View Full Version : The Future Of The UN
02-13-03, 02:55 AM
There are some great foreign relations minds here, so just thought I'd throw this out for discussion. I've heard some people whom have proved credible in other manners claiming that the next few months could see the effective demise of the United Nations. The typical scenario is a French/Russian/Chinese Security Council veto followed by a successful invasion and smashing irrelevance for the UN and states heavily invested in it. Any thoughts?
02-13-03, 11:13 AM
I think the question, though, is this: will the UN, if the above scenario occurs, still be an effective international body, or will it go the way of the League of Nations?
02-13-03, 12:42 PM
Good analysis on the goals as you suggested them. However, I think we should let the UN 'self-identify' their goals on this one. The purpose of the UN is explicitly stated Chapter I, Article I, 1-4:The Purposes of the United Nations are:
[list=1] To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
[/list=1]I would suggest, though it's mostly opining, that the first sub-section is the most important for keeping the UN effective. That is, if the UN looses its ability to maintain international security, it's other goals cannot be as easily furthured. Without the big stick, as it were, no words are going to persuade those who choose to do otherwise.
If nations take to ignoring the UN, I think the parallel to the League of Nations is quite accurate.
02-13-03, 08:14 PM
Libya chairs the human rights commission. Iraq becomes head of the disarmament wing in the near future. The UN's various projects are corrupted to an extent unusual in the democratic world ("sex for food" at a US institution would practically lead to hangings in the Capitol, not the "Oh well, more of the same" feeling that it received when it happened under UN auspices). UN peacekeeping operations keep the peace only until someone comes along with a determined desire for genocide -- and then the blue hats pack up and wash their hands of the whole affair.
But the UN is still useful, you're right. Its nice to get all of our friends together and have a chat about global issues and hopefully work out some mututally satisfying compromises.
But notice we don't need the UN for that. Bilateral agreements or even competing multinational agreement frameworks would work just as fine. Do we really need the International Conference on Racism, anyway? The UN is fast approaching the status of "the world's largest faculty meeting", where the rhetoric is shrill but the stakes debated are miniscule.
Yes, the Bush Administration is staking a lot on the UN. Thats a political calculation -- it makes it easier to keep away the Dems at home and placate our friends in Old Europe. Lets pretend that, despite us jumping through all the hoops, our friends in Old Europe decide to veto the invasion (or do something similarly idiotic in another context weeks, months, years down the line). Bush could decide to maintain the SQ... or he could decide to say "Screw them". And if he says "Screw them", there is a definite chance the American people would agree with him. That would spell the end of the organization as anything but a travel subsidy for world diplomats.
02-15-03, 07:01 AM
Don't confuse the problems in the UN system right now with the legitimacy of the UN overall.
Bush could decide to maintain the SQ... or he could decide to say "Screw them". And if he says "Screw them", there is a definite chance the American people would agree with him. That would spell the end of the organization as anything but a travel subsidy for world diplomats.
That or it would hurt the legitimacy of the United States in the eyes of the international community.
I don't think it would mean the end of the organization, it's not like it would be the first time we said "Screw the UN," the Reagan administration was very good at that.
02-15-03, 08:59 AM
What would happen without the UN?? and / or if the US decided to pull out...
Besides diplomats in NYC being forced to move and pay parking tickets....
The problem is that the UN provides a context or format for discussions among all nations... sort of like warm rooms do in debate. Without the UN, the system becomes more reliant on back-channel communications etc... sort of like NPDA pre-warm room... where judges were mined for which teams they picked-up and that info was traded for other info along an inside network of alliances... hmm, NPDA =UN, interesting possible resolution ;)
What do you think?
ps, sorry to muck up a good political discussion with NPDA talk, but the similarites are there....
03-03-03, 09:29 AM
I think that france's isolationist policy is what is making the un irrelevent. what is the point of a organisation which cannot enforce its own mandates? perhaps thier seat should be ceded to a more relevant player in the global community, such as south korea.
03-03-03, 10:36 AM
First, Bush has stated several times that he will not be bound by a United Nations veto.
Second, Bush has effectively suggested that unless the United Nations supports him, they will become irrelevant.
Doesn't the fact that Bush does not consider the veto binding make the United Nations irrelevant no matter what their decision is? If they say no to Bush, he ignores them, making the UN irrelevant. If they say yes, they have buckled to the pressure applied by the US against the will of the peoples of the countries they represent, making them, again, irrelevant.
03-03-03, 05:38 PM
I'm not saying that the United Nations will become irrelevant because of Bush. I'm merely speaking in the context of Bush's remarks. If Bush is honestly going to do what he wants regardless of the United Nations' decision, how can that decision be relevant? The only place I am suggesting that the United Nations' relevance is in question is in Bush's mind. My problem is that his administration seems to be blind to the fact that the logic of their argument makes the UN irrelevant no matter what they decide.
03-03-03, 09:21 PM
Why do you assume that a single decision can make the entire organization relevant or not? You keep acting as if the entire existence of the United Nations will be determined by this ONE issue and whether the UN comes into line with the Americans or not. I think you are granting way too much power to the United States. Sure, the U.S. might very well act contrary to the United Nations' preferences but that doesn't make it "irrelevant" any more than the UN was "irrelevant" when Israel, the Soviet Union, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, acted contrary to UN resolutions.
Is it possible that it was irrelevant then, too? ;)
Here is my major problem with the organization and, for that matter, the whole idea of a supranational legal framework which could bring peace and order to selfish nation-states and their short-term interests : its based, of necessity, on mututal consent. When a UN decree doesn't have mututal consent behind it, it is a worthless piece of paper. We don't need the UN to establish mutual consent for most of our policies -- Britain is not going to jack our tariffs through the roof because its against their interests to do so, not because it is mandated by a specific international agency. France is not prevented from executing its minorities by the Covenant on Human Rights. Canada is not stopped from invading Montana by the moral legitimacy of the Security Council.
And, on the flipside, we can lecture the Sudan until doomsday and it will not stop the slave trade. Sanctions? Their efficiency is directly determined by the profit other nations could gain by undermining them. Internationally sanctioned military operations? Well, thats a plus -- but its a charade. "We" know it, "they" know it, and there is no magical barrier that prevents us from explaining that fact to the public at large (either at home or abroad). A certain group of nations are always in our corner, another group usually is depending on their interests in the given matter, and the rest just hate our guts. Nobody is in the first group because of our respect for the UN, and no one is in the last group because of our disrespect for it.
(Actually, I would tend to argue that the first group is just a subset of the second group whose interests happen to be identical to ours but could well change, but thats pretty academic.)
Prestige is the currency of international relations? Hmm, not sure if I buy that. Prestige is one type of what Nye called soft power -- one of many, and not one that is particularly valuable in my estimation. When is the last time we effected our preference set because of our prestige, not because we had a hard power lever or other sort of soft power to leverage?
In dealing with Iraq and North Korea, we're trading commodities with real worth (Saddam's continued existence on this earth, fuel oil, etc) for a currency which we have a vague estimation of and they have no use for ("international legitimacy"). International legitimacy isn't worth a Continental*. According to its exponents, we can increase ours by bribing the French/Russians prior to military action, and decrease it by failing to so bribe them. And we can then spend our hard earned currency on... well, maintaining our prestige in the UN? It seems to me that this is self-rationalizing, and only self-rationalizing.
We're not the emerging hegemon because we piously go to the Security Council for their blessing before working for our national interests. We're the hegemon for a combination of reasons, including but not limited to overwhelming military and economic strength, strong connection to an ideology rapidly becoming the world's SOLE preference set, and a few good friends in the right (physical and metaphorical) places.
Now, in the SQ its not advantageous to pull out of the UN. For one, the political havoc it would wreak at home isn't worth it. But that isn't written in stone. Action over a UN veto which proved to be very successful could be used to justify other such action in the future (just call me Mr. Slippery Slope ;) ) by non-uniquing the "hurts our credibility" disad... and then we might seriously ask the question "Now why did we ever care about these guys anyhow?"
* Yeah, its the worst pun I ever made.
03-03-03, 11:20 PM
Perhaps I have not adequately articulated my position. I do not think that the United Nations is irrelevant, or will become irrelevant because of Bush. I am merely trying to point out the illogic of Bush's claims that the UN will become irrelevant if they do not concur with him.
This is what I am saying: Bush says that the United Nations must agree to his plan to be relevant, correct? However, he has also indicated that he will do what he wishes, regardless of the UN's decision. So, according to the logic of our current administration, the UN is only relevant so long as the methods by which it enforces its own resolutions are dictated by Washington. How is it that Bush thinks that the UN is more relevant when it can be bullied around?
I don't think that Bush's inability to make a logical and cogent argument, or his attempt at defining the role of the UN, has any bearing on it's actual relevance. I'm sorry I didn't say that clearly enough the first two times.
03-04-03, 05:46 PM
I agree with the observation that the anti-war movement as a whole has not yet developed a mature rhetorical style. In fact, I think that real maturity is lacking on both sides of the question. That, I think, is actually part of the problem.
Those who, like myself, reside on the left side of the political spectrum, want a strong UN but don't like the idea of an invasive enforcement mechanism. Those on the right, on the other hand, clamor for a UN with very limited jurisdiction, but that has the capacity to enforce its dictates. Or so it seems to me, at least.
03-04-03, 11:40 PM
Once again, you are missing the point of what I am saying. I am suggesting that neither the position of those to whom I bear an ideological resemblance, nor the position of those I generally disagree with, are mature, developed positions. I thought my earlier post implied this. What needs to be reached is a middle ground; a United Nations that has a significant role in international relations, considerable jurisdiction, and an effective enforcement mechanism.
Just because people with whom I generally agree advocate a toothless UN doesn't mean that I do. I may be liberal, but I am not a mindless automoton. Considering my statements about my ideological problems with the current tone of the anti-war movement, I thought this was clear as well. I'm sorry for any confusion.
03-05-03, 09:43 PM
Originally posted by tutakai
I know that is what you are advocating. That is all fine and good but your advocacy is vague at this point. I am pressing you to give a clearer definition of what kind of "effective enforcement mechanism" of which you conceive.
My advocacy is vague because on this point my argument is exceptionally weak. I have at various times considered several different enforcement mechanisms; an army of the United Nations, far stronger economic sanctions (to the point of blockade and total embargo), denial of humanitarian aid, etc. All of them seem to create serious problems that cannot easily be remedied. Perhaps you have some suggestions?
Personally, I have a bias towards the economic sanctions end of the spectrum, but complete embargo and blockade necessarily require a military force to implement.
03-10-03, 02:36 AM
It's hardly Mr. Bush who is making the UN irrelevant, it is the UN itself. We could all save alot of money by turning that prime realistate in Manhatten into offices rather than a group of nations who cannot uphold thier own mandates. Once the UN shows courage then it will be seen as a respecable body.
The bottom line is that there must be an ultimatim made at some point, because having the inspections go on any longer is ludacris. It has been 12 years since resolution 1285, and the only thing that has changed in the regoin has been 300,000 American and British troops. This is proof that force, or the credible threat of it, is the only language Mr. Hussain understands; not the oil for food program, not UN sanctions, not inspections. Having the inspections continue for an indefinite period of time will eliminate the risk of war, negate the presence of troops, and render inspections uselss. Asking for more time for inspections is proof that they have failed. War is needed, and needed now.
03-11-03, 03:07 AM
-If the UN passes a resolution and then fails to uphold this resolution is a nation that upholds this resolution unilaterially in violation of international law? Regarding Iraq, many claim that the US is violating internationl law by not abiding by the wishes of the security council or even the general assembly. But if the security council is itself in violation of its own laws then the US is within the bounds of international law by ignoring the security council. People tend to forget that the US's peace with Iraq was contingent upon complete Iraqi disclosure and dissarmament. The myriad resolutions throughout the 1990s and resolution 1441 merely add to this point.
-Why do many people equate any actions of the U.N with international law? According to the Hague conventions (which are the most important pieces of international law to date) non-state actors (unlawful combatants) should recieve no rights. Jeremy Rabkin states that "The opposing side can rightly claim to be strengthening international standards by denying legitimacy to forces that systematically violate the laws of war." Yet the United Nations has continually countenanced non-state actors, as seen with Arafat.
-I'm not affraid to make the obvious point that most of the world's countries don't deserve a public forum to castigate the world's successful nations. The grotesque examples of Libya, Sudan, and Iraq chairing committees reveals only a small part of the problem. Countries that don't believe in capitalism and democracy have no right to influence the successful Western nations and their immitators. Allowing them to do so only prolongs their oppresive control domestically and ruin Western resolve internationally. I'm fine with France and Germany opposing the US because they are at least ostensibly democratic and capitalist. But if we peel away their advocacy it becomes apparent that their support for Saddam has less to do with ideals and more to do with the nagging influence of the Arab block.
03-11-03, 07:26 AM
here here! :hearhear:
and to add to your last point, why is china, a country with a history of gross human rights violations, aggressivness and dictatorship have any place to convict the united states, the oldest democracy in the world, of being unjust in thier stance on iraq? how can they be alowed to be a leader in the symbol of global democracy and freedom?
03-11-03, 09:12 AM
The difficulty that I have with your first argument is that the United States has routinely violated international law with impunity. As a nation unthreatened by UN action, the US has continually acted without regard for UN resolutions or the Hague Convention. Almost any example of foreign policy in the Reagan administration (esp. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) are examples of this. If, then, our contention is that Iraq must be disarmed, our only argument can be that this is because they are a threat to us. Iraq's violation of UN resolutions is worthless in argumentation, given our history of same.
The United Nations is an international body that enacts resolutions to arbitrate disputes between member nations, and restrict the behaviors of member nations, to promote the general welfare of the people of the world. This seems to me to be international law, if nothing else. The problem is not that the UN is sufficiently clearly a body of international law, it is that it has no capacity to enforce the laws that it passes. Considering our unwillingness to comply with UN resolutions, I think we can hardly consider ourselves the UN's enforcers.
What about Sweden? They consider their economic system to be socialism. While they entertain capitalist markets in some areas, many are controlled by the government (agriculture, mass transit, power, telecommunications, information technology, health care, and several other areas). Does that mean that they do not have a right to challenge our decisionmaking, since, at least nominally, they do not share our economic system? What about the majority of nations that support war with Iraq, most of which are not democratic, or are only democratic in name and not in practice?
I certainly don't think that France and Germany have motives any more impeachable than our own, but I've talked too long already, and breakfast is nearing.
03-11-03, 09:53 AM
The UN never passed any resolutions againts the regan administration for thier action against nicuragua etc, but they also failed to pass a resolution autorizing the use of force in Yugoslavia to stop ethnic clensing. The un is hardly upon some moral pedistal, it is governed by countries with thier own intrests and agentdas which often times preven them from doing what would best uphold the values of the un charter.
What about Sweden? They consider their economic system to be socialism. While they entertain capitalist markets in some areas, many are controlled by the government (agriculture, mass transit, power, telecommunications, information technology, health care, and several other areas). Does that mean that they do not have a right to challenge our decisionmaking, since, at least nominally, they do not share our economic system?
The last time i checked, sweeden had not invaded and occupied a forieng country, kill millions of religious activists and people protesting for democratic change.
I could go on for longer, but im hungry!
03-11-03, 03:45 PM
Originally posted by patriot_2006
The last time i checked, sweeden had not invaded and occupied a forieng country, kill millions of religious activists and people protesting for democratic change.
That is true, but that is also not the comment that I was referring to. I was referring to Properwinston's comment, "Countries that don't believe in capitalism and democracy have no right to influence successful western nations and their immitators." I, personally, believe that Sweden does have a right to be heard in international circles, despite their less thorough acceptance of capitalism.
As to your comment on Nicaragua, I think Tutakai has answered it better than I could.
I would also like to thank Tutakai for his analysis on "influence" as the currency of international relations. I would add also "credibility" to the list of costs of American foreign policy in South America during the Reagan administration, though I guess credibility and influence go hand in hand.
03-12-03, 03:35 PM
It is exactly this credibility and influence currency the UN will loose if the iraqi inspections are allowed to go on for much longer...
03-12-03, 08:38 PM
Whatever credibility or influence the United Nations has lost as a result of its failure to enforce its resolutions (esp. 1441) cannot be regained by siding with the United States. As I've already argued, it's as damaging to the UN to buckle to political pressure from the US against the will of the majority of its member nations as it is for it to continue on its current course.
Remember also that the most recent of the resolutions Bush argues the UN must enforce were hastily drafted, ill-considered documents rammed through the UN during the US' brief period of post-9/11 international support. Even so, I'm not sure (from the limited amount of reading I have done of the texts of these resolutions) that the conditions the resolutions set for the use of force have yet been met, at least according to the letter of the documents in question. Certainly, Saddam is in violation of the spirit of the resolutions, but the spirit of a law is not the legal standard by which it is applied.
The disarmament of the Republic of South Africa, held up as a model of cooperation by the US, took four years of continuous inspections. We have had a few months, thus far, in Iraq. While it has been twelve years since the first resolutions were passed, we have never had inspection regimes so thorough as we could have, or for a prolonged period of time. This is a very real solution, in my estimation. At the very least, it exhausts the last untried peaceful solutions.
Given the United States' lack of credibility on the international stage, especially with regard to "regime change" in third world countries, I don't even pay attention to President Bush's arguments anymore. At least Prime Minister Tony Blair is making a case. Every time I see Congressman McInnis (R, Colorado?) or another one of Bush's lackeys making statements on C-span about Saddam's access to Sarin or Mustard gas, or, in the final analysis, Anthrax, and about how insane he must have been to use it in the Iran/Iraq war I am overwhelmed by the hypocrisy. We sold him those substances during that war specifically so that he could use them against the Iranians.
The policy of the anti-war members of the UN cannot be considered appeasement. The UN is not giving in to demands by the dictator of Iraq, as Neville Chamberlain did prior to WWII. Also, do not marginalize what is being done; UN inspectors are actively demanding results, and we are holding the threat of violence over Saddam's head to ensure his compliance. He is, in turn, giving ground, little by little.
At the risk of sounding pathetic, I think it needs to be said that erring on the side of peace is better than erring on the side of war. If we go to war, Saddam will use his own people as human shields, as he has always done. Innocent men, women, and children will die. He will place strategic SAM batteries atop hospitals, AA guns atop schools. He will withdraw to the cities and force us to fight him there. And he will be safe and hidden until all but the final moments. Nobody has given a good estimate of the costs of war in terms of innocent lives. That's because it cannot be predicted. What credibility will we have as the "liberators" of the people of Iraq if we kill ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or a million of them?
I think that the risks of the war are far too great to justify rushing to war without first exhausting all available diplomatic options. Considering that an expansion of the scope and intrusiveness of the inspection regime has not yet been tried, we cannot argue that we have exhausted all such options.
We must all hope that the inspections make Saddam so angry that his head explodes, like this delightful smiley: :angry
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