Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Undermining the UN: Who's at the Steering Wheel?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Undermining the UN: Who's at the Steering Wheel?

Article excerpt

WHILE speeches are being made and ceremonies held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the organization itself is tottering toward ineffectiveness. The saddest part of this sad story is that nobody is paying much attention, perhaps because nobody has the stomach to do much about it.

Briefly stated, the trouble is that the UN is meekly accepting one humiliation after another in Bosnia. This cannot go on very long before it results in loss of respect, prestige, and authority. The UN, created to preserve world peace, will have been neutered.

It would not be right to put the blame for this dismal state of affairs on the UN itself. The UN does not exist independently of its members. It is what its members make it, particularly those who are permanent members of the Security Council: the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China. They were made permanent members in the first place because it was felt that they were the countries best able to keep the peace. In Bosnia, they have flunked.

It can be reasonably argued that what used to be Yugoslavia is of no large global strategic importance and that therefore the UN did not need to do anything when the Yugoslav breakup began. The central point here is that once the UN did intervene, its future credibility became dependent on effective action. Otherwise, nobody will pay attention to future resolutions in possibly more critical situations.

Having intervened in Yugoslavia, the UN did just about everything wrong. The peacekeeping force was not big enough. It was not well enough armed. It had inappropriate rules of engagement. The countries that contributed troops to the force (primarily Britain and France) deserve full marks, but they sent their troops into an impossible situation.

The relationship between the UN and NATO evolved into a jerry-built military structure with a Rube Goldberg chain of command. …

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