30 July, 2006

International View of the UN

After reading a couple of recent opinion articles in the Gulf News, I have a question, especially for those who are not Americans.

The editorials that I'm referring to are "Who are the real cowards?" and "Meaningless in New York". Both of these pieces seem to place a lot more faith in both the power and the mission of the UN than the average American. For example, the authors use phrases like "this august body that believes itself capable of ruling the world" and "[f]or the first time in the history of the 60-year-old organisation, the Security Council ... is refusing to carry out its role".

I'm sure to most Americans the strangest phrase is "the UN ... has become subservient to US dictates". I think that the US perception of the UN is that it almost never does what the US wants it to do (for example, get tough on Iran's nuclear program).

Anyway, I'm just curious as to what other nationalities think about the UN.


Anonymous said...

june 23rd was the 12th day of war??? misprint,gulf nudes!

Georgia said...

The UN has become a totally ineffective, pointless toothless tiger and it'll stay that way for as long as the US arrogantly presumes to rule the world.

secretdubai said...

I think the point is that America and Americans don't want the UN to succeed in any way, as they see it taking away from their absolute power.

America generally rips the balls of any international consensus it can, and does its own thing.

Still, the greenback should be collapsing in the next 5-7 years, we'll see how they feel then. Hopefully by then the GCC will have had the cojones to repeg to something else, though I'll be long gone, so I won't care.

Brn said...


I'm not sure what you mean by succeed. What would a sucessful UN do? Do you mean that the the Security Council would be able to solve problems like the current conflict? Or something else?

UN-fan-boy said...

The UN is the best hope we have for peace and stability in the world, whether it's the Lebanon war or anything else. What the US should do is throw it's full weight - power and influence - behind the UN. The more countries we get behind the UN, the better it is. The UN cannot be any stronger, any more powerful, any more effective, than the member countries (and especially the security council) allows it to be. That said, I think the security council should be revised, and especially there should be no more permanent members. That's an archaic construction from many years ago that is not valid anymore. No country should be above any other country. With permanent members, a handful of countries can override everybody else. I think the US needs to realize it's should be a friendly neighbour in the international community, not the bully they are presently seen as in most parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

We need a Babylon 5 ;-)

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind -- ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and aliens can work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call -- home away from home -- for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens, wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal . . . all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5."

Woke said...

I agree with UN-fan-boy(!).

I think an organization like the UN can never succeed without the help of the member countries, especially the superpowers.

Eventhough the UN is virtually powerless in the face of countries like US excercising its political clout to do as it pleases, it is important for all countries to keep it atleast alive, to have some hope for peace and co-existence in future.

Balushi said...

UN is like a sleeping dick!!!- sounds may something, and it is something but uneffective and useless

BD said...

Perhaps the UN's Security Council should be disolved with the remaining UN allowed to focus more on humanitrian issues, as opposed to political and security issues.

In it's present capacity, it really doesn't work, nor do I think it ever did. If it is not the lopsided US veto today, it was the incessant vetos of the two superpowers cancelling one other out--when the USSR was still prominent.

There are few complaints or obstacles when the UN tries to address something like the 2004 tsunami disaster, for example.

Still the world needs an international body to help resolve political and military disputes, but neither the UN nor the Security Council seem to fit the bill.

I'm American, by the way, but my views I'm sure aren't typically American.

Seabee said...

Like anywhere else in this life, if a committee is running something it doesn't work very well. The UN isn't a single entity, it's a committee.

It has too many individual interests being pursued, too much hypocrisy from members who interfere with its effectiveness and then blame "the UN" for the failure.

Examples are the veto power in the Security Council, Resolutions passed but can't be enforced because individual members won't enforce them.

The USSR and USA used the UN to push their own agendas, now it's only the US. Next will be China & the US battling in the Security Council. And so it goes on.

As long as we have superpower(s) pushing its/their own interests over the interests of the rest of the world the essential work of an international body like the UN can't be done.

marwan said...

UN = solely humanitarian organisation at present, and not a very good one, if Darfur is any judge.

As long as the Security Council exists - a committee within a comittee - nothing will be done, because certain members are more equal than others.

It's sad, but the UN are the mop up boys after the superpower party is over. They can't even guarantee the safety of their own observers, so what chance do they have of maintaining peace?

I say let everyone have it and whoever emerges from the dust is crowned galactic ruler.

Seabee said...

You may have just seen the debate - Kofi Annan pleading with the Security Council members to heed his words, do as he asked earlier and force an immediate ceasefire. That's all the UN can do, ask its members to behave like civilised human beings.

Fat chance!

i, Bobo said...

I kind of want to comment but I've got this whole American thing hanging over my head...

I've read some good ideas here -- most prominently the idea that the UN should abandon the Cold War paradigm of certain nations having permanent membership on the Security Council. This would force the US (and China & Russia, for that matter) to build consensus opinions.

But I reject this notion that the UN has never been effective, particularly in relation to security issues. I think Korea might be the best example of it working reasonably well. Granted, the Korean war isn't actually over yet -- but a ceasefire has been in place for going on fifty years and South Korea has become a strong player in the global economy.

A lack of patience -- I think that's the main problem with policymakers these days. Nobody has any kind of long term vision anymore. Nobody's thinking along the lines of "well, it's a Cold War and it may take forty years but if we stand our ground eventually things will work out."

But what do I know -- I'm just another one of those bellicose Americans...

Al Sinjab said...

I have faith in the UN but I think these articles missed a lot of what the UN is about.

In the first article I disagreed with Baik's premise - that these actions are cowardly. I think they are motivated by self-interest rather than cowardice. Just as tragic. And I'm not sure what al Baik meant when he wrote, "for the first in [its] history...the security council is refusing to carry out its role." Surely he can only be refering to conflicts between states, for there are many examples within the past decade where the Security Council failed to act within states. But Hezbollah isn't a state and that is may be part of the reason why this situation is more difficult for the security council to address.

And, as you noted, I thought this line from the second article was particularly strange: "This august body that believes itself capable of ruling the world."

The UN isn't a body that attempts to govern the world; I think that was quite an American way of looking at it. (Viewing it as a potential Leviathan instead of an institution for collaboration.) It is a forum for discussion. If the author took this into account then perhaps they could look beyond the failures of the Security Council and appreciate the issues that have been addressed by the General Assembly. The UN has achieved a lot of good in "soft" politics - issues regarding poverty, education and women's rights are often on the GA agenda. To ignore these areas is to ignore the roots of violence. The UN has helped states in these areas and even when these goals are not met the UN provides a venue where states can be reminded of their importance.

So I guess I was surprised by the same lines as you, but to me they undermined the UN's achievements instead of showing faith in it.

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