The United Nations (UN) has outlived its predecessor, the League of Nations, by 58 years, perhaps because its original configuration was a reasonable reflection of the balance of state power at the time, whereas in the case of the former, the US reneged on its own proposal, and never joined, this leaving an unbalanced organisation ripe for exploitation. Hypothetical it may sound, but if the US had joined its president’s brainchild, there may never have been a world war, and we would still have a League of Nations. One thing that connects the defunct and the current organisations is that sanctions do not work. They even helped to lead to the last world war. Thus now is a crucial moment: will the unworkable sanctions lead to another world war, or will balance and sanity prevail, which should involve institutional reform of the UN? Let us trace some history.
From the beginning, the UN showed a lack of authority, as the murder of UN mediator Count Bernadotte by fanatic Zionist Jews in Palestine demonstrated. Yet despite the Cold War and the various regional wars which it spawned, another world war has not occurred. Battered and bruised, the UN still exists, with various successful (and not so successful) peacekeeping missions around the world. In the words of Dag Hammarskjöld, ‘the United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.’
That the UN structure no longer reflects reality in terms of the distribution of power globally can hardly be open to doubt. The Secretariat and the annual General assembly are based in New York, when US power is on the wane. Perhaps they should be in Switzerland, given its neutrality, and the fact that, unlike the US, Switzerland has not flaunted international law and the UN itself (along with the UK) so brazenly, for example in the bombing of Belgrade and the destruction of Iraq, to name but some obvious examples. Currently, we are also witnessing the absurdity of the Ukraine calling for the expulsion of Russia from the Security Council, and even from the UN as a whole. Yet who is aware that St. Augustine, Thomas of Aquinas and Vitoria all recognised annexation as compensation in a justified war?2 And Russia could easily justify its annexation of parts of former Russia that passed from Russia only briefly to the Ukraine, and where the Russian inhabitants were then attacked by the Kiev government? In any case, any serious criticism of Russia should be weighed against American (and British) illegality.
But to return to our main theme that the UN structure no longer reflects reality, this explains why NATO is trying to take over as world policeman, often ignoring the UN and international law. It explains why the world is creeping towards world war, nuclear into the bargain. In 1962, it was the UN’s U Thant who helped to avoid war between the US and USSR. Now this is no longer possible, essentially because of the lack of balance. Why, for example, is the world’s fifth largest economy, seventh in terms of size and largest country by population, namely nuclear-armed India, not a permanent member of the Security Council? Britain and France can hardly compare.
In short, a more democratic structure is necessary to stave off world war. Trying to rebuild it on the basis of unipolarity will only make matters worse. Unipolarity is dead in all but name, as developments are showing. For example, Syria has now been brought back into the Arab League, to America’s fury. BRICS and other organisations are increasing their weight. The dollar is no longer used by all and sundry. The world’s largest powers, India, China and Russia, are more than a counterweight to America’s dying hegemony.
If the US and its useful idiot, the UK, persist with attempted reforms based on non-existent hegemony, such as opening a ‘NATO office’ in Japan, this will be a recipe for a world war. Better multi-polar and democratic reform, to reflect reality. But it will take some serious statesmen to achieve a new balance. Do we have them?