The U.N. Is Irrelevant
Date: Monday, March 17 @ 11:49:48 UTC
Topic: United Nations
by Charley Reese
It's typical of the Bush team's polemical tactics to try to dismiss the United Nations as irrelevant if it doesn't buckle to President Bush's demands for an instant war against Iraq. It's also nonsense.
As for the hoopla about vetoes, the United States is second only to the Soviet Union in exercising the U.N. veto. The score card, compiled by the BBC News, is: the Soviet Union/Russia, 120 vetoes (only two of those since the Soviet Union collapsed); the United States, 76 vetoes — 35 used to block criticism of Israel (that old double standard has the United States in its grip); the United Kingdom, 32 vetoes, of which 23 were votes cast with the United States; France, 18 vetoes, 13 of which were in support of the United States' position; and China, 5 vetoes.
You should know that the United Nations, established at the end of World War II, was designed to allow the victorious Allies to rule the world. In the U.N. charter, the only power lies in the Security Council. Only it can levy sanctions and wage war. The General Assembly has no means of enforcing any resolutions it might pass.
So the builders of the United Nations, which were the five World War II Allies, reserved all the power for the Security Council and awarded themselves five permanent seats and the veto. A "no" vote by any of the five permanent members is a veto. As that old saying about plans, mice and men goes, the five Allies soon had a falling out before they could run the world to suit themselves.
The Soviet Union and the United States started the Cold War and used their vetoes often to frustrate each other. France and the United Kingdom, originally considered among the great powers, were so weakened by the war and the loss of their respective empires that they had to more or less take a back seat, though it was still a permanent seat with a veto. Originally, the Nationalists held the China seat, but after they were driven off the mainland, communist China eventually evicted them from the United Nations and took their place.
So that's the background. The pseudo-outrage over a French or Russian veto is just that — phony outrage. The United States has always adopted a cynical attitude toward the United Nations. When it suited the United States' purposes, it used the United Nations as political cover; when it didn't, the United States ignored the United Nations and has often prevented the organization from acting (the 35 vetoes of resolutions critical of Israel are an example). In fact, the United States has kept the United Nations from playing any role at all in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, ironically, was created by the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union, using the United Nations as a mechanism.
Don't worry that the United Nations will become irrelevant. Since it lacks any power except that granted by the five permanent members, it has always been irrelevant. It cannot prevent any of the five major powers from doing anything it chooses to do, nor can it coerce any of them. It is not, as some imagine, a world government. In that sense, the United Nations is a fraud, and at best, assuming the five members could agree, it would be just a dictatorial oligarchy.
What is afoot today has nothing to do with Iraq. It has to do with whether the world will be run by the United States or by a consensus of nations. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a power imbalance. No nation is so powerful, militarily or economically, as the United States. The United States has the power and, since the election of George Bush, the intention of running the world to suit itself. The United Kingdom has decided to tag along, but this has brought China, Russia, France, Germany and other countries together in an effort to find a way to thwart U.S. hegemony.
Unless we wish to follow the foolish path, we will remember that our power is relative and therefore temporary. We can tell the rest of the world to go to hell today, but if we do, one day we will find ourselves overpowered by a coalition of enemies we will have created. That will not be pleasant.
© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.