Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the ineffectiveness of the U.N.

Recently while exploring the ‘edit posts’ tab of my blogger account I discovered a July 2009 post that for reasons unknown failed to publish. To be sure, its subject matter veered away from the common theme and/or matters of this blog.

As readers of my past blogging would know, I enjoyed and in fact miss, commenting on the vicissitudes of international affairs particularly so, from a pro America foreign policy and hegemony standpoint. The post in question was, in effect, a reply to a reader who sought my advice on which regional organizations I would endorse for the receipt of U.S. aid in place of the United Nations following an earlier post of mine that criticized the U.N. In that post, I wrote:

Some may view it (the U.N.) as a valuable body when in fact, it is as hopeless as a guy carrying a stick; an organization that believes paperwork and innuendo can solve the problems of the world and, in the process, soak up massive amounts of taxpayers’ money.
To which a reader commented:
Hi Otto - am wondering, are there regional organizations you'd endorse or would want to allocate more US aid/resources to in place of the UN? Would taking away anything related to peacekeeping and human rights from the UN portfolio make it better able to concentrate on areas where it does tend to offer better value? I agree that it's been frighteningly ineffective on the vast majority of security and peacekeeping/ stabilization tasks particularly in past 30 years, but I do think groups like UNICEF can and do provide much needed services (again probably not as efficiently or effectively as one would like but I'm willing to keep an open mind on it). What about NATO or SCO or ASEAN or OAS - not endorsing any particular org as each has its problems but curious as to what you think? It seems to me the regional groups are more likely to be effective if only for cultural knowledge - sending a group of Pakis into Somalia ranks up there with one of the worst ideas of all time. Thanks CC.
My reply:
I could write much CC so I offer an overview. I have always thought highly of U.S. aid, not just in terms of supporting economic growth/trade, democracy, and conflict resolution but also chiefly in the context of furthering U.S. foreign policy interests. Accordingly, and given the ineffectiveness of the U.N. as a vehicle for world security tasks, some U.S. aid should be held back, in reserve if you will, being utilized support regional organizations and operations of Washington s choosing in times of crises. I agree that UNICEF (although not perfect) fulfills a vital role without to many hiccups.

I am not sufficiently versed on the specifics of the named regional organizations therefore; it might be prudent of me to highlight some of the more advantageous elements of their operations as against those of the U.N. Let us be clear, how many times has the big body faltered when trying to reach consensus on authorizing missions? By reasons of geography, demographics, cultural and historical roots, and differing political platforms regional orgs have an obvious advantage over the U.N.

By saying this, I am assuming that regional orgs can be accepted as legitimate arbitrators and therefore can potentially garner wider support than U.N. operations. Becoming a lawful arbiter is one thing however taking effective action is another. Thus, we come to some of the more obvious shortcomings of regional orgs; think resources, organizational ability, logistics, resource management, and issues of neutrality. One wonders then, if U.N. efforts may work better as supplements to regional efforts.

Of the organizations you mention the OAS, comprising of over 3 languages and at least 30 member states is too large and so it becomes susceptible to the same issues of the U.N. SCO serves as a vehicle of counterbalance to NATO and U.S. foreign objectives, so I do not see it as being helpful, least from my point of view or should I say, worldview. NATO itself is too large and still growing with constituents that are simply too diverse for effective accord.

Remember too, that part of the problem of regional’s is that included in their respective charters is a directive that read something like, “non interference in the internal affairs of one another” - this alone throws as sizable spanner in the works in terms of settling member nation state differences not to mention armed peacekeeping operations.

Finally allow me to draw attention to Australia’s recent intervention in the Solomon Islands as brought about by issues of non-governance, a breakdown of social order, and high crime rates rather than, a humanitarian crisis. RAMSI as it was known provides a good model when analyzing regional assistance missions designed to rescue failing states. Of course, there will always be critics and they would probably argue that the interventions are part of a broader campaign to extend the hegemony of the more powerful local state, in this case Australia.

Every crisis is different and needs to be addressed with local geographical interests on mind with the help of larger state bodies, though history tells us that the U.N. is not the most effective means. Perhaps regional organizations can consider some written exceptions to the non-interference question.
Once again, forgive for me for drifting away from the strict purpose of this blog … Does anyone agree? How would you rate the U.N. as a vehicle for world security tasks?

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