Monday, March 10, 2003

It's deja vu all over again
George Kerevan in the Scotsman reminds us how much the UN resembles the League of Nations in The UN's weakest link: its inability to take action:
The original UN was never intended as a talking shop. It was crafted as an organ of world collective security whereby the aptly-named Security Council would wage war against aggressor nations. That is why Sweden was originally excluded from UN membership because she was not prepared to abandon her neutrality if the Security Council took military action.

In this, the UN was consciously designed to be the opposite of the earlier League of Nations, which was constructed to resolve conflict through diplomacy. The League failed miserably and ended in the Second World War. First, the League became a diplomatic fig leaf for national self-interest. The best example is the knowing failure of the League arms inspection regime in Germany. The League had 7,000 weapons inspectors in Germany. Their job was to police the Versailles Treaty that forbade Germany from, among other things, building or possessing an offensive airforce.

The Germans got round this disarmament regime in many ways. For instance, those nice Bolsheviks - anxious for German technology - leased them secret military bases in the Soviet Union. Being in Russia, these could not be inspected by the League. A bit like the military camps of the Iranian opposition inside Iraq, which have never, ever been inspected by the UN since 1991 - because they are "extra-territorial". Again, Japanese League inspectors - also anxious for German knowhow - happily informed the Germans of impending inspections so that aircraft companies could hide their wares. Not that that happens today, of course.

The final nail in the League of Nations was the failure of members to deal with rogue states. In 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia and got away with it. The British made a half-hearted attempt to rally the French into retaliatory action. But the French - what’s new? - preferred a "diplomatic" solution as they wanted Mussolini as an ally against Hitler, so they blocked demands for oil sanctions against Italy.

All this is very prescient, for the UN is going the way of the League.
Let's put the UN out of its misery.