Friday, April 25, 2003

{{{Boogie on the head of a pin}}}

*Clears throat*... Warning, *prof mode* about to begin, *prof mode* about to begin...

*Prof mode*: This little capsule of information, one hopes, will eventually become but the first in a long running series. In language and prose that befits the Economist (Short, punchy and sharp according to one of their adverts), and belies his miserable GP score, this author hope to put forth various points the author hopes to put forth to his immediate audience (i.e. however happens to be reading behind his back at various moments in the 4th dimension), as well as (when this author gives in to his superego) the wider world. ~ *Prof mode ends*

And for those who are wondering, I still have no idea what the philosophical or theological debate over the number of Angels capable of dancing on the head of the pin is about. I realise that most of my 9 months reading and doing philosophy and comparative theology was spent floundering in the wilderness. Which is why I'm going to focus on P and E and leave out the other P.

Okay! Back to the original point (pun not intended)... Today's will be about the UN. And for those who paid no attention to the various exhortations above and below, NO! this is not some witty point on existentialism vs materialism, nor is it pondering on the mysteries of religion (particularly those monotheistic ones).

This is the successor to the League of Nations that failed miserably after failing to stop various despotic and imperialistic regimes from invading various countries and fighting over their various natural resources. Sounds familiar doesn't it? And yes I'm referring to the first (and not the second) Gulf War. In case that there's any doubt on Saddam's despotism or his imperialistic tendencies, read up on the Ba'ath party and their policy of secular (and not Islamic, which basically makes a mockery of all his claims to be the protector of Islam) nationalism.

In any case, consider the background in which the UN was set up. The year is 1945, the deliberations regarding the creation of such a body was basically discussed by three men (and the countries they represented: USA, Britain and the former USSR) in the waning months of the war. The spirit of the times, the raison d'etat of nation
states is best encapsulated by, "There are no permanent allies, only permanent interests." This was the period of the 'Modern' states, where balance of power and military might, determined the scales of international relations. This was the world expressed best by Bismarck and his political vision of Realpolitik. Not quite unlike the state of the European continent after the Treaty of Westphalia 1648 (and for those who appreciated irony, it looks like the world may be heading back towards those days of religion over nation. Despite my misgivings about Samuel Hutchingson's thesis in The Clash of Civilisations, there may be some truth in what he says).

As such the structure of the UN reflects the political realities of the world that greeted the end of World War 2. Might makes right and victory decides the minds of most men. The victors of WW2, in particular the Big 5, the permanent members of the Security Council, were in fact the oligarch (soon to develop into a bi-polar zone) of the world. They, the possessors of the most destructive (physical) weapon the world had ever known, could and did to a large degree, define and decide the course of the world since. Without even going into conspiracy theories, their prints can be seen in almost every single geopolitical issue of today.. Whether it is the rise of militant Islam (to
combat what the revolutionaries saw as Western control of their nation e.g. Iran 1967), the spread of democracy (or at the very least its importance in name), the fall of Communism as a political and economic structure (Marxist thought and dialectism will be with us till the end of time), various capitalist and pseudo-capitalist systems (Keynesian, Monetarist, Neo-Keynesian Synthesis, ISI etc.), much if not all can be traced to an action or a reaction to them.

The most tangible form of political power that they wielded (and still do) was (and is) the Veto. Whether or not one accepts the current conventions of International Law that inteprets the absence of any of these member's consent as equating to that of a veto, capable of overriding the express wishes of the majority of the Security Council (and by extension the majority of the world's sovereign nation since Resolution 241 is so rarely used) merely ignores the realities of the situation today. The fact is, veto power was granted in order to avoid infringing/intruding (accidentally or otherwise) the interest of these nations. This cannot and should not be simply viewed as the evil conspiracy of a few power hungry nation to lord over the rest of the 'minnow' nations. The fact is, stability and order in the balance of a higher world on the edge of a
nuclear sword of Damascus was preferable to the chaos of war.

And the world has not done badly since.

But the world has since changed. Thus can we still accept this system of inequity? And if we do, how should we best go about preserving the status quo?

In a world that professes a belief in the individual, in his inequality in relation to his fellow person, in the idea of democracy, of Vox Populi Vox Dei (The Voice of the People is the Voice of God), can we with good conscience accept such blatant inequalities?

But yet not to do so would be to simplistically disregarding the realities of power equations and plays of the various poles (centres of powers) in the world today.

Observe the US led invasion of Iraq. Could a united world (a laughable concept even in the best of times) have stopped it? Well, the score reads one to political division and nil to diplomacy. Militarily, would anyone really like to find out? And in truth, did anyone want to? Most nations that opposed the war had pretty selfish (political and populist) reasons to do so. Others, particularly those that sought to uphold certain aspects of international law (What about resolution 1441 or the preceeding 12 years' worth?) or the sanctity of international organisations (to claim that they speak for the common people would be hubris in the least) or even the fear that the USA was going down a slippery slope to the destruction of the sanctity of national sovereignty (it is not a shield, it is not an absolute right. Another essay for another day unless I get requests => ) and world arrmageddon (stopping Saddam would be a great step in keep WMD from unsavoury hands) all had merit in themselves, but ignored reality. See above =>

Regimes like Saddam's and Kim Jong Il's thrive in a post-modern world or at least in a post-modern atmosphere that has seem at times to have lacked the will power and ability to do nothing more than to smack them on their hands and send them to bed without their suppers (and deprive their people of breakfast, lunch, dinner and possibly hope) for their various misdeeds and transgressions. Saddam got away for 12 years by playing the UN against itself. Kim Jong Il basically blackmailed the Western world into giving him more toys to stay in power and blackmail them.

Keep this point in mind as we explore the possibility of reforming the Big 5 to reflect power plays more in tune with today's world.

One way would be to introduce more members into the Big 5. Obvious candidates can be divided into two sorts. Those with nuclear weapons and economic powerhouses.

The first would involve inviting nations like Pakistan and Indian and perhaps even nuclear hopefuls like North Korea and Iran. On first sight, it looks more than simply ridiculous, whatever tensions that currently exist within the council would be aggravated. The gaps that exist between these members and would-be members are vast. Nations with different ideologies and differing attitudes to foreign affairs need a bridge. The failure of diplomacy in the face of national interest and moral certainty is hardly going to give one a good night's sleep. Considering the fact that it's veto powers that one is talking about here, and all talk about playing geopolitical games would come to
fruition. On the other hand, it's possible that nations like North Korea are merely playing an attention seeking game in building weapons of mass destruction. Engaging them would prove beneficial in aligning them with the interest of the wider world. Like far right parties becoming mainstream, there may be hope for such nations yet. Which is more likely? One hopes for the second, but it's hard to keep a straight face.

Or the second option. Invite nations like Japan and Germany who have surely earned their places here. If not for the fact that they were on the wrong side, who might know? But when confronting 'modern' and 'pre-modern' nations in the arena of international affairs, Diplomacy without arms is simple, lame. Might can make black into white and seem right. To prevent that, look to economics (and common sense) for an answer. The theory of the second best states that one must introduce imperfections into an imperfect world to create the desired result. One does not maintain world peace by remaining pacifist in the face of an aggressive nation in an arms race. Disarmament and appeasement can work but sometimes there simply isn't much choice. So Japan and Germany, one of who's constitution makes it impossible for them to wage war except in self defence (which has severely limited their military capabilities), appears ludicrous as one cannot assume a base level of order and civility in a world that is in places untamed jungle.

So what's left? And is that necessarily the right thing? How does one go about engaging America? Does one go the way of France and oppose the hyperpower that
America seems to be on principle, 'Jacque(y)' for position and power? Or does one go the British way, 'Blair' with America and guide it as a force of good and
being it and the power into a true 'post-modern' era? Or is there a third way, some compromise that takes the best of two to create a panacea? Or is that simply a false conclusion?


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