In turn, time was bought for a balanced UN peace operations programme combining military and civilian elements to be assembled. The UN operation has now taken over.
A final point. What we face not only in Asia and the Pacific but around the world are security challenges of great diversity and complexity. It is no longer adequate to think in terms of major over-arching threats, but to recognize that human rights and international stability alike are being continually eroded by the seemingly endemic modern wars of nationalism, tribalism , and religion. It is necessary to be clear about terminology when discussing the types of response needed from the U.S. and other capable members of the international community to the sorts of problems we face. The word peacekeeping itself needs now to be qualified. The international community can and does call on a range of more or less distinct types of civilian, civilian-military or just plain military programmes in response to any one situation. There are to my mind six different and more or less distinct categories of peace operations:
The wars of nationalism and separatism are not trivial in a military sense. The U.S. has a fundamental role to play in helping to put together the capabilities to meet these types of emergency. But so too have other countries. There is a slow-dawning sense of international responsibility duty even to assist where human rights are threatened by conflict. It is often selective and all too seldom completely effective. Nevertheless, it is a development that gives cause for hope. The U.S. role is crucial. But that does not mean that the United States must be at the forefront of every foray mounted by the international community to try to make a better world. It does mean that the U.S. should actively foster the collective security principles by working with others to promote solutions and using its power to underwrite operations in which the load is taken by others. It also means please that the United States should stop denigrating the principal international agency for conflict resolution and peace making the United Nations itself.
Ambassador Denis McLean has held a number of senior posts in the New Zealand government, including secretary of defense, 1978-1988, and ambassador to the United States, 1991-1994.