Caught snoozing again

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Tuesday 15 Mar 2022

World War II
World War II

At the very outset, let us admit that a brief snooze, especially at a solemn occasion, is exceedingly enjoyable and refreshing. A majority of us have had a taste of this most pleasant experience.

However, in the face of horrific danger, all humans are endowed with alertness, courage and insight and perform with excellence and incisiveness.

It is baffling, even mystifying, that a group of peace-loving geniuses would be caught in a deep slumber, while their house is burning.

The men who created the United Nations, after suffering catastrophic atrocities of a global war, had a clear and noble purpose in mind: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime have brought sorrow to mankind and to re-affirm faith in the fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person and of nations large and small.”

Such noble promises were made, although they were well aware they were made before by principled men following WWI who formed “the League of Nations” in 1920, “the first international organisation to maintain world peace”. It achieved nothing.

Fragmented and weak, with the absence of major powers, with no US and no army, Britain and France were not strong enough to impose sanctions, so it died a slow death, 26 years later.

The founders of a new league or union were not deterred: China, France, the USSR, the UK, and the US felt strong and capable. No cracks in their union. Why did 50 other countries support them? Their leaders rushed to the International Court of Justice in San Francisco on 24 April 1945 and worked day and night for two months to draft their charter. It was signed on 26 June 1945.

There it was, in all its glory, invincible, indispensable, and immortal.

Everyone applauded the design and marvelled at the execution. The League of Nations is dead. Long live the United Nations.

The devil is in the details as they say, and there was one unforeseen flaw which turned up to be a nuisance: the Security Council. Comprised of 15 members, five of which were permanent members, the founding fathers were chosen in the wake of World War II. The Security Council’s primary responsibility under the UN Charter was the maintenance of international peace and security.

Was that not the purpose of creating the UN? Ah, but the Security Council had the power to impose sanctions, authorise the use of force, including the deployment of their own peace-keeping forces. Moreover, and here is the hitch, permanent members had veto power.

Did it occur to anyone that those members were on opposing sides? The veto allows the permanent member of the Security Council or to reject any resolutions made by the majority, hence the recent Russian veto over Ukraine.

What a bizarre situation. Can they not see the conflict of interest? It totally negates the primary purpose of the UN Charter. Rivals exercising vetoes simply negate each other.

Can anything meaningful be accomplished under such discrepant conditions?

The US and Russia/USSR have used their veto privileges five times more than the other members combined. Ridiculous, to say the least, leaving the General Assembly and the rest of the UN crippled, paralysed, unable to perform.

Now we know the reason why over 53 state-based armed conflicts have occurred since the founding of the UN. They pay it no heed.

The US was the first to enter a war after five years to the day, of signing the UN Charter. That was the Korean War on 27 June 1950. They must enjoy war as long as it is in faraway places. The US also joined in the Vietnamese War, then there was the Gulf War, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan. The Gulf war was their only victory.

There is something mournful about this desire to join a war, let alone wage one. How absurd to have sustained, depended and trusted the UN to end all wars?

Notwithstanding the obvious imperfection of mankind, this age of wars has been unconscionably long and shocking to contemplate.

There are 27 ongoing conflicts today, one of which can easily draw us into a third world war, at least Cold War II. This is an unsettling situation for all humanity.

The longest of these wars has been the Israeli/ Palestinian war, which started when the UN granted Israel almost all of Palestine as a gift. No one knows the whys and whats of this act. It cannot be that the UN was merely mimicking Hitler and his Nazi regime, but that is exactly what happened and what continues to happen in Palestine while the UN watches, the Security Council makes resolutions, and the US vetoes them.

How this war will end is anyone’s guess. We believe it will go on and on as long as the US vetoes all resolutions against Israel. Even if by some miracle a resolution is passed, Israel will simply ignore it, and so will the US, the Security Council and the rest of the world.

Is it any wonder that such outright racialism has produced terrorists?

No defenders of terrorism, we think the world has done enough, seen enough and will continue to see man killing his fellowman for no good reason.

 Why does the UN not see the brutal attack killing of women and children and the grotesque perpetrators of such acts?

Could it be that it was all a dream? An international organisation formed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

“Wars begin when you will, but do not end when you please.”

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


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