Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Effectiveness of the United Nations

  1. Dec 8, 2012 #1
    Hello,

    I was given a prompt to write about in my History class a number of months back during our study of the Rwandan Genocide, the prompt being "Is the UN an effective body for preventing genocide?" After the Genocide came to a close, the UN was subject to (and still is subject to) much scrutiny from the media and the world as their competence was brought into question.

    I stand by the belief that one cannot blame the United Nations for the logical fallacies of its component nations. The United Nations is, after all, not a single entity. It is as the name implies a composition of nations. The UN charter states that should the possibility of a Genocide arise, the component nations have an obligation to take action in preventing and stopping the Genocide. One might argue that should the component nations fail to take necessary action, the UN should use their Peacekeeping Force to establish order. The Peacekeeping force, however, does not have a permanent placement in the United Nations as it is entirely founded on the volunteering of the soldiers in armies of the component nations of the UN who, if they choose to do so, can fight to pull out all of their soldiers from a given operation.

    What is your opinion?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2012 #2
  4. Dec 9, 2012 #3
    The US dollar is the basis of most of the world's economy and our military is equal to the next six largest combined and spends twice as much as any of them. We pay half the bills for the UN and NATO. It's empire baby and this train ain't stopping until it derails. To discuss the limitations and role of the UN without mentioning it exists only at the behest of the American empire is to miss the point.
     
  5. Dec 9, 2012 #4

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    [humor sidebar]

    I laughed when I saw the title and the name of the OP:

    http://img62.imageshack.us/img62/7547/unzero.jpg [Broken]

    [/humor sidebar]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Dec 10, 2012 #5
    Basically what wuliheron said. I'll just add that the UN has no power other than that of its constituent nations. The US being currently the most powerful, by far. As far as the US is concerned, imo, the UN is either a diplomatic and propaganda tool (when it agrees with US policy), or simply ignored (when it disagrees with US policy). UN charters and resolutions are meaningless without the military power to back them up. The UN (ie., the US) will move to stop genocidal actions when it's in its interest (ie., in some way profitable) for it to do so.

    In my opinion, the UN is not, and can never be, what it was ideally intended to be. What it is, imo, unfortunately, is just another corrupt political entity.
     
  7. Dec 10, 2012 #6
    I didn't make any comment on the US and it's relationship with the UN because I thought I might get an infraction, and it didn't seem worth it; it seems like other's have already brought up this point.
    This speech from George Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq is 'funny' (or would be if the consequences weren't so serious): http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/57/statements/020912usaE.htm
    He claims intervention is necessary to stop Iraq because it violates resolutions and human rights. He also mentions Palestine in the same speech but doesn't raise Israel's UN resolution violations or its abuse of human rights! In fact, the US actively supports Israel, with aid, UN vetoes, and so on. Strange how Iraq had to be stopped.
    Very selective, and agrees with the points others have made.
     
  8. Dec 10, 2012 #7
    Sad to say I know exactly how you feel. I've been accused of promoting conspiracy theories simply by stating verifiable facts that don't agree with mainstream political views and propaganda. Sad to say some of education is nothing more than regurgitating propaganda just to prove you're willing to toe the party line. Sucks to be you.
     
  9. Dec 10, 2012 #8

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Calling the US an "empire" is a tired, old, obsolete put-down intended to draw comparisons betweeen the current US and the behavior of countries in the long-ago ended ages of empires and nationalism. Strictly speaking, the US holds occuiped territory gained via conquest, making it an empire in exactly the same way as a great many other major world powers. I wonder if people ever try to insult the UK by calling it an "empire"?

    This has nothing to do with the OP's question about the UN. The very existence of the UN contradicts the implied assertion of a similarity between the US and, for example, the British Empire during its heyday. The British did not ask permission or seek to build an international coalition to do anything, it just did what it wanted on its own. The idea of a multi-national UN liberation or peacekeeping action being an empirical quest is practically a face-value oxymoron.

    Closer to the point of the thread: Do not confuse the US being the largest contributor to the UN -- even often being a leader in UN actions -- with being in control. The UN is a democracy and a forum for diplomacy and UN actions are very much the product of negotiation and voting. Indeed, that's one of its biggest flaws, IMO. Save for the security council, much of what the UN does is based on equal standing for all nations. IMO, most nations are not worthy of equal standing with the likes of the major Western powers. Evidence of this comes from sick jokes such as Iran being on the human rights council. Allowing unworthy nations to have standing is a lot of what causes the UN to fail to act in cases where it should.

    What I would like to see replace the UN is an organization of similar structure to the EU or NATO, where member states are required to be of like-minded policy (economic in the case of the EU, political in the case of a UN successor). The UN would not need to disband as it would still provide a building with conference rooms where any nation could go to have a conversation, but the international decision-making role should only be afforded to nations worthy of such a role.

    Don't think the US is worthy? You don't have to: If we start the club, we get to decide the rules and if people don't want to belong, they won't have to. (Again, see: EU) NATO already sort of works this way, but I'm not sure it is structured in a way that it could be expanded globally.
     
  10. Dec 10, 2012 #9

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    More direct response to the OP: I think you are on the right track, but I don't see it as logical to say the failures of the UN are not the failures of the UN. The only way to begin to separate the individual and collective failures is to see who tried to do what. If a certain country tried and failed to build a coalition to act, they might feel better about themselves, but they still share in the failure. If you hit a home run in the World Series but your team loses, you don't get a ring.
     
  11. Dec 10, 2012 #10
    LOL, and in Gengis Khan's day they gave the cities a choice of either the ruling class surrendering themselves for immediate execution or they would kill everyone in the city. What empire refers to is political control and in many cases that control is exerted by something as simple as one country controlling the distribution of essentials such as food, water, and oil. Hence, the term today is even applied to companies like Standard Oil that monopolize a distribution system. Even die hard capitalists recognize you don't need guns to kill people and create an empire, but the US has both control over the distribution of countless resources and enough guns to counter any organized resistance.
     
  12. Dec 10, 2012 #11
    That's an interesting phrase Russ.

    And it tells allot about concepts like the U.N. as seen by the USA
    It's a world wide idea, but like the baseball game it only involves a single country.
    There is no World Series. Only the U.S thinks like that.
    Get rid of the USA, the USSR and China as controlling interests, and the U.N. could be a good institution.

    Get rid of the 'veto' power of these countries and let the World ( united ) decide the decisions.
    I wonder what would happen then.
     
  13. Dec 10, 2012 #12
    Why is Iran being on the human rights council a sick joke, but not the US?
     
  14. Dec 10, 2012 #13
    Not to derail the conversation, but the World Series has been so called since 1903, even as far back as the mid 1880's. You had the National League and the American League, so it wouldn't do to call them "American Champ's" or "National Champs", plus the sporting reporters at the time were given to a bit of hyperbole. They were trying to get people to attend these games, so instead of calling the winner the Champion of the United States (Toronto wasn't involved back then) they tried to draw people in by saying that the bout was for the "World's Championship Series"
    It's a bit unfair to base your judgement of american international politics on a sports event that is over a century old...

    Ignoring the fact that the Russian Federation is no longer called the USSR...I'm not sure of the reasoning behind removing the significant interest of three of the world's largest and most influential nations, composing over 25% of the world's population, from the world international forum...

    Not to mention the UK has issued more vetoes in recent years than both China and Russia combined.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the shortcomings of the UN all stem from it being bureaucracy on a global scale...
     
  15. Dec 10, 2012 #14

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Let's not get bogged down in arguing over a label. The fact is that the US is a huge player in the UN with responsibilities and power that come with it. Whether or not the US is an Empire or not doesn't matter, it doesn't change anything we've done in the past or what we will do in the future.

    I think that depends on whose definition of "good" you are using.
     
  16. Dec 10, 2012 #15

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Perhaps, but I think it really boils down to different people having different cultures, economies, goals, and other related things along with wildly varying opinions on how a situation should be handled. I mean, the UN has members from almost every kind of society in the world, how easy does anyone expect it to be to get anything done? Politics on a LOCAL scale is difficult enough with people from the same town...I can't imagine how crazy the UN must be.
     
  17. Dec 10, 2012 #16

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Of course they do. There are plenty of groups of people who don't need much excuse to make another complaint about how their ancestors were mistreated (which of course was often true).

    Some of them are doing more than just "call". Ask yourself why incidents like this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20671528 or this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-foyle-west-20662722 are happening pretty much every day.

    Or if you want a different example, ask yourself why George Galloway was elected MP for Bradford South last March....
     
  18. Dec 10, 2012 #17
    No, but it certainly paints the op in a different light if the US can dissolve the UN merely by withdrawing from it. The US has kept them on a tight leash limiting their potential not necessarily because it is in the best interest of the world, but because it benefits the US. The US commands the lead in just about every respect including it's rather subtle propaganda. It's said the US isn't famous for quality products at low prices, but marketing or a line of crap a mile long. Hollywood and all the rest would have horrified a Socrates committed to encouraging people to think for themselves.
     
  19. Dec 10, 2012 #18

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'd say that it's vital to understand what the US does and why it does it if you want to know how the UN functions. But it's the same way with every country that's part of the UN if you really want to get an understanding. We may have the most influence, but we don't make up the UN by ourselves. And let's leave Hollywood out of this, it's already dangerously close to becoming a US bashing thread and its really irrelevant to whether the UN is effective or not. I'd like to see some actual talk on the UN itself and how it functions, not more on how the US bullies everyone around and does what it wants. (Which is a blatant exaggeration and ignores pretty much all major politics that take place in the UN) Politics is politics, and we aren't any different from anyone else in that regard.
     
  20. Dec 10, 2012 #19

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Absurdity of a comparison between the US and Genghis Khan's Mongolia (!) aside, you do realize that you just listed the archetypal "empire", then gave a definition to fit the US that bears no resemblance whatsoever to that example, right? Ghengis Khan conquered via military force. Indeed, up until about 1990, that's pretty much what all "empires" did. So basically you are saying that when the US emerged as the world's sole superpower, it utterly re-defined the concept of "empire"*. Fair enough. I don't want to quibble about whether the definition of a word can so radically change, so let's just agree on this: If the US has such global hegemony as you imply, then the consequences of that must also be ours alone. So: As the sole superpower for 30 years and the world's first and only [oxymoronic] peaceful empire, the US has presided over (given to the world) the most peaceful period in human history. Agreed?
    I think the UN would probably collapse into anarchy due to the 3rd world countries running the show and we'd leave.
    I'm not sure what to make of that question. I don't consider there to be any valid comparison between the overall human rights record (especially, modern) of Iran and the US and asking the question implies there would be.

    *I picked 1990 because up until the collapse of the USSR, the US behaved much more like a traditional "empire", obtaining territorial holdings in WWII and waging proxy wars (defensive or not) against the USSR. When the USSR fell, the US role changed, hence the re-defining of the word "empire".
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  21. Dec 10, 2012 #20

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Point taken about Northern Ireland. I was thinking of Canada and Australia which AFAIK are both still under the crown and forgot briefly that there is still a semi-active autonomy movement in Ireland.

    My point in any case was that most first world nations still have territorial holdings, left-over from when the traditionally defined "empires" existed.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook