Iraq: A Fork in the Road of a Special Relationship
International Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 375-384, 2005
10 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2008
Date Written: 2005
In his September 2003 address to the United Nations general assembly, Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that the UN Charter's legal and institutional framework on the use of military force among states had come to a "fork in the road." He asked a "high-level panel on threats, challenges and change" to consider practical options for reform. Quite clearly, the secretary-general's initiative was a response to the combination of the United States' rhetoric of preventive war, its assertion that the UN was risking irrelevance in security matters, and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It thus seems obvious where the United States stands in the debate that Annan launched on "whether it is possible to continue on the basis agreed upon, or whether radical changes are needed." It may seem equally clear that Canada's answer is that the world must maintain the existing multilateral framework. In other words, it may seem that Canada and the United States are now headed down diverging legal and policy roads, with potentially serious implications for their "special" relationship. Indeed, it is tempting to see the fact that Canada chose not to support the US-led intervention in Iraq and the American displeasure with that decision as indicative of what is to come.
In this essay, we examine these assumptions and look more closely at where the two countries are headed on matters of the use of force and international security. We suggest that it is important to separate the policy decisions and legal arguments made specifically in relation to the Iraq intervention from broader policy themes. There are significant differences between American and Canadian policies on the use of force framework, but they cannot be reduced to simple unilateral vs. multilateral, or radical change vs. status quo, formulas. More importantly, differences notwithstanding, there are also opportunities for engaging the United States in the renewal of the global security regime.
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