In yesterday’s Belmont Club comments (on a
post concerning Kofi Annan’s recent proposals for UN reform), a conversation arose among a group of committed UN-skeptics:
|SANGELL:||Yes, modernize the Security Council. Give the seat France currently has to the EU. Award a permanent veto bearing seat to India and Japan. Let the other large nations ( my criterion population over 100 million, GDP of 1 trillion) have rotating full membership. Let the small General Assembly nations vote for one member to represent them on a rotating basis.|
|Baron Bodissey:||Sangell — I think that’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The UN is compromised in its core functions. Wretchard is right: the UN can only give the patina of legitimacy to what the great powers agree among themselves to do. And when they can’t agree, one or more will do it anyway. The UN is a diabetic monster sucking out the sugar from the American taxpayer.|
|SANGELL:||Agreed Mr. Bodissey, the UN is a monstrous organization but it isn’t going to be dissolved so we have to deal with it ( or do we?) My point was by supporting the removal of an exclusive French seat in favor of a UN seat we play a little mischief with ‘Old Europe’ and by including Japan and India, which the Bush team already support, we do ourselves no harm and force Japan to take a more direct role in world affairs.
As the UN now stands the larger and more cumbersome we can make the machinery of the UN the less likely it will be used against us. which is the direction many in Europe would like to take it. Having India and Japan on the SC weakens that possibility
|Annoy Mouse:||Diplomacy is war by other means: If we were to “pull out” of the UN, you could expect the formation of another League of Nations, perhaps the EU, China, and Russia. I wouldn’t put it past Schroeder and Chirac to do just that. We wouldn’t even be privy to their deliberations or more likely we’d be the brunt of their findings. This could, probably would create serious consequences for our policies abroad, our trade relations, and it would probably create a greater rift between the Blue-Red states internally. Even moderates might fear that the US is “going it alone” or at least being barred from its’ proper seat at the big global table. I think the EU would get a sadistic kick out of this. Most people I know think Political Correctness is a bunch of hooey, but you can be damn sure that they will play the semantics game to ensure that they will not be consumed by the ravages of the PC police at school, work, and at home. So feign a little obeisance, do the UN turkey dance, talk the drivel. It doesn’t cost that much and in the end it does more than nothing…it keeps worse things from happening.|
Upon further reflection, this topic cries out for a longer response.
The League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, were created in the aftermath of the Great War in reaction to its horrors: Nothing like that must ever happen again. An idealistic vision was born, midwifed by Woodrow Wilson, as well-meaning members of the educated elites visualized a world without war, in which conflicts were mediated and short-circuited by an international deliberative body.
The League of Nations, of course, failed to prevent another and even greater conflagration just over twenty years after the first. The United Nations arose from the formal alliance of the victorious powers in World War II, expanding after the war to become the bureaucratic entity we all know and love today.
Neither organization ever proved empirically to have any utility in preventing armed conflict between and among nation-states. The League was a signal failure, and the two successes of the UN (Korea, Gulf War I) can be attributed to serendipity — the Soviet Union was unable to interfere in both cases. The failures notched on the UN’s belt are numerous: Vietnam, Sino-Indian wars, Arab-Israeli wars, Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq war, Somalia, Rwanda, and now Darfur.
In the years since Hitler drank the hemlock in the Göttedämmerung of his bunker, the keeping of what peace there has been can be attributed to two primary causes: the atomic bomb, and the armed might of the United States.
The UN has provided cover for what the great powers have wanted to do anyway, or for their inaction when they want to do nothing. Acting in their several interests, they consult among themselves, and when a consensus is reached, the Security Council passes the appropriate resolution. When consensus is not reached, various combinations of the great powers act anyway, according to their interests and consulting with one another through the usual channels.
What Annoy Mouse describes is quite plausible, but such doings went on before the UN, have gone on during its tenure, and would continue after its demise. The interests of nations will be acted upon, UN or no UN.
The armed might of the United States continues to be the primary regulator of the process. Now that it is the sole great power, the lesser powers tend to collude in order to thwart and circumvent it. But, arguably, the UN is the collective exemplar of such obstruction — it gives the patina of legitimacy to a process whose main goal is to bring down the United States, becoming, in effect, a League of Ankle-Biters.
Make no mistake: the necessity of kowtowing to the UN charade has its deadly consequences. By delaying for six months what Britain and the US would have done anyway, the farcical run-up to the Iraq war in the UN telegraphed to Saddam exactly what he was to expect, allowing him to arrange for the insurgency and move his banned weapons to their caves in Syria or the Bekaa Valley. It also guaranteed that Turkey would get cold feet and deny the 4th Infantry passage through its territory.
How many more Iraqis were blown up because of all this high-minded folderol? How many innocent civilians were beheaded? How many more US Marines lay dead in the back alleys of Fallujah, all in order that Emperor Kofi could give the thumbs-down to the removal of a tyrant?
First do no harm. The UN fails the Hippocratic test.