Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Is there an Alternative?

So finals week if over and I can now spend some time placing some thoughts in this blog. So today I ask, is there an Alternative?

The United Nations was created after World War II in San Franciso. It was intended to foster peace and International cooperation. The world had just recently experienced unprecidented destruction, propelled by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and many felt that this happened due to the inadequcies of the League of Nations, whom had been too passive and weak to stand up to the budding dictatorships. The UN was designed to fix the problems surrounding The League of Nations, and never again was the world supposed to see such catosrophic indignity dealt to mankind.

However the UN has not been without its porblems. The most significant case is the genocide in Rwanda. In the early 90's the President of Rwanda was assasinated. The Presidential gaurd, some 30,000 strong, blamed the Tutsis ethnic group. The result was the makings of a genocide. The United Nations got involved, but pulled out in a few days, due to 10 soliders being killed. Over the course of 100 days 800,000 Rwandans were murdered. The most intense genocide in human history. That was 1994.

Currently in Sudan there is a genocide against black africans, in the Dafur region. Since last year around 50,000 have been killed and some 1.4 million have become refugees, if my numbers are correct. The United Nations has only issued sanctions.

It seems that in recent history the UN has proved to be too weak to handle international crisises. This is not the only problem facing the United Nations however. In the realm of International Law, we are seeing states act as rouges of the international community, and the inability of the UN to enforce law. Now I am not only talking about obvious states such as former Iraq and N. Korea. But even amoung the more 'civil' nations. The single largest offender of international law is Israel in regard to its settlements in the west bank, golan heights, and gaza strip. In 1988 the United States was convicted of terrorism for its involvement in nicaragua, a accusation which the US has ignored. How can there be international cooperation, if states are not willing to submit to such a community.

Other problems involve UN structure. We have on the UN human rights commission: Sudan, Libya, and Cuba. All states with atrocious human rights records. On the UN security council are five permanet members: United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and the United States. These countries all have the power to veto the actions of the security council. This really comes down to soverignty. My worry is that this enables certain countries to look out for thier own interests, instead of acting in a way more benificial to the international community. At times I worry that the UN requires a maturity of the world that it does not in fact posses.

Now dont get me wrong, I support the United Nations and even more so the idea of International Community. Those of you who know me understand that I see myself a citizen of the world before I see myself as an American. I am even an International Relations major. But I cannnot let my tendencies towards certian things blind me of thier problems. The UN has a marvelous ability to spark dialouge, highlight areas of conflict, place pressure on nations, and has some very good success stories. But it does have problems and may need an overhaul. I would like it to become stronger, require stricter attributes for membership, and have more accountability for member nations. I hope that it would be come more demoratic, and thus international law will become more legitamite.

So I turn it over to you, what does the future hold for the UN, and what can be done to fix it. Or do we need an alternative, and what does that look like. God Bless--Peace out--Clentch Fists

P.S. I strongly feel that the Rwandan Genocide has been largely overlooked and that we can learn much from looking at it. So here is a great resource for you to chew on for a bit. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/africa/2004/rwanda/default.stm


At 1:33 AM, Blogger RahX said...

You have got to be the most worldly concious person I've had the pleasure of reading the thoughts of.

I only wish I had the ambition, or will, to keep up with all the worlds events and travesties.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Shadow Crescent Knight said...

It's a hot potatoe this one. The U.N. and the U.S. well yeah lets just say the whole global community has really established a conspicuous greedy bureaucracy. Hard to crack. Even harder to stand up. The E.U. has made things even more interesting. The U.N. cowers in the face of genocide. And like it or not the U.S. is the most giving in this department. Yet hahaha ummmm whats in it for "U.S." any way right. Get it haha. I thought it was funny. Could make that a bumper sticker. Ya us is U.S. hahha. Sorry so yeah my brother some times you begin to wonder should we screw all this U.N. bullshit and try something new or ammend and change what is already there. I think we have got to really sit down and reform things already in place. Its tough right now as the Int. Community really hates U.S. hahha See I did it again. Anyway but we really just have to keep on beating our drums until something is done or do it ourselves baby one prayer on shout at a time and storm the gates of injustice any way we can.

- I dont know something like that-

At 4:31 PM, Blogger That one guy said...

You make a good point about the UN and I would love to continue this discussion. On the question of "is there an Alternative," as you posted, I would posit that there is, indeed, an alternative. Before I start, I would point out a few resources that would be helpful on this subject. By far my favorite news source is the economically conservative and socially liberal "The Economist" magazine (or newspaper, as they describe themselves). In a recent issue (which I have, and would willingly lend to anyone who would like to read it), they hashed out what the future of the UN would (and should be). Additionally, while overplayed, the thinktanks in Washington have, indeed, put forth several good articles on the topic. I would refer readers to the authors Lindsay and Daalder at the Brookings Institute. They discussed the issue and an alternative, which, I would posit, is, indeed, a viable alternative, to answer your question.

The United Nations, the "big brother" of the Leauge of Nations, was orignially formed, as you well noted, in a world that was very different than the one we live in today. I would argue that the United Nations has proven, though you might not use such boistrous language, that it is inept and not suited to handle the conflicts of today. You described them as mere "problems" that the UN has had, but I would argue that they go deeper than mere problems to structural inabilities.

It is not possible for the UN to lead the world when it is not followed by all nations. And, the United States, as Colin Powell, John Kerry, George W. Bush, and any viable American politician, has argued (and would argue), the United Nations should not have a veto power of the United States. On that point, they are correct. The United States has stood, at several points, outside the reach of foreign influence (see Kyoto, and the ICC), with good reason--as a superpower, there are several reasons that other nations might want to bring, unjustly, charges against us, plus the laws of the United States, should be able to fully govern our people, at home and abroad (e.g. military courts). Submitting to this higher authority, the United States would draw a large target on its stomach and ties its hands to something. This, with good reason, the United States will not (and should not) do. The United Nations, thus, has a problem.

Once one admits that it is not in the best interest of the United States to submit completely (or unconditionally) to the authority of another body (as the ICC, Kyoto, and UN would have us), the question must be asked, then how can (and should) we relate in an international system? "Is there an Alternative?," as you asked.

Without the United States, there are two options, go on as the US-less UN or scrap the UN. These leave three scenarios. First: A UN without the US could gain power and could create a second center of power in the world (a second "pole") and we would find ourselves in a multi-polar world (This could happen, anyway, if the EU gets its stuff together and Chirac has his way). We saw, in the Cold War, how good that was. Second: the UN could limp along without any economic or military power, as its main force (see Bosnia)--the US--would be absent. The UN would exist, thus, as a pipedream of many Europeans and smaller nations. Third: An international system could be built without the United Nations. I discuss this below, and, thus, will leave that scenario for then.

We are not the first to talk about the problems of the UN (see "The Economist," Lindsay & Daalder, et cetera), and a few options have been offered for the future. I am going to bring up two options--one more viable than the other--and leave them for comment.

First, expansion of the UN Security Council--the only body with power in the UN. This is, actually, being thrown around as a possible option for the future. The expansion could come in a variety of ways. One suggestion is having a three tiered system (permanent members with veto, permanent members without veto, non-permanent members). Another is to simply add veto-wielding permanent members. Nations being considered/arguing for the permanent (veto-wielding positions) are Germany (Europe's largest economy), Japan (the largest economy in the world, behind the US), Brazil (there is no South American Country as of yet), and the possibility of an African nation.

I would argue, as the United States--no doubt--also will, that expanding the number of veto-yielding countries would be a bad thing. However, I would love to have comment on the topic in general.

The idea above is covered, brilliantly, in the Special Report on the UN in "The Economist."

The second option is to scrap the United Nations. This, no doubt, would leave a large hole in the international system and something would have to be done to replace it. "The Economist" recommended a strengthening of NATO and other current non-UN alliances. This, they argued, would keep the US and Europe together (arguably the two most important centers of power--see the possibility of the EU rising as a second pole, and the current presence of American hegemony), and, from there, the world system would work itself out. A second option in a non-UN world would be to form, as Lindsay and Daalder recommend, a union of democratic nations (not John Kerry supporters, but followers of democracy). Democratic nations do not attack other democratic nations--or so the arguement goes.

I leave these ideas with you and one last question: is it any wonder that Israel is the largest violator of UN resolutions, when the UN is, largely, anti-Israel?

Peace be with each of you.



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