Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Security" Council

The UN makes me crazy.  I was reading about the UN proposed action in Syria aimed at getting the oppressive regime out and some kind of democracy in here and found what is unfortunately par for the course in UN politics:  The Russians are threatening to veto the action even though it has already been watered down to try to make it more palatable to them.  The reason?  They make a lot of money selling weapons to Syria, of course!

The fact that the Security Council members (France, UK, US, Russia, China) have a veto over UN actions really destroys the credibility of the UN right from the outset.  Those countries have an agenda to prevent others from getting nuclear weapons while wielding those weapons themselves, are huge arms dealers and regularly and without any pretense use their vetoes to force the UN to do things in their national interests.  In particular the US and Russia have used their vetoes liberally, largely to spit in each other's faces.

What a mess.  The old League of Nations didn't have this sort of super powerful core and it was demonstrably unable to perform its mandate but I don't know that a responsive world organization that caters to a few powerful, dangerous countries is particularly better than one that takes a long time to do things.  There has been conflict for decades now over letting new countries into the Security Council but of course that would require getting everybody's approval since otherwise VETO and so far nobody has managed to get in.  I don't ever expect anybody to get in of course because the only good reason for a Security Council nation to get a new member in is if it will improve their position somehow and surely the other members will veto anything that erodes *their* position.

Barring some tremendous calamity we aren't likely to get anything else to work with.  We seem stuck, for the moment, with a huge bureaucracy that is willing able to order up some beatdown for poor, weak nations that get out of line and which is completely impotent when a Security Council member invades another nation on a flimsy pretext.  Perhaps the term "Bully Council" would be more appropriate.


  1. You may want to double check the difference between the security council and the permanent members of the security council.

  2. True, to an extent. When I talk about the Security Council I certainly mean the permanent members. Countries that are on the SC for a short time and have no veto are practically irrelevant though, so I ignored them. The permanent members are the only ones who can abuse their power and they run the show so the others are really there just to make them feel good about being at the big kid's table.

  3. A point that I heard yesterday:

    Part of the reason (only part) for Russia and China to threaten veto even to a very watered down resolution is that in many recent cases watered down resolutions have been used as licence for much larger action that was not authorized. The two most prominent cases were in Libya (a resolution for a no-fly zone somehow ended up with NATO troops on the ground), and Iraq (a resolution condemning treatment of nuke inspectors gave the US some legitimacy for its incursion. Obviously many other factors are at play but this 'when given an inch take a mile' problem is an interesting and troubling one.