Friday, August 13, 2004

"UN Resolution" is an oxymoron

For those who thought sanctions on Iraq were "working," more confirmation in the NYTimes today that the UN bureaucrats supposed to be in charge were just running around giggling and giving each other wedgies.

I have a picture, a K. Grease exclusive, of the UN meeting to discuss making the sanctions on Iraq more defective:



Seriously, here is an actual quote from Jar-Jar....um...from the article in the Times:

"Everybody said it was a terrible shame and against international law, but there was really no enthusiasm to tackle it," said Peter van Walsum, a Dutch diplomat who headed the Iraq sanctions committee in 1999 and 2000, recalling the discussions of illegal oil surcharges. "We never had clear decisions on anything. So we just in effect condoned things."

This is a general description of the UN procedure, on everything: (1) That's a shame. (2) No enthusiasm to tackle it. (3) No clear decisions. (4) Condone. (5) Blame, after the fact, anyone who does do anything. (To be fair, they often skip steps (1) and (2)).

(Extra credit if you remember what Senator Binks was saying in the scene above....No? "Dis is nutsen!" You go, Jar-Jar!) (Photo Credit)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this an indictment of the UN, or only an indication of the creature the world has morphed it into? By this I mean that the UN was not designed to be "active", but a passive deliberative body that ensured countries had a forum to communicate. It seems that somewhere along the line it was decided that the UN should actually "do" something. Perhaps it stems from the collective guilt the west has developed in the later half of the 20th century, and therefore an "Active" UN provides a release valve so we (the west) can continue living our advantaged lives.

For example: "OH- there is genocide happening at this moment in the Sudan! I feel genuinely horrible about this. But I just read that Koffi Annan and the UN are there, so its OK."

My point is that the UN seems to have been assigned a task it was not designed to do. So while it is important to point out its immense failings over recent years, it is also necessary to attempt to discover the root cause of those failings. It seems that the desire to have an "active" UN is perhaps the answer, and that desire may stem from us, not a bureaucrat (not that I'm defending them in any way in this case).

mungowits said...

Fair enough. Blaming the U.N. for failing to do the impossible is a little out of line. And it does serve as the fall guy for the many nations that ANON rightly claims want to be able to delegate and forget human tragedy.

But still...there are people who actually work at the UN, and jabber about its importance. The UN "Oil for food" served an important political purpose, true, but the people in charge, like the Nederlander I quoted, are complicit. How do they stand it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mungo,

Yes, I think the real tragedy in all this is that these people were in a rare position, with a rate opportunity to actual DO something GOOD - regardless of institutional ambiguity. As I get older and crotchetier I think that letting opportunities like these go because people had other motives, such as "don't expect me to risk my job, career, reputation, etc." is the unfathomable tragedy and makes me wonder why they would go into this profession in the first place.

Perhaps the answer may be found in Mosca/Micheals who describe the problem with organizations is that they eventually becomes detached from their raison de etre and come to exist primarily to serve those in charge, i.e. the bureaucrats. I think this explains labor unions as well as the UN, and perhaps political parties.

Anonymous said...

The commenter who said this:

By this I mean that the UN was not designed to be "active", but a passive deliberative body that ensured countries had a forum to communicate. It seems that somewhere along the line it was decided that the UN should actually "do" something.ought to read this: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/united_nations_korean_war.htm

You will discover that your conjectural history of the UN is completely backwards.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the website, but it seems to me that it supports my point that the U.N. is designed to be a passive organization. If the UN had recognized Mao and the communist party as the government of China (which they should have according to the U.N. Charter) and that the USSR abstention should not be contrused as anything less than a veto (believe me, there are many law professors who still debate this today), then nothing would have happened. The point here is that something only happened by the U.N. ignoring its own Charter and the U.S. saying they were going to do something in any case. How else could the President of the U.S. fire the commander of U.N. forces?

A final point is look at the result? Untold mubers of lives lost to regain the status quo? How was the North punished for their aggression by the U.N.? Sanctions? Now fifty years later they are a bigger problem now than before. Thanks U.N.!

Anonymous said...

I suggest interpreting the design of the UN by comparing it to the League of Nations (for example, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/leagueofnations.htm ). As a vital member of the victorious WWII alliance, the Soviet Union clearly had to be a member of the Security Council. It is mistaken, IMO, to view the Security Council standoff that arose out of the Cold War as a strategic design element rather than an unforeseen consequence.

Anonymous said...

I admit my knowledge of the League of Nations is conjectual (which is why I won't comment on it), unfortunately my knowledge of the U.N. is not (hours, days even, or my life wasted listening to lectures on the "vital role of the U.N.). But to avoid any further waste of my life, one FINAL comment.

After all my "study" it appears that to me that the U.N. is a well designed delibrative body, i.e. a good forum for saber rattling, or lacking a saber- one's shoe. But the idea that it can "actively" do, run, administer anything is asking for failure (personal example - I once visted the U.N. in NYC and wanted to take a tour. It cost $12US at the time, unforunately I didn't have enough cash on me so I handed the ticket guy in the U.N. my credit card, he looked at me and said with a striaght face: "the U.N. doesn't take credit cards." )

Hence my singular defence of the U.N. is that people use it to do something it wasn't designed for in order to relieve themselves of collective guilt. So while the U.N. has plenty of faults, to heap derision on it because it can't "do" something is rather unjustified.

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