January 02, 2005

Who Is Afraid of the UN?

So, what's with this whole UN thing anyways? The newly found heft given to the UN's opinions has a number of Americans well and truly puzzled, and for good reason, too.

The UN has no army, save what it can rent from the stellar powers like Bangladesh and Argentina.  It has no power, therefore, to actually enforce any of its dictates, save asking pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top.  No revenue collecting authority, except the charity of nation states.  And at this point, transparency at the UN would involve actually codifying a price list and giving better invoicing documentation when vetoes are bought and sold.

How can an organization that has "approved" only two wars - the Korean and Gulf Wars - decide that their imprimatur is the definition of just war?  How can the organization that provided the audience for genocides in the Balkans, decide that the United States lacks the moral authority to give aid to tsunami victims?

Simply put, for the prior 60 years, there was a pretty simple equation.  If the Soviet Union went on a tear, the US and NATO could take them down to size.  Conversely, if the US decided to go off its rocker, the weight of Soviet arms would put paid to that in short order.  The problem being, is that with the end of the Cold War, there is no counterweight to US military might.

The rest of the world is slowly coming to grips with the notion that the third most populous nation in the world, accounting for more than 20% of the world's GDP, and by some counts, more than half the world's military expenditures, cannot be stopped or curbed without a most extraordinary effort.

Now, to put this in context, imagine that it were any country, other than the US, that had such a dominant position.  Let's say France or China for example.  Would you feel comfortable with the idea that they would have no effective check, save the checks they choose to impose on themselves?

A reasonable response might be to acquire a sufficient amount of power to provide a counterweight of one's own.  But the problem is that, compared to other "peer" competitors, the US is so far ahead in so many respects that it would be virtually impossible to match the US on any short-term time scale.  Consider the fact that European nations, with the possible exceptions of France and Britain would have to double their defense expenditures simply to keep from lagging any further behind.  Add to this the notion that one of the entire (possible) reasons behind the effort to "transform" the military is to develop our capabilities to such an extent that it will be all but impossible to compete symmetrically with the US in the defense arena.

So, what to do then, what higher power can one appeal to?  Anyone?

That's right, for many people, the last best hope is that the UN, acting as a proxy for the world as a whole, can be some sort of regulator or counterbalance to American power.

The problem is, however, twofold.  Not only is the UN a catastrophically inept paperwork sink rife with corruption and virtually unparalleled in incompetence.  And the other problem is that nations, powerful or not, are not in the habit of acting against their own interests.  Regardless of how much persuasion is applied, talking can't be relied to drown out the clash of blood and iron.  For if it could, the UN would be actually able to make their demands stick.

Which wouldn't be the first batch of wishful thinking to rise out of the that Manhattan monument to self-importance.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Tribune, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Posted by Bravo Romeo Delta at January 2, 2005 11:01 PM | TrackBack

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