Sunday, June 8, 2014

A defense of the United Nations

The United Nations UNinvolved In Africa

(This is a somewhat long, somewhat ranty, counterpoint to Bingbing's post mostly written around 2010.)

The UN can't change.  If the UN didn't exist then someone would invent it. Or they would have continued the League of Nations. Or invented a new version with a name like "The Legion of Places Where People Live" or "The Guild of Unicorns and Good Intentions." As a meeting place (and to a much lesser degree a debate hall) the UN has value. This is not to say the UN should be respected or even listened to.

 The UN, like the League of Nations before it, is inherently broken.

 The United Nations was founded upon corruption and the debasement of principles. In order to get the USSR to join, the Soviets were given 3 votes in the UN General Assembly : one for the USSR and one each for the Ukraine & Belarus (at the time, both were component parts of the USSR). The USSR had asked for 15 votes and after carefully pouring gasoline on their principles and burning them the world's diplomats stepped over the ashes and negotiated the Soviets down to 3 votes. It was a victory for the diplomacy of low expectations but a defeat for numeracy.

 n.b. the USSR had been kicked out of the League of Nations December 14, 1939 because of its invasion of Finland – the invasion started Nov 30, 1939; bureaucracy moves more slowly than tanks. But the vision of the UN as a meeting place of all nations would be a joke if it lacked one of the largest countries in the world so despite its previous behavior the USSR was invited to join. The penalty for invading Finland? Roughly, a 5 year, 11 month timeout and they could keep the Finnish territory seized during the invasion. However, consider that the League of Nations itself suspended its operations on the same day and did not restart until after WW2 and then only to transfer authority to the UN. The Russians must have been teary eyed when they were informed they wouldn't be allowed to attend any League meetings and, by the way, that the League won't be having any meetings for about 5 years and 11 months.

 One great thing about the UN is that a UN member who is a disinterested third party can take a fresh look at an issue and make a decision in dispassionate way.

 Of course, this also allows the uninvolved third party to ask "What's in it for me?" Like China did in 1997 when, after over 30 years of war, both sides of the Guatemalan Civil War agreed to make peace but the Chinese vetoed the UN resolution to end the civil war. Why? Because Guatemala received foreign aid from Taiwan and in return Guatemala supported the idea of recognizing Taiwan in the UN. (Wait, Taiwan was bribing countries in the UN to gain support? Yup.)

 Taiwan and mainland China have been distinct entities since 1949. Until 1971, the UN recognized Taiwan as China but pretended mainland China didn't exist. In 1971 the UN General Assembly voted to replace the Republic of China with communist China. (Now isn't that a potentially seismic precedent) Obviously, the UN can't have two Chinas. It is almost impossible to imagine what it would be like if the UN had two Germanies or two Koreas or two Congos. If they didn't somehow differentiate between the names of the two then there would be mass confusion on the floor of the UN. It would be Abbott and Costello level chaos.

 The UN knows that people can't just declare themselves to be a country. Actually, it turns out that the Republic of Macedonia can declare itself independent from Yugoslavia and quickly be recognized by the UN. I'm hoping the Free and Independent Republic of Milquetoastistan's admission to the UN will be approved as quickly.

 How unprincipled is the UN? Yasser Arafat's PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) was given observer status Nov 22, 1974 only days after a PLO group had committed murder and the PLO continued to murder people.

 One country, one vote (except for the USSR's 3 votes). Not exactly democracy is it? Tuvalu with 10,000 people has a UN vote equal to India's 1.1 billion people. Most of China's 1.3 billion people aren't represented by the controlling Communist Party of China and therefore they aren't represented in the UN either. The 23 million Taiwanese aren't represented either. The Western Sahara and the Gaza Strip are also not members of the UN.

 How representative is the UN?
  • Out of 192 UN member nations 101 members have smaller populations than New York City.
  • The 34 smallest UN member nations' populations combined are still smaller than New York City's population.
  • Of 192 members, the 160 smallest UN members combined have a population nearly equal to China — the largest member.
  • Six UN members states together have a majority (50.4%) of the world's population (China, India, US, Indonesia, Brazil & Pakistan)
  • The five economically largest members by GDP make up 52% of the world's economy (US, Japan, China, Germany, & France). The top 10 countries makes 67%. The top 20 countries makes 81.5%.
  • With a world population of 6.8 billion, there is an average of one UN representative for every 35,416,666 people. Not that a UN representative cares what regular people think. That's not their job.
104 of 192 UN members have a Freedom House ranking of Not Free or only Partly Free. A full 46 UN members (2.3 billion people) are on the Not Free list. 1.3 billion people are on the Partly Free list. 88 are listed as free but in the UN, the Sudan's vote is equal to Norway's.

The obvious question is why are they voting on anything?  Each country can (and does) make treaties or form organizations with any other. For example, the Universal Postal Union was founded in 1874 with 22 members. Why concentrate power with the UN?  To lend credibility to crap and to leech credibility from the good.

An open ended organization of all nations will always have various people/governments/agencies vying for power, control and anyway to manipulate the organization to their interests. If the UN were considered competent and could actually do something about the Sudan then imagine the mad rush there would be to twist that power into a mechanism of control. Everyone would try to invade Belgium at once.

By putting Cuba, Libya and China on a Human Rights Council the UN is willing to prove its level of corruption despite the UN's usual problems with conventional transparency. 

I'd prefer the UN exist in its natural, incompetent and self-neutering state as meeting place, a pointless debate factory and for it to be recognized by everyone for the cesspool that it is. Basically the same as it is now but with less wasted money, less child rapeless rape in general and fewer UN peacekeepers trying to score with goats.

New, more accurate, United Nations Logo (The United Nations always doing something without doing anything)
The UN's motto


Richard Sharpe said...

As an officer who has served, in Africa, with the UN, I concur with all you've said. It was laughable to see Rwandan Peacekeepers deployed to prevent genocide in Darfur. I witnessed waste on a biblical scale in order to meet the, frankly, ludicrous logistical demands of infantry commanders from tin-pot African contingents. I learned to determine the competence of staff officers by sight - the more "bling" on a uniform, the less likely they were to make a positive contribution to the mission. A corporal from Mali, for example, would put some Soviet era generals to shame.

Oh, how we would spend our evenings pining for just one Aussie Battle Group to grip that shit up. In fact, the commander of the mission, a Nigerian, apparently liked the cut of our jib, and posed the question to the, very British Cavalry (you know the type), Plans Officer that he would like to ask for more Australians. The Colonel, very politely, explained that he had worked with the Australians before and, if that were to happen, he would have a whole heap of dead people to explain to New York.

Minicapt said...