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OPINION: To solve regional conflicts, strengthen the United Nations

The flag of the United Nations. Wikipedia image

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In the past few weeks more and more attention in the U.S. has focused on the volatile situation in Ukraine. The situation is so complicated that it probably would take a trained diplomat from the State Department to really understand it, but the hatred and violence is something everyone can comprehend. As far as I can fathom, one part of Ukraine wants closer relations with the European Union and the other wants closer relations with Russia. Among the many factions battling it out in the streets is a rather scary neo-Nazi group.

It’s somewhat similar to another problem area marked by civil war, Syria. What began as a pro-democracy uprising against the Assad dictatorship has evolved into a full-scale conflict, with different factions backed by different nations in the international arena. Some of the rebels are genuine democrats and reformers. Others are Islamic fundamentalists with links to Al Qaeda.

In both cases, especially in the case of Ukraine, calls by the media for the United States and President Obama to intervene are increasing. Clearly, someone should intervene. But why should it be the United States? U.S. troops have often had two or three tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Do they want an additional tour of duty in Kiev or Aleppo? Besides, President Obama can hardly get any of his domestic initiatives through Congress. What makes you think that he would be more successful with foreign adventures?

Why not let the United Nations handle these conflicts? Yes, the United Nations. That’s why the U.N. was established in the first place – to serve as an arbiter for regional conflicts. In its first few decades, the U.N. mediated some important conflicts – for example, it sent peacekeeping troops to the Congo during a secessionist revolt in the early 1960s. Earlier, it brokered cease-fire agreements after the first Arab-Israel war. But since that time, it has mainly served as a forum to legitimize actions by the big powers – for example, the Iraq War – and for some of its members to air their pet causes, such as unrestrained Israel-bashing.

Part of the problem is the structure of the United Nations. The five permanent members of the Security Council are those nations that were the main victors of World War II – China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. These countries don’t represent the world as it is today. Japan and Germany are among the most powerful economic engines on Earth, but they don’t have permanent seats on the council because of events that happened 70 years ago. The idea of permanent members should be abolished, and membership on the Security Council should be expanded and rotated among the many states that belong to the U.N. Already, there are 10 non-permanent members that are elected by various regional voting blocs.

More importantly, the Security Council was set up so that any of its permanent members can veto any decision agreed upon by the others. This veto was established in the 1940s because the Soviet Union felt outnumbered by states belonging to the “capitalist world.” The Soviet Union has been a thing of the past for 25 years, but the veto power still stands, paralyzing many actions the Security Council has sought to take.

If this veto power were replaced by majority rule, the U.N. could accomplish things quickly and efficiently. Then, the U.N. would stand a chance to become the peacekeeping body that its founders meant it to be.

February 25, 2014 - 9:00am


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