How Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance (New Yorker)

How Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance

For a long time, the U.S. has seen Azerbaijan, the oil-and-gas-rich,
human-rights-poor former Soviet Republic, in much the same way that
Allen and John Foster Dulles saw the entire world in the
nineteen-fifties. For the brothers—one running the C.I.A., the other
running the State Department—the rest of the globe was infinitely
malleable around the interests of the U.S. In today’s geopolitics,
Azerbaijan is tiny but crucial. It is a nation with a population of
ten million and geographically about the size of Minnesota, but it can
serve as an alternative source of oil and gas for Europe through two
pipelines. The oil pipeline is complete; the one for gas is under
construction. Without Azerbaijan, more than a third of the gas used by
will continue to come from Russia. Putin uses the implicit threat
of cutting off the gas—especially during winter—to keep * NATO* somewhat in

If these were still like the days of the Dulles brothers, America might
ask nothing more of the Azerbaijani government than that it provide a
political stumbling block to Russia. The country could imprison, murder,
or torture its enemies—or anybody, for that matter—and extract all the
wealth it wanted; America would still call it an ally and support it.
Under President George W. Bush and, even more so, under President Obama,
however, the U.S. has asked for more than the Dulles brothers ever
would. Yes, Azerbaijan imprisons some journalists and politicians who
challenge the regime, but it doesn’t torture or kill them, and it allows
some freedom of the press. The U.S. has expected Azerbaijan to promise
some improvement. The experience of the journalist Khadija Ismayilova is
an example of Azerbaijan’s odd approach to meeting these expectations.
Ismayilova was able to reveal absurd levels of corruption in the
country. She was spied on, pressured, and, eventually, arrested. But the
authorities bowed to international pressure and released her, though she
is not permitted to leave the country. This is no great triumph.
Azerbaijan is still an autocracy, but it’s a far less violent and brutal
one than, say, Iran and Guatemala after their Dulles-orchestrated coups.

Azerbaijan and its American supporters have been able to argue that the
country, bowing to U.S. pressure, has been moving slowly toward greater
democracy and transparency. The greatest hallmark of this progress was
Azerbaijan’s surprisingly enthusiastic participation in the Extractive
Industries Transparency Initiative. E.I.T.I., formed in 2003, is an
international organization through which governments, private citizens,
and corporations seek to reduce the rampant pilfering of wealth in the
oil, gas, mineral, and other extractive industries. To join, nations
have to reveal a great deal of information about who is getting money
from such industries and insure that there is a robust enough civil
society to maintain that transparency. The membership roll has been
growing rapidly and now includes dozens of nations, including some, such
as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, for which E.I.T.I.
membership has marked a big step away from the worst excesses of their
corrupt pasts.

Surprisingly, Azerbaijan was the first country to become a full member
of E.I.T.I. It used that status to argue that it was changing for the
better, which encouraged much more foreign investment in the country.
These events seemed to herald a new model for geopolitics. Rather than
indulging resource-rich tyrants or hectoring them to instantly abandon
their existing political dynamics and become clones of America or
Western Europe, E.I.T.I. created the right incentives and a road map for
change. E.I.T.I. encouraged governments to allow for and foster the
creation of a dynamic civil society, and it promoted more transparent
accounting and more useful peer pressure among member nations. It can be
politically difficult for small, poor countries to heed moral lectures
from America; it can be far more palatable to pay attention to guidance
from other small, poor nations facing similar challenges. E.I.T.I.
hardly transformed the world or eliminated autocracy, but it showed a
realistic model of how that might happen.

As of last spring, the Trump Administration seemed to be moving
from years of enthusiastic, bipartisan American support of E.I.T.I. Meanwhile,
Azerbaijan’s full membership was cancelled because of its failure to
continue to heed the organization’s human-rights requirements. Now we
learn that the Trump Administration is abandoning the global pact. The
argument for withdrawal, according to the formal
from the Department of the Interior to the chair of the E.I.T.I. board,
is that U.S. law simply doesn’t allow for the kind of transparency that E.I.T.I. requires. This argument is hard to accept, since the U.S.
played a central role in crafting the rules of E.I.T.I. (The Trump
Administration did say that, while the U.S. itself won’t follow the
rules, it will continue to encourage other countries to follow them.) A
far more convincing thesis has been laid out by one of E.I.T.I.’s
founding voices, Daniel Kaufmann, who points out, in the Financial
that ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other American oil firms do not want to be
compelled to disclose how much they pay in taxes, and that many
corporations do not like E.I.T.I.’s requirement of disclosing the real
names behind extractive-industry-related shell companies.

On its own, the U.S. pulling out of E.I.T.I. could be dismissed as a
relatively obscure move, not one that reflects a retrenchment to a
darker era of American foreign policy. Still, it does show that theTrump Administration is actively implementing, in real policy, its
avowed distrust—even contempt—for international compacts designed to
improve the lives of people around the world. That is terrifying. The
withdrawal required a lot of work by lawyers and experts at the State
Department and the Department of Interior. It is not a spontaneous tweet
or a headline-grabbing bit of meat to toss to the base. It seems
unlikely that Fox News will be talking about the Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative. Abandoning E.I.T.I. is not for show; it is
a move toward dismantling the architecture of global governance. Even if
most Americans won’t notice, the Azerbaijanis—and the leaders of many
other nations—surely will.


via New Yorker

November 10, 2017 at 03:03PM