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The United Nations, 1945-2003, R.I.P.

Nicolas Chatfort write the obituary of the UN, an organization whose statist premise makes its impending passing something few at Samizdata.net will shed a tear over

We are witnessing a major historical turning point in history. The world order envisioned by the UN is on its deathbed and unlikely to be revived. The world order I am referring to, however, is not the one enshrined in the lofty words of the UN charter. No, that vision died long ago, in fact as soon as the signatures were given in San Francisco. The idealistic vision of an international community working harmoniously toward common ends died stillborn when despotic regimes, whose very existences were alien to the goals set out in the charter, were allowed to join. The idea that the legitimacy to US actions is dependent on the views of countries such as Angola, China, Guinea, or Syria is absurd.

Realpolitiks, on the other hand, have underpinned the UN for over half a century. The myth behind the UN is that it an organization designed to maintain international peace through collective security. Nothing could be further from the truth. The strength of the UN has always rested on a grand bargain between the US and the other democracies of world. On the one side, the US would agree not to return to isolationism after WWII and promised to use its military force to provide a protective umbrella to its weaker partners. On the other side, the democracies would provide political support to US actions around the globe, thus enhancing the legitimacy of these actions. The Security Council has been effective only when it has been aligned with the interests of the United States, on whom it has been dependent for military strength with which to impose its will. No other country or collection of countries can adequately substitute for the US military.

This bargain has now been broken. France and Germany no longer feel that they have an obligation to support the US. In fact, it now appears that France views the weakening of American power as one of its major diplomatic goals. Although in the past French posturing has been a nuisance for the US, it had always returned to the side of the US when it mattered. The recent French actions in the UN, however, are unprecedented in that Paris is now working actively to undermine the US position. The obstinacy of the French position suggests that Paris is more interested in bringing the US to heal than Iraq. Chirac is mistaken if he believes that the US will acknowledge UN paramountcy over US security interests. The UN cannot function without the US military power to back it up and the US will not long remain a member if it comes to view UN more as an impediment to US security rather than as an aid.

Nicolas Chatfort

9 comments to The United Nations, 1945-2003, R.I.P.

  • This brief essay is both accurate and important — yet, in the interests of a complete look at the problem, I pose the following: Would France’s “diplomatic goal” of weakening the United States be a sufficient reason for it to take its current stance, if the Chirac government and its most important supporters did not stand to suffer in the event of Saddam Hussein’s downfall?

    I ask this because of the many indications that Washington would be willing to buy French cooperation for a monetary price, and the other indications that the French Government and major French corporations have collaborated with Saddam Hussein’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. It was, after all, a French company that built the Osirak reactor.

    Germany’s priorities might well include similar considerations, especially since so many nuclear scientists and engineers were left unemployed when East Germany was absorbed by West Germany. Germany, too, stands to lose monetarily by defying the United States — and in really big numbers.

    So: Is the “diplomatic goal” of restored, independent Great Power status for these two countries, or for the European Union which they dominate, really a sufficient explanation for what appears from here to be financial and political self-mutilation?

  • Patrick

    I think also that Mark Steyn is right: France’s overarching political objective is to ensure that the EU remains a French subsidiary. A US world order outside UN supposed legitimacy would spur the pro-US Gang of 8 and Vilnius 10 group to dominate in Europe. The UN and NATO are mere proxies for the real war France is fighting – for continued relevance and EU hegemony. The best thing the US can do to engender continued support in Europe and against Saddam is to do all it can to weaken France politically, economically and morally. Having sidelined them in NATO (by using the Planning Council which France does not belong to), stripping away their weasel buddies in Berlin will be the easier first act – leaving France truly isolated.

    My personal view is that the French have recently made a world-changing mistake – for themselves. Their influence and credibility will sink. The world and the EU will not look the way the French want in 10 years time. On the plus side they be remembered for also adding the final straw on the UN’s back.

  • I am not sure if the guest writer’s view of the historical workings of the UN is completely accurate. Or, at least, it seems like an unjustifiedly (is that a word? no) one-sided perspective on the UN.
    Its conclusion should be somewhat weaker than it is as stated. There is still wide support in the US for membership in the UN and something truly absurd and publicized (although I don’t know what could be more so than France’s sophistries against Powell’s arguments) seems to be necessary to get a public opinion consensus.
    Perhaps Bush will just leave the UN and not give a damn about public opinion, you say. I think that is unlikely; polls have become very important to the presidency.

    Mr. Porretto –

    I find it unlikely that any French or German involvement in Iraq (a poor state [after the sanctions]) is of sufficient numbers to have any impact upon their respective political systems. Any evidence or articles you have to show us would be greatly appreciated.

  • hee hee “historical turning point in history”

    just had to poke fun :-p

  • Is the UN truly dead, or do we need garlic and a stake as well?

  • Sandy P.

    Malex, a poor state, Iraq? He sent 3 bill to Libya, the UN’s got $21+ bil in Euros and over $30 bill in oil-for-food contracts. The budget of overseeing Iraq is more than the UN’s budget. Saddam is not poor, his people are BECAUSE HE BUILDS WMD.

    He’s also the largest money-launderer in the world.

    He chose to spend money on his greater glory.

    BTW, seems Jacques’ nez is a little out of joint.

    In a few well chosen mal mots, the French premier let rip, saying: “They missed a great opportunity to shut up.”

    He went on in his best professorial tone: “These countries have not been very well-behaved”. They had acted “recklessly” by not appreciating the “danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position”.

    Oh, we’re France, we know what’s best for the EU.

    Kofi laid it on the line to him, too.

    He also told it to the heads of government straight: that if Saddam Hussein continued with his defiance, then the security council would have no option but to face up to its responsibilities – confront the Baghdad regime with military force.

  • Ok, so Hussein can live in Great Opulence. Still, I hope that the influence he has on France and Germany is not sufficient to control their entire foreign policy.

    yayfor Kofi! kinda

  • Anonymous

    Saddam can only live in Great Opulence if he requests asylum.

  • hehe that’s true. It must be annoying for him to get the trappings of Western life completely through smuggling :-p but I doubt that’ll convince him.