MARGARET WARNER: Late last year, with the U.N. deeply split over the Iraq War, Secretary-general Kofi Annan named a high-level panel to consider how to remake the world body to more effectively combat the threats of the 21st century.
The panel's report was released last week. It laid out 101 recommendations, from expanding and overhauling the Security Council to weeding out corruption and dead wood within the organization. As for the contentious issue of military force, the panel did not propose expanding the grounds for pre-emptive military action under the U.N. charter.
It recognized new dangers in the world that might require preventive war, but only if authorized by the Security Council. The only American on the panel was retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to the first President Bush, and he joins us now.
Welcome, Gen. Scowcroft.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's start with what provoked this report. How dysfunctional is the U.N.? Is it so dysfunctional that it really needs to be dramatically revamped?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: I think it's not so much dysfunctional than it is that the charter itself, the members and the procedures were geared for a world which is vastly different.
In 1945, when the U.N. was formed, interstate war was the issue of conflict. Now, that is really receding. There are very few of those around. Instead, it's internal wars; it's terrorism. It's all this kind of turmoil, a very different kind of war. In 1945, there were 51 members there are now 191.
Everything is different. The members of the Security Council represented power in 1945, and, of course, the defeated powers -- Germany and Japan -- were nowhere to be seen. So it is really an attempt to bring the U.N. up so that it can deal with peace and security in 2004, rather than in 1945.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's go right to the issue that so split the council, and that was the use of military force. Now, your panel recognizes, as you just implied, that there are all these new kinds of threats.
Internal wars, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, terrorism, and so on-- and yet, as I read it, you did not expand or change at all the definition of what would constitute a legitimate reason for a state to act unilaterally militarily. Why not?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Not exactly. What we did not change is Article 51, and that's self-defense. There are two ways you use force: Self-defense, or under Chapter 7 of the U.N. authorization.
And there really was... we didn't change Article 51 in self-defense, but we expanded self-defense to include preemption, which, of course, was a word never heard of in 1945. So we did recognize preemption. And what we did is to try to divide preemption from prevention in terms of states being... acting unilaterally.
MARGARET WARNER: So, boiling it down, under your recommendations, is there any more latitude for a state to act unilaterally?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Let me put it a little differently. I think the U.N. took a step in the direction of U.S. interests, and it recognized that the use of force in this very complex, vague sort of world in who the actors are and so on, means that self-defense has to be somewhat more broadly defined than before.
MARGARET WARNER: Is the report also trying to put a little more onus or a little more pressure-- that's the wrong word -- but on the Security Council to be more forward-leaning in what it's willing to do in terms of authorizing force?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Yes, it is. It says that the Security Council needs to be more active, really, more preventive. Now that is less in terms of interstate war than the kinds of conflicts we see now: States that are failing; states that are under stress; and states in conflict and then states reconstructing after conflict.
And what the panel did is recommend a whole new organization that dealt with this whole spectrum of conflict, so that you try on one end to prevent states from falling into these internal conflicts that are so difficult and then help them get out.
MARGARET WARNER: Let's take a situation that right now, I think, people on almost all sides say is very frustrating and that's Iran and its apparent attempts to acquire at least the technology for nuclear weapons.
What is it in which you all recommended that you think would make the U.N. better able to deal effectively with that potential threat?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: The panel dealt specifically with the problem of nuclear proliferation, and it said that the non-proliferation treaty is in some danger now because it did not anticipate what is now the predominant or really the only feasible way to get to a nuclear weapon, and that is by enriching uranium or by reprocessing spent nuclear power fuel and getting plutonium.
And the panel recommends specifically that states... that we move towards states not being able to enrich uranium.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about a couple other specifics. There is so much in this report, as we said, but expanding the Security Council. Now you all came up with a couple of different recommendations. But in neither one would any of these new members have the veto. The veto would remain with the permanent five World War II powers.
Why, first of all, and secondly, how much meaning would it have to a Germany or a Japan or an India to be a member of the Security Council if they didn't have the veto?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: What we tried to do was two things: To make the Security Council more representative of power in the world of 2004 than in 1945, but at the same time not reduce its ability to act.
Any time you add members who have veto, you limit the ability to act. It was just that simple. And there was no serious debate within the panel about the veto. There were some who said, you know, it would be nice if we didn't have a veto. But nobody thought that was a realistic prospect ....
MARGARET WARNER: Eliminate it for everybody.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Yeah.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, another issue you addressed was sort of mismanagement and corruption. You didn't address the Oil-for-Food scandal, particularly, but this larger issue. How bad is it, the mismanagement and corruption?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Well, we didn't address the corruption side. The management... it's a cumbersome bureaucracy, and we proposed doing some things I've mentioned to make the Security Council more effective in being able to manage lesser conflicts, also, to improve the control of the secretary-general over the secretariat. And we made some progress there, not as much as would I have liked.
MARGARET WARNER: Speaking of the secretary-general, now he has ambitious plans to try to spearhead this, get the U.N. to really consider it, enact a lot of these recommendations.
But as you know, because of the Oil-for-Food scandal, there are Republicans in the Senate and the House calling for his resignation. Do you think he can effectively push and promote this set of recommendations with this hanging over his head?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Well, I hope so. I think the conjunction is very unfortunate because I think the true story about the Oil-for-Food and so on and the role of the secretary-general is a bit confused right now. But I think that this panel report... the members of the panel are broadly representative of every view of the United Nations membership.
It's a very broad panel. And yet we came together on about 98-99 percent of the issues, and that gives me a lot of encouragement-- I was pessimistic when we first started-- that we can take some useful steps, not revolutionary steps, to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations. And that is a great benefit to the United States.
MARGARET WARNER: This report was commissioned to make the U.N. more relevant for the 21st century. But as we have seen this Bush administration has expressed a preference sometimes for just simply acting -- putting together ad hoc coalitions. It's less cumbersome, it's less trouble. They can act more efficiently and effectively. What is the argument for why the U.S. needs the U.N.?
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Really the U.S. needs the U.N. because this is a world where the nation state and national boundaries don't mean the same, again, that they did in 1945. Boundaries are porous. Information flows over, environmental problems, conflicts, terrorism is no respecter of national boundaries.
To fight terrorism, you have to have help. You have to have friends and support around. The U.N. is an organization which you can mobilize for terrorism if you go about it in the right way. That's the advantage.
MARGARET WARNER: Gen. Brent Scowcroft, thanks.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: Nice to be with you.