Friday, April 01, 2011

More on Brazil

I am going to stop flogging this horse soon, but Greg Grandin sent me an email response to yesterday's post about his Brazil argument and kindly agreed to let me post it here.

As to Lula's statement, I think the difference between voting no (if Brazil was a perm member) and abstaining (as a non-perm member) has to do with cost benefit.   As a non-perm member, a vote no would have been ineffectual -- ie, done nothing to stop the bombing -- while possibly giving ammo to those who claim Brazil is too "irresponsible" to have a permanent seat.   Once it had that seat, it could vote/veto as it saw fit, to effect.     It might have been morally cowardly to abstain, as you suggest, but I'd think it has less to do with not wanting to appear to be "doing nothing" than with not taking a righteous yet structurally useless stand and risk giving more excuses to those who would deny it a seat.   And if it was a simple case of being a moral coward, why the strong statement now?   If there is anything those Wikileaks Brazil memos reveal, is that its diplomats and politicians are very good at not getting into pointless rhetorical arguments with US representatives, even as they went about and substantively did the opposite of what the US wanted.    
I get the logic, but the statements and actions of the Brazilian government don't suggest its current strategy is more likely to generate U.S. support for a seat on the Security Council.  I would argue that abstaining and then saying you wouldn't abstain in the future is equally ineffectual, and undermines confidence in your decision-making even further (though indeed perhaps less so than an actual "no" vote).  Obama already refused to support Brazil's bid in any case, showing that Brazil's current actions are less relevant than its past foreign policy deviations from what the U.S. government wants.

FWIW, for an argument about Russia's abstention that was very similar to my argument on Brazil's abstention, see The Monkey Cage.


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