FOR the fourth time since 1815, world leaders are gathering to discuss ways that the great powers can keep the peace through collective security. The three previous efforts - the founding of the United Nations in 1945, the League of Nations in 1919, and the Concert of Europe in 1815 - failed due to antagonisms between democracies and their authoritarian opponents.
The global trend toward democracy, however, has made the current 47th UN General Assembly the best opportunity for collective security in 177 years. Russian democratization has ensured that all the great powers on the UN Security Council except China are democratic or are aspiring to be so. So are the two great powers not on the Security Council, Germany and Japan. This bodes well for enforcement of collective security by a concert of democratic great powers.
In general terms, we have learned over the last 200 years that democracies do not fight one another. But the great powers can enforce collective security only if they draw bolder lessons from recent conflicts and follow and amplify the advice of UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
In the Kuwaiti and Yugoslavian conflicts, the UN has been more active than at any time since the Korean War. The results were better in the former case than in the latter. But the haphazard cooperation in both conflicts points to the need to modernize outdated UN procedures. If decisiveness, burden-sharing, and compatibility with member states' domestic politics are the criteria, the UN's efforts in Kuwait as well as in Yugoslavia have fallen short.
In the case of Kuwait, the Council took no action to deter an Iraqi attack, and it approved forceful action to evict Iraq from Kuwait only after long delay. The Council left Germany and Japan out of its deliberations, since they are not permanent members, but then pressured them publicly to pay for its decisions. Though successful, this process angered the German and Japanese governments, their citizens, and the United States Congress, making future burden sharing more difficult.
The Balkan fighting demonstrates even more clearly the need for the Security Council, with great power participation, to take action before conflicts escalate. The UN waited to act until regional bodies failed to establish a viable cease-fire and refugees made the civil war an international problem.
The Security Council was further held back by Germany's absence. Germany is the one great power with enough interest in Yugoslavia to have pushed the US and others to face tough choices early on. As it was, American and Russian domestic preoccupations allowed the conflict to escalate to the point that the UN faces fewer and more costly options.
These events warrant three changes to move the UN beyond its cold-war patterns:
First, permanent Security Council membership with full voting rights should be extended to Germany and Japan, the two remaining democratic great powers. That is, provided they change their constitutions to allow contributions to collective security. Japan has already begun to do this. Also, regional powers should constitute a permanent second tier of the Council with voting rights but no veto power. These changes would make the Council more inclusive, representative, and legitimate.
Second, the Council should develop means for earlier involvement in a wider spectrum of conflicts so that "preventative diplomacy" can stop conflicts before they escalate. At present, there is too big a gap between the Council's peacekeeping efforts and peacemaking desires.
The Council should have available intermediate steps, such as deployment of deterrent forces at the request of one party to a conflict. It might also deploy UN forces even without the traditional requirements of a prior cease-fire and rules of engagement that allow UN forces to fire only when fired upon. While these preconditions make sense in some cases, in others they allow the most extreme factions to hold UN efforts hostage, as has happened in Yugoslavia.
To employ forces more flexibly, the Council should follow two of Mr. Boutros-Ghali's recommendations:
* Members should implement the UN founders' plans by allocating some military forces to UN peacekeeping missions. This would give the UN a stronger standing military force as a deterrent.
* Members should pay the $2 billion in overdue contributions for current peacekeeping efforts - transferring it from national defense budgets funds to create a $1 billion endowment and a $50 million quick-response fund for future peacekeeping. Aggressors are unlikely to be deterred unless the UN supplements the 40,000 overstretched and underfunded blue-helmeted UN troops engaged in current peacekeeping operations and eliminates continual wrangling over the size and funding of these forces.
Third, and finally, preventative diplomacy requires a softening of Article 2 of the UN Charter, prohibiting UN involvement in members states' internal affairs.
The line between internal and international affairs has blurred due to increased economic interdependence, more rapid flows of refugees across borders, state-sponsored terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Recognition of the increasingly close tie between internal and international disputes, evident in UN aid to Iraqi Kurds and Balkan civilians, should be developed further.
Kuwait and Yugoslavia highlight the need for a decisive and inclusive UN with a mandate for early action in a wide range of conflicts. This does not mean the UN should intervene in every conflict; its requirement of unanimity among full members will help prevent abuses. This concert of great power democracies has created better prospects for collective security than at any time since Metternich and Castlereagh rewrote the international rules at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. History will not be kind if their successors fail to seize the opportunities in New York in 1992. -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/92/sep/day30/30191.