Monday, October 1, 2001

Week of 10/01/2001

The Need For A NEW United Nations
- by David Matthews 2

"It takes time to ruin a world, but time is all it takes."
- Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Following the European horror that was World War I, there was an attempt at creating a worldwide organization that would prevent any future wars. This organization was called The League of Nations, and it was designed under a very creative concept: the collective security against the "criminal" threat of war.

Imagine that! Treating war – the favorite pastime of any government next to raising taxes – as a "crime"!

Unfortunately, the League was a dismal failure.

First, despite repeated attempts by President Woodrow Wilson, who was also one of the creators of this organization, the United States refused to join the League of Nations. Americans, for the most part, were still isolationists. World War I, they felt, was Europe’s trouble, and Europe was a whole ocean away.

Second, the League of Nations failed to resolve several key conflicts… most notably the events that led up to World War II. One of the key countries, Germany, quit the League in 1933 once the Nazis took power. Another key country, Japan, also quit that year following the League’s condemnation of that country’s attack against China. The Soviet Union, who joined the League in 1934, left it five years later after attacking Finland.

In 1940, with World War II well underway, all that was left of the League of Nations was just a handful of bureaucrats that quickly and quietly fled to the United States and Canada for their own safety.

But the idea of a global organization to try to stop war did not die. Instead, it was transferred in 1946 to a new governing body called the United Nations.

Nice idea…. but is it working?

Let’s look at the UN’s track record: the Soviet Union basically kept the UN from acting in Vietnam. It failed to stop the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. It failed to keep the peace in Angola in 1991. The civil war in Somalia became an international fiasco after rebel troops killed 18 US soldiers working under the auspices of the UN and dragged their bodies in front of the media. (And you can thank Bill Clinton for us not carpet-bombing that country back to primordial goo over that incident.) And let’s not forget the refusal of the UN to step into conflicts in Rwanda, Burndi, and Kosovo, or even the taking of US hostages in Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

In fact, it wasn’t the UN that stopped the horror of what was once a country called Yugoslavia, but rather the introduction of US and NATO forces. The UN did absolutely nothing to stop renegade Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic when his people were committing acts of genocide. He had to be ousted by his own people first, and that was only after trying to steal their elections.

How about Panama’s political coup by Manuel Noriega? Did the UN step in and stop him when he invalidated that country’s election and took the duly elected leaders prisoner? Nope, it was the United States that sent troops in, chased Noriega all the way to the Vatican embassy, and then blasted his eardrums with rock music until he surrendered. Of course, we had our own reasons for doing that… Noriega was indicted in the US for drug trafficking.

How about the Gulf War? Well, no the UN did nothing to stop that from happening. America was the one that gathered a coalition of international forces and put an end to Saddam Hussein’s dreams of conquest. Of course, we also had our own reasons then… like oil prices going through the roof.

That takes us up to today’s troubles. Remember the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Well, when the UN failed to deal with that conflict, the United States and other countries began training and supplying the rebel forces there. Some of those rebels, the more devout followers of Shi’a Islam, became the Taliban. When the Soviet Union was chased out of that country, the Taliban – most of whom came from neighboring Pakistan – took over most of the region. So essentially that country went from an invading communist force to an invading theocratic one. The Taliban then gave safe harbor to like-minded terrorist groups, such as Osama Bin Laden and al-Qua’ada. Those groups then spread out and waged a war of terror against the United States.

And guess who has to go in there now and fix that mess? The United Nations? Oh hell no! The United States does, working with the assistance of many nations. It has become our job to go in and root out al-Qua’ada and all of the other organizations that have been given safe harbor to terrorize the civilized world. Of course, here again, we’ve got our own reasons. About seven thousand individual reasons.

Oh yes, the United Nations has done wonders for all sorts for social causes. They do a wonderful job of organizing summits, such as the summit on AIDS, the summit on the environment, the summit on women, and most recently the summit on racism. They do a wonderful job bringing groups of people together to complain about the affairs of the world, and then make a million recommendations that go ignored. Simply smashing! Keep it up!

But let’s get brutally honest here… the United Nations, as peacekeepers, is failing in the same way as the League of Nations did. At peace, they’re wonderful administrators and coordinators of the world’s generosity. At times of conflict, however, they’re proving to be very ineffective bureaucrats.

Of course, let’s not forget that the UN’s hands are tied not only by poor resources, but also very little authority to carry out what they feel needs to be done. Five nations currently have veto power over the UN efforts, and when one of those nations happens to be one of the troublemakers (as the USSR was over Vietnam and Afghanistan), the UN can do nothing except serve as backseat drivers.

The UN is also hindered by the lack of solid military forces. Their vehicles and arms are limited, and their forces come from other nations. They are completely dependent on the stronger nations to provide any kind of real support. Once that happens, though, it is no longer considered a UN situation. It becomes an American problem, or a Russian problem, or a European problem.

Which is why both generations of men named President George Bush did not depend on the UN to handle their respective problems. The elder Bush knew that the UN would let the Middle East burn while the bureaucratic Neros in New York would fiddle away. That’s why he took charge and gathered an international coalition to stand up to Hussein. The younger Bush knows that the same UN that did nothing about Afghanistan in the 1980’s would also do nothing about the end result of that apathy except send aid workers.

I hate to say it, but I really think that the world just is not ready for world peace. There are just too many pissed-off people in the world for the kind of peaceful dialogue the people of the United Nations prefers.

Not to mention people are a bit leery of creating that "New World Order" that the elder Bush often spoke of after the Gulf War. They are afraid – and rightly so – that any kind of one centralized world government would become tyrannical. They point to all of history’s tyrants and their naked ambition to conquer the world. They may want peace on Earth, but they don’t want it to come from Big Brother.

Even regional organizations, such as the European Union, are not universally accepted. Several European nations, including Great Britain, have not yet signed on to the concept of one European body… or at least not signed on entirely. And how can we forget the resistance over the North American Free-Trade Act? Even a common commercial exchange between the United States, Canada, and Latin America was treated adversely.

That’s the reason why so-called "coalition" groups are preferred over one universal organization. Countries may not agree on everything, but when faced with a common threat – such as a terrorist thug like Osama bin Laden – they will work together to resolve that threat.

And maybe that is the way to deal with world affairs for now… not as one collective organization trying to solve all of the world’s problems, but as coalitions dealing with individual problems one at a time.

Perhaps now may not be a good time, but certainly at some point in the near future the whole purpose of the United Nations needs to be reexamined. If their job is to secure the peace and prevent war, then they will need to figure out how they intend to do that, and then get resources they can depend on so they will not be continually dependant on any one power. It probably would also help if they can find a way to override that one country veto power that has stymied the UN for all these years.

I have no doubt that someday we will have that optimistic "science-fiction" kind of future, one where the nations of the world are united in peace, and strive for the betterment of humanity. But the operative word is "someday". As H.L. Mencken put it, that day will only come when "babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands."

Until that day, though, we will have to deal with those whose only version of universal peace comes through universal death. And we cannot deal with them with our heads in the sand and our minds in the clouds.

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