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New Security Council Members (and a Discussion Question)

Via the BBC:  Five new members voted on to UN Security Council

The five new members:  Germany, India, South Africa, Colombia and Portugal.

These are, obviously, for the non-permanent seats (two year terms).

Question for discussion:  should the number of permanent seats on the Security Council be expanded?  As the story notes:

Brazil, Germany, India and Japan have all argued that they should have a permanent seat on the council.

There is something to the notion that the Security Council’s current permanent membership is an anachronism.  Specifically the permanent members go their seats by being the victors in WWII:  China, Britain, France, the US and Russia.

Thoughts?

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t have any problem with expansion, but I think as a practical matter it would take a war to create the concensus needed fot it to happen. Brazil is not a great power, and there are certainly a few other Latin American countries that might feel close enough in power to challenge the assignment of the “Latin American” permanent seat. I also wonder how the Islamic world would react to an Indian seat, or maybe even the Far East as to Japan.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    I addressed this a couple years back in a post titled “Expand the Security Council? Non. The G8? Oui.”

    The key bits:

    While academically sound, this proposal is a non-starter as a matter of practical politics. While it’s doubtful that, if starting from scratch, we’d chose to give the U.S., U.K., France, China, and Russia a veto power while leaving Germany, Japan, and India on the outside looking in, it’s is a Pandora’s Box we can not afford to open. Presumably, no current Permanent Member will be kicked off. Who, then, to let in?

    Sarkozy suggests the Group of Four — Germany, Brazil, India, and Japan — plus “a major African country” to be named later. Germany and Japan, both of whom have robust economies and are solid democracies with strong institutions, seem obvious. India, much less so, but it does have a population approaching one billion and has been a democracy (more or less) for decades. Brazil is the Latin American choice du jour, although it’s hardly in the same league as the others. And, yes, we’d almost have to include an African representative out of diversity. Nigeria, with its oil wealth, is the obvious candidate but only because the field is so weak.

    The politics of expansion are just too messy. Once we establish the principle that the Permanent Member club is open to periodic reexamination — but, of course, not contraction — it’s difficult to see how it ends. Nigeria and Brazil are the logical diversity candidates, although that wouldn’t have been the case a decade ago and might not be a decade from now. And if we let in two states with relatively small economies and no global military reach, how do we deny at least a half dozen other applicants?

    And that’s the not worst of the problems.

    It’s difficult to argue against Sarkozy’s charge that the current arrangement is lacking in “fairness.” It’s even harder, though, not to laugh at loud at the suggestion that adding more members will enhance the Security Council’s “being able to act effectively.” If it can’t achieve consensus with five members with veto power — and, on major matters, it never has absent brief periods when the Soviets were boycotting or the Russians were too needy to offer resistance — how will it do so with ten?

    Of course, we could add additional permanent members but not grant them a veto. But that would just rub their nose in the fact that they’re not really part of the club.

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  3. While academically sound, this proposal is a non-starter as a matter of practical politics.

    That pretty much sums it up.

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  4. PD Shaw says:

    If it was put to a vote, I would vote for Germany and Japan, on the condition that the Japanese Consitution be revised. Is this consistent with the role and purpose of the Security Council:

    “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”

    ?

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  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 14:54
    “I addressed this a couple years back in a post titled “Expand the Security Council? Non.”

    You’re spitting in the wind Jim. It’s inevitable if the UN is going to remain relevant. Institutions that don’t change to reflect power realities inevitably atrophy. India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan aren’t going to remain relegated on the sidelines forever and if the victor powers of WW 2 try to keep it this way all that will happen is that these countries will establish alternative centers of power. It’s the sort of resistance to change you advocate that is largely responsible for the decline of US influence in the OAS. As the discussion on the NATO the other day demonstrated you seem to think we can preserve the WW 2/Cold War power structure indefinitely and it’s impossible.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Why pick countries based on power? Let’s reward countries for good behavior. How about Costa Rica, Norway or Switzerland? Or we could go with ‘most improved’ and give seats to Cambodia or Uganda. I favor creation of a Council of the Helpless with seats for Liechtenstein, Benin, Singapore and of course, Canada.

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  7. André Kenji says:

    I´m a Brazilian, and the problem of giving Brazil a seat in the Security Council is that our diplomacy has no idea about what they are doing. They want to end the conflict in Palestine while they ignore the problems of our neighbors. Another problem is that the country has a very, very poor Armed Forces.

    Besides that, giving the veto power to a few countries, while giving the same one vote to all countries, regardless of their populations, is a bad policy.

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  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I´m a Brazilian, and the problem of giving Brazil a seat in the Security Council is that our diplomacy has no idea about what they are doing. ”

    I don’t suppose Mr Lula would agree with you. But even if you’re correct, having no idea what you’re doing isn’t unique to Brazil. The US had no idea of what it was doing for most of the 8 years from 2001 to 2008

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  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I, too, wrote quite a bit on this subject (about six years ago). See here. I think the question is less why Germany, Brazil, India, and Japan aren’t permanent veto-wielding members of the UNSC but why China and France are.

    My opinion on expanding the Security Council is that the conditions for becoming a veto-wielding member of the UNSC should be formal and open, that such membership should be automatic upon achieving such conditions, and loss of membership, too, should be automatic if a country should cease to satisfy the conditions of membership.

    One thing that might cast some light on the question is if we consider the permanent UNSC members to be a security producing contingent. Brazil, for example, is not a security producer. It’s a consumer.

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  10. John425 says:

    Expand the U.N.? I was hoping to disband that gang of pukes!

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  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    “and loss of membership, too, should be automatic if a country should cease to satisfy the conditions of membership.”

    What do you think the UN is Dave, Rotary or the boy scouts? The persistence in viewing this through an entirely US prism has no bearing on the realities of world power today let alone in fifty years time or even 10-20 years.

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  12. André Kenji says:

    “I don’t suppose Mr Lula would agree with you.”

    He does not(And I voted for him and I´m going to vote for his successor). But any impartial observer can see that there are problems with the Brazilian Foreign Policy. There was that Honduras Fiasco, the Iranian Fiasco, and so on. Another problem that no one notes is that Brazil is a neighbor of very unstable countries(Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay) and very few people inside Brazil cares about that. Very few people are worried about the Mexican Cartels, that could be creating operations in South America(It´s true, with the exception of anti-immigration people few Americans care about the cartel)

    It´s a very isolationist country, in the bad and in the good sense of the word, while wants to play superpower.

    ” But even if you’re correct, having no idea what you’re doing isn’t unique to Brazil. The US had no idea of what it was doing for most of the 8 years from 2001 to 2008″

    Well, the US at least has a considerable Armed Forces. Brazil does not have(I saw then staging a military exercise once). Most of the infantry divisions are poor, there is a lack of proper vehicles and equipment to large scale war. They may do the work to frighten drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro to stage an international event or to do some patrolling in Haiti, but nothing more than that.

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  13. Dave Schuler says:

    What do you think the UN is Dave, Rotary or the boy scouts? The persistence in viewing this through an entirely US prism has no bearing on the realities of world power today let alone in fifty years time or even 10-20 years.

    No, I think it’s supposed to be a security-producing institution. We already have a General Assembly that’s representative. There’s no need for a second general assembly.

    Does adding countries like Brazil that have no ability to project power beyond their borders further the security-producing role of the permanent members Security Council? Does limiting the club of permanent members to the World War II Allies?

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  14. PD Shaw says:

    Dave, do you think Japan’s Consitution is inconsistent with the task of being a permanent member of the Security Council? (I say this knowing Japan has been a non-permanent member, but I think the roles of each differ)

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  15. Tano says:

    “Brazil, for example, is not a security producer. It’s a consumer.”
     
    What do you mean by this?

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  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    André Kenji says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 17:56

    “It´s a very isolationist country, in the bad and in the good sense of the word, while wants to play superpower. ”

    China is a very isolationist country. 25 years ago both Brazil and China were next to being third world countries. They are both emerging on the world stage which isn’t a tidey process. The notion that the country that is clearly going to be the dominant power in the southern western hemisphere is going to take a back seat in international affairs is both naive and illogical. I don’t see much logic either in a vote for Lula but not one for his successor who is essentially a clone and where he’s likely to be doing some back seat driving.

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  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    Dave Schuler says:
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 18:33
    “Does adding countries like Brazil that have no ability to project power beyond their borders further the security-producing role of the permanent members Security Council?”

    It’s clear you don’t have too much understanding of the importance of soft power when as the events of the past ten years should demonstrate hard power can get you into all kinds of trouble. And it might be a good idea if you had a somewhat longer time frame. China, Brazil and India today don’t look remotely like they did 25 years ago and so what are they going to look like in another 25 years. You seem completely imprisoned in that US prism I mentioned.

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  18. Andre Kenji says:

    “China is a very isolationist country. 25 years ago both Brazil and China were next to being t
    third world countries. They are both emerging on the world stage which isn’t a tidey process. ”

    No, that´s different.The Chinese may be politically isolationist (The Africans may disagree), but they have elites that are interested about what happens in the West. There are several CNN International shows aimed for Chinese audiences, even under Communist rule. Comparing to the Asian middle classes there are very few people that speaks English. Any Brazilian newspaper has a very poor international coverage.

    It´s true, Brazil is not a country that should be ignored in economic terms – just ask the people in Saint Louis. But it´s much more like a poor cousin of the United States than China, and it´s a country without a international presence or military capability Most Brazilians that Americans know personally are these New Jersey Plumbers that does not speak English. The Spelling Bee is beggining to looks like a phonebook of Mumbai, there are several of them at American Universities.

    “I don’t see much logic either in a vote for Lula but not one for his successor who is essentially a clone and where he’s likely to be doing some back seat driving.”

    I´m going to vote for his successor(Oh, yes, sometimes I´m not so clear while writing in English). But I´m not going to vote without any criticism for them.

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  19. mannning says:

    Better the devil you know!

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  20. André Kenji says:

    No, unfortunately, I know well her opponent. He allowed the crime to go rampant as governor(There was that scene of cops beating each other in São Paulo), his education policies are terrible.

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  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    Andre Kenji says:
    Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 10:29

    Glad we got that straitened out on Lula’s successor. I do think you’re ignoring the nature of power and taking a short term view but I guess we’ll see over the next 25 years. Brazil’s rise is not inevitable but it’s likely.

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  22. Andre Kenji says:

    Not really, because in Brazil the Congress is very powerful(It was in fact a Congress designed for a Parliamentary system and it´s a Congress even more skewed in favor of less populated and more conservative states than in the US). Besides that, no one with that record as a governor of a state should be rewarded with the presidency.

    Brazil has a bright future, but it has several problems: it has the worst transportation structure among the emergent countries, it has pretty bad educational levels, it has a pension system waiting to blow up. It´s much more like a emergent version of the United States than India or China, the real countries of the future.

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  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    Andre Kenji says:
    Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 11:30
    “It´s much more like a emergent version of the United States than India or China, the real countries of the future.”

    The notion that Brazil is in worse shape than India I find problematic if not bizarre.

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  24. André Kenji says:

    “The notion that Brazil is in worse shape than India I find problematic if not bizarre.”

    India was a miserable nation(Sub-Saharan African levels) some years ago, and it´s developing fast. It has the wonderful problem of preparing too much Information Technology people and engineers every year, Infosys and Tata Group were created there(And soon Tata Motors will be the next pain in the ass of Detroit). It has problems, but on the same time has a very low level of public debt, and a very promising future.

    Brazil is not a small fish in the world´s economy: it has a very advanced agricultural sector, one of the most advanced in the world, it has big industrial companies, like Vale, Embraer, Petrobras, and so on; But it has it´s own problems that will have to face in the future: an unsustainable pension system, high levels of public debt, the worst tax system in the developing world and so on. But India is growing to be a even bigger fish.

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  25. Brummagem Joe says:

    “But it has it´s own problems that will have to face in the future: ”

    India’s problems are considerably greater than those of Brazil which don’t begin to compare in complexity. Since she has a population of around a billion while Brazil’s is only 200 million, obviously India is ultimately going to be a bigger fish but that doesn’t mean that Brazil isn’t going to a fairly large one too. I don’t understand your negativity about Brazil which is clearly going to be a major world power in 50 years time. This is well nigh inevitable.

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  26. Andre Kenji says:

    India is building a better transportation structure, it has pretty good educational levels on the middle class, it has a pretty good fiscal picture. I´m not downplaying Brazil: I´m being realistic: I live in Brazil. 😉

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