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Is the UN a "Toothless Debating Society"?(21 posts)

Is the UN a "Toothless Debating Society"?moneyman
Feb 18, 2003 8:13 AM
I have heard that phrase used extensively in the recent past. The reluctance of the UN to enforce its own sanctions seems to lend credibility to that image.

Personally, I believe it has devolved into that capacity. The League of Nations was much the same, which was part of the reason for its ineffectiveness and demise prior to WWII. If the parent of an unruly child tells the child punishment is coming, yet it never does, the child figures out that he can get away with pretty much anything he wants to.

What say you?

If the world's most powerful nation chooses to ignore it...Silverback
Feb 18, 2003 8:29 AM
We've condemned Russia and China many times for not going along with the sympathies and positions of the U.N., but now that it's not doing what WE want, the Bush administration feels no qualms about pushing ahead on our own. The UN obviously has no way of enforcing its rules if a major nation, particularly the U.S. with its enormous economic and military power, won't comply. If it fails in this case, as seems inevitable, I think the blame lies with us.
What the.....!? Please, please, please explain this to me......cdale02
Feb 18, 2003 9:57 AM
I don't mean to beg, but please explain to me how the blame lies with us (I assume you mean the U.S.) and not Saddam Hussein? As far as choosing to ignore the UN, hasn't he ignored, or failed to comply with 17 or so resolutions?

Seems to me that if it fails in this case it would be result of his (Sadamm's) choice to ignore the UN and the "coilition of the willing's" choice to enforce them.

Please tell me where I am wrong here.

You originally wrote: "If it fails in this case, as seems inevitable, I think the blame lies with us."
In the immortal words of George Will...Silverback
Feb 18, 2003 11:50 AM
..."There's little point in explaining the obvious to those who need the obvious explained."
But in this case, what I meant was that world opinion, and UN opinion, seem solidly against us attacking Iraq. From OUR viewpoint, that may seem unreasonable--but from Russia's and China's viewpoints, many previous UN decisions have seemed unreasonable, and we've expected them to go along anyway.
This is a hard thing for many "patriots" to understand, but the U.S. doesn't have any particular corner on exemplary behavior--we aren't automatically right just because we're the United States. Iraq certainly has violated the resolutions, but it doesn't seem to pose a threat to the U.S. and I can't make the leap from those violations to a war that may kill tens of thousands of people.
Anticipating a second point, that he's killed many of his own people--so have the governments of, just for example, China, El Salvador, Haiti, Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Iran. You don't hear W. and the Retreads decrying that...
Depends how you spin it............cdale02
Feb 18, 2003 1:20 PM
Replace the following phrase in your post to see how I see things.... we just have different views.... or different spins.

Replace "us attacking Iraq" with "using military power to enforce compliance with the UN resolutions."

(goes back to the whole "toothless debating society thing).

I guess another spin I see often is people using "George Bush" in place of the "U.S." and "Iraq" in place of "Saddam Heussin."

i.e. George W. wants to attack the Iraqi people vs. The United States want to remove Saddam Heusin from power, or disarm Saddam. Depending on how you spin it, they can invoke different images. I personally think (my spin) that it's more logical to refer to the U.S. (a democratic republic) over George W. Bush (an individual) and to refer to Saddam (dictatorship) instead of Iraq. Congress passed authoization of force in the fall of 2002m hence the U.S. (elected officials representing their constituents) has authorized it. Saddam can offer compliance with the resolutions... no one else in Iraq has that power.

You have the right to disagree and to protest based on the First Amendment.... and you can VOTE on politicians that support your views... so maybe they will not pass a resolution that authorizes the use of force. Also, if you choose to do so, you can volunteer to join our countries armed forces to defend these rights. (I don't think you can do any of the above in Iraq.)

It's all on how you look at things.
Are we ignoring UN or are France Russia & Germany?Alpedhuez55
Feb 18, 2003 1:59 PM
The US went to the UN and they approved Security Council resolution 1441 for the inspection which basically said comply ot face "Serious Conciquinces". It was basically to give Saddam a last chance to prove he disarmed. Iraq did not comply.

Now France, Russia & Germany, who all buy oil from Iraq, are backing off the original resolution. They want a new resolution so France can use their veto power. Maybe they should have used it in the first resolution. I do not see this as the US being at fault here. If there is a flaw in the UN, it is with these countries that are going back on their original vote.

I am an officer in a private fising club. Several years ago we had a member get caught abusing club property. We had a vote at board of directors meeting and put that member on probation. After the meeting, a few of the board members who had voted for the probation and were friends of the member approached the president privately and told him not to send the letter to put the member on probation. It was a back door deal. I was upset when I heard about it. I threatened to make this deal public to the membership at the next general meeting. They backed down and the member was put on probation.

Now this is exactly the type of deal that Russia, France & Germany are trying to do. If the UN is going to have any teeth, they need to stick to their word. I do not agree with you that we are ignoring the UN. I think some of the other members are weakening it by not standing up to their position.

Mike Y.
I think that's its purposeMcAndrus
Feb 18, 2003 8:42 AM
I'm not an expert on the history of the UN but I believe its reason for existence is to be a debating society and that the extension into active and proactive activities didn't start until the Korean War.

There is an historic parallel with the League of Nations which suffered the lack of US participation for its entire existence. That alone weakened it as a world body but the death-blow was when the League couldn't even get the courage up to condemn Italy's invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

I dare say without US leadership, the UN would never have said a word about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Without US leadership the UN would not now be debating Iraq and its compliance or lack of compliance with prior UN resolutions.
Don't think somoneyman
Feb 18, 2003 9:48 AM
From the UN's web site:

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

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;

My reading of that says the UN is empowered to enforce its dictates, as well as discuss the great questions of world order. The charter was adopted October 24, 1945.

Never let it be said ...McAndrus
Feb 19, 2003 7:05 AM
... that I can't be persuaded by facts. You're right and I'm wrong. Thanks for the info.
so what's new?DougSloan
Feb 18, 2003 9:13 AM
We never abdicated our sovereignty to the UN or anyone else. UN approval is good, but not necessary. It is ultimately just a forum for diplomats and discussion. It is not a government, and does not control us or anyone else. It has always been that way, too.

I think people who are presently making a big stink about the fact that we don't have UN approval would simply latch on to any reason to oppose Bush or America. Nothing new or surprising.

Reality check, honesty check.OldEdScott
Feb 18, 2003 10:04 AM
OK Doug, you've used this phrase (or a close variant) quite a bit lately:

"I think people who are presently making a big stink about the fact that we don't have UN approval would simply latch on to any reason to oppose Bush ..."

Fair enough. I have two questions for you that I hope you'll answer in all honesty:

If the facts of the current situation were exactly the same as we know them now, only Bill Clinton were president and proposing this exact action, would you cooly and rationally say, "Well, Clinton's a scumbag, but he's right on this and I support him." Or would you roundly condemn all this --'latch(ing) onto any reason to oppose Clinton?'

We come from opposite poles, but I agree with you that many opponents of the war do so out of a visceral dislike of Geoge Bush/Republicans/even America. I think that's unfortunate, and I deplore it. There's more than enough wrong with this course of action to argue against it on pure merits.

But I have to wonder how much of your stout support of the war is just a right-twisted version of the same deplorable tendency: You like Bush ergo you like the war.

I suspect you'd be all over Bill Clinton if he were doing what Bush is doing, even if every other known fact about the situation were the same. Left and Right both play the "It's my guy so it's good" game, and intelligent discussion suffers.
There was a similar scenario...TJeanloz
Feb 18, 2003 10:11 AM
Remember when the U.S. launched cruise missle strikes against targets in East Africa and Afghanistan during the Clinton administration? It conveniently coincided with some big Monica news (I don't remember if it was the impeachment proceedings, or the release of a report, or Starr testifying before Congress). Many Clinton opponents thought that the cruise missle strikes were a diversion - but few people were opposed to them. Most people, including Clinton opponents, thought that the strikes were appropriate, even if the timing was suspect. In this case, we have people saying that the war is wrong regardless, because Bush supports it.
It was the bombing of Iraq during theOldEdScott
Feb 18, 2003 10:16 AM
House impeachment vote.
And I would submit that a little bombing inOldEdScott
Feb 18, 2003 10:25 AM
Iraq, which Clinton had done before, and which was simply the continuation of sporadic violence there in the failed aftermath of the (UN approved) Gulf war, materially differs from launching a massive ground action to effect regime change in Iraq.

I don't oppose the war because Bush is proposing it. I don't necessarily oppose war with Iraq at all. What I oppose are the policy underpinnings that are driving it. Under this new policy formulation, we are an empire, the American Empire, and we will project our power anywhere, anytime, unilaterally if necessary, pre-emptively if we wish, and anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell.

This is the fulcrum on which civilizations that become Empires totter and fail.
agree with aboveDougSloan
Feb 18, 2003 11:29 AM
Yes, many Clinton opponents opposed his timing. Nevertheless, I think the same people wanted him to do more than he did to enforce the GWI surrender and UN resolutions. Clinton did just enough to distract and irritate people, but not enough to be thorough or effective.

Disagree on Empire statusmoneyman
Feb 18, 2003 12:53 PM
When the British had an Empire, the sun, as they said, never set upon it. The Romans had an empire stretching over most of the known world. The Ottomans had one as well, covering much of Europe. What they all had in common was the fact that in order to maintain their empire, they had to have occupation forces, closed borders, and harsh policies to keep the subjects in line. The US does not have that problem. While we have troops stationed all over the world, (at the request and/or permission of the host nation) and while we can project power wherever we believe we need to, we do not subjugate entire populations. This has not been a case of invade, conquer and rule, which was the typical MO for empires.

If the gates were lifted all over the world, don't you believe that the US would be the destination of choice? I certainly do. And that cannot be said of empires past.

Feb 18, 2003 1:38 PM
"What they all had in common was the fact that in order to maintain their empire, they had to have occupation forces, closed borders, and harsh policies to keep the subjects in line."

How does this differ from the brave new world Bush's policies envision? We're occupying Afghanistan, we're about be occupy Iraq, we may be occupying Syria, Korea, Iran, who knows? ... There's plenty of talk about 'cracking down' on our borders; I'm sure Ashcroft would like to close them ... And then there's the good old PATRIOT Act, to keep us all in line, at least if we're kinda swarthy.

I don't know, man. If that's your definition of Empire, you've made my point.

The hallmark of Empire is, foreign crises are absorbed politically as immediate domestic crises, and dealt with accordingly. There is no sharing of responsibility within community of nations who'll share the load. The human and monetary wealth of the imperial power is drained inexorably.

Also, I suspect Rome, London, Constantinople, other great Imperial capitals were destinations of choice. Whether they were RECEPTIVE destinations of choice is another matter. It was pretty hard to get Roman citizenship.
Closed bordersmoneyman
Feb 18, 2003 2:36 PM
In the US, they are to keep people out - not to lock the population in. (See: Wall/Berlin)

Not sure about "The hallmark of Empire is, foreign crises are absorbed politically as immediate domestic crises, and dealt with accordingly." How would you differentiate a threat, real or perceived, to the US by a foreign government between foreign and domestic crisis? Seems to me they are intertwined.

"There is no sharing of responsibility within community of nations who'll share the load. The human and monetary wealth of the imperial power is drained inexorably." In an empire, wealth is drained from the colonies/subjugated states to the Capital. While one could argue that is true in this case, i.e., use of natural resources is far greater in the US relative to its population, the only colonies we really have are in the US. For a good example, look at my home state of Wyoming. But that is another subject. And sharing? How about the 13 countries in the EU that support the US? The load is shared by many, but for some reason those opposed to action seem to either ignore it or dismiss it because France and Germany haven't signed on.

Finally, "We're occupying Afghanistan, we're about be occupy Iraq, we may be occupying Syria, Korea, Iran, who knows?" There is an Afghan government in development now, with an Afghan president. When SH is gone, there will be an Iraqi government in place, with an Iraqi leader. Contrary to your belief about Korea, I have read recently that there is a greater chance that we will be leaving the Korean peninsula altogether, rather than occupying it. Iran and Syria are very likely to fall in line and crack down on terrorism in their camps when they see what happens to Iraq.

Hasn't the US used our veto power in the Security Councilvelocity
Feb 18, 2003 12:56 PM
more frequently than any other permanent member?
Hasn't the US used our veto power in the Security Councilcritmass
Feb 18, 2003 1:34 PM
The number of vetoes since the inception of the Security Council have been around 300. The U.S. has cast vetoes or absentions less than 100 times. The majority of the U.S. vetoes and absentions have related to Israel and the Middle East. The U.S. has voted absentions atleast 25 times on resolutions condemning actions taken by Israel.

38 of the U.S.'s vetoes up until 2001 are as follows:

1. 10 Sep. 1972 Condemned Israel's attacks against southern Lebanon and Syria. Vote: 13 to 1 with 1 abstention
2. 26 Jul. 1973 Affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to self determination, statehood and equal protections. Vote: 13 to 1 with China absent
3. 08 Dec. 1975 Condemned Israel air strike and attacks in southern Lebanon and its murder of innocent civilians. Vote: 13 to 1 with 1 abstention
4. 26 Jan. 1976 Called for self-determination of Palestinian People. Vote: 9 to 1 with 3 abstentions
5. 25 Mar. 1976 Deplored Israel's alteration of the status of Jerusalem, which is recognized as an international city by most of world nations and the United Nations. Vote 14 to 1
6. 29 Jun. 1976 Affirmed the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People. Vote 10 to 1 with 4 abstention
7. 30 Apr. 1980 Endorsed self-determination of Palestinian People. Vote 10 to 1 with 4 abstention
8. 20 Jan. 1982 Demands Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Vote 10 to 1 with 4 abstention
9. 01 Apr. 1982 Condemned Israel mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip and its refusal to abide by the Geneva Conventions Protocols of civilized nations. Vote: 14 to 1
10. 02 Apr. 1982 Condemned an Israeli soldier who shot 11 Moslem worshipers in the Haram al Sharif near Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Vote: 14 to 1
11. 08 Jun. 1982 Urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Lebanon. Vote: 14 to 1
12. 26 Jun. 1982 Urged sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from its invasion of Beirut, Lebanon. Vote: 14 to 1
13. 06 Aug. 1982 Urged cut-off economic aid to Israel if it refused to withdraw from its occupation of Lebanon. Vote: 11 to 1 with 3 abstention
14. 02 Aug. 1983 Condemned continued Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, denouncing them as an obstacle to peace. Vote: 13 to 1 with 3 abstention
15. 06 Sep. 1984 Deplored Israel's brutal massacre of Arabs in Lebanon and urged its withdrawal. Vote: 14 to 1
16. 12 Mar. 1985 Condemned Israeli brutality in southern Lebanon and denounces Israeli "Iron Fist" policy of repression. Vote: 11 to 1 with 3 abstentions
17. 13 Sep. 1985 Denounced Israel's violations of human rights in the occupied territories. Vote 10 to 1 with 4 abstentions
18. 17 Jan. 1986 Strongly deplored Israel's violence in southern Lebanon.Vote: 11 to 1 with 3 abstentions
19. 30 Jan. 1986 Deplored Israel's activities in the occupied Arab East Jerusalem, which threaten the sanctity of Muslim holy sites. Vote: 13 to 1 with 1 abstention
20. 06 Feb. 1986 Condemned Israel's hijacking of a Libyan airplane on Feb. 4, Vote: 10 to 1 with 1 abstention
21. 18 Jan. 1988 Strongly deplored Israeli attacks against Lebanon and its measures and practices against the civilian population of Lebanon. Vote: 13 to 1 with 1 abstention
22. 01 Feb. 1988 Called on Israel to abandon its policies against Palestinian uprising that violate the rights of occupied Palestinians, to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and formalize a leading role for the U.N. in future peace negotiations. Vote: 14 to 1
23. 15 Apr. 1988 Urged Israel to accept deported Palestinians, condemned Israel's shooting of civilians, called on Israel to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention and called for a peace settlement under U.N. auspices. Vote: 14 to 1
24. 10 May 1988 Condemned Israel's May 2 incursion into Lebanon. Vote: 14 to 1
25. 14 Dec. 1988 Strongly deplored Israel's Dec. 9 commando raids on Leban
Hasn't the US used our veto power in the Security Councilcritmass
Feb 18, 2003 1:38 PM
26. 17 Feb 19.89 Strongly deplored Israel's repression of the Palestinian uprising and called on Israel to respect the human rights of the Palestinians. Vote: 14 to 1
27. 09 Jun. 1989 Strongly deplored Israel's violation of the human rights of the Palestinians. Vote: 14 to 1
28. 07 Nov. 1989 Demanded Israel return property confiscated from Palestinians during a tax protest and allow a fact finding mission to observe Israel's crackdown on the Palestinian uprising. Vote 14 to 1
29. 31 May 1990 Called for a fact-finding mission on abuses against Palestinians in Israeli occupied lands. Vote 14 to 1 . United States casts the lone veto to block a Security Council fact-finding mission to report on abuses of Palestinians in land Israel captured in war.
30. 04 Apr. 1992 Condemned Israel for the killing of four Palestinians and injuring 50 more, 10 of them seriously, in Rafah. Vote: 14 to 1.
31. 04 Dec. 1993 Urges Israel to allow the return of 101 Palestinian Deportees. Vote: 14 to 1.
32. 17 May 1995 Condemning Israel's intention of confiscating 134 Acres of land in East Jerusalem. Vote: 14 to 1. United States blocks a resolution that declared invalid Israel's expropriation of Arab-owned land in east Jerusalem.
33. 15 Apr. 1996 Condemns Israel's closure of the occupied territories. Vote: 14 to 1.
34. 25 Apr. 1996 Condemned Israel for bombing UN quarters in Qana, South Lebanon, and the continuous Israeli attacks.
Vote: 14 to 1.
35. 28 Sep. 1996 Condemned Israeli settlements in Ras Al Amud in Jerusalem. Vote: 14 to 1.
36. 07 Mar. 1997 Called for Israel to stop plans to build settlements in Jabal Abu Ghuneim (Har Homa) in Jerusalem.
Vote: 14 to 1. United States vetoes resolution calling on Israel to refrain from east Jerusalem settlement activity.
37. 21- 22 Mar. 97 Condemned Israeli settlement in Jabal Abu Ghuneim.
Vote: 14 to 1. United States blocks resolution demanding Israel's immediate cessation of construction at an east Jerusalem settlement.
38. March 27, 2001: United States vetoes resolution backing a U.N. observer force to protect Palestinian civilians.