The US, NATO, the UN, & World Peace

The reluctant US involvement in the current mess in the Balkans should make clear once again that ultimately we have two choices: either let whole regions in the world go on periodic rampages of self-destruction (then maybe send some humanitarian aid when things calm down) or else reform the UN to become an effective peace-maker whenever such situations begin to develop instead of trying to pick up the pieces after things have gotten out of control.

What we have now is a UN security council still hamstrung by veto powers that are relic of the cold-war era, leaving the only remaining superpower (the US) and its allies (NATO) picking and choosing among causes on the basis of national or regional interests, but ignoring similar situations in other parts of the world -- as we did in the case of Cambodia, Rwanda, Chechnya, and Guatemala, and still do in the case of Sudan, Tibet, and other places almost too numerous to mention. These kind of situations and the crimes against humanity they generate can't be allowed to continue on into the next century.

This is not to say that regional peace-keeping organizations like NATO might not continue to play a temporary role, but that it must be the decision of the UN as to when and where they are to be used. No one power -- "super" or otherwise -- can any longer be allowed to cripple the efforts of a UN-sanctioned force to intervene anywhere in the world where human rights are being substantially violated, whether by invading forces from another country or by persecution of or violent oppression against any ethnic, regional, religious, or economic group even within the same country. Had Russia, as part of the UN security council, but without any veto, been part of a UN decision to block Serbia's violent incursion into Kosovo, this present tragedy might have been averted. So too, had the US been obliged, again without veto powers, to be part of a UN operation in Rwanda, eight-hundred thousand lives could have been saved.

The world has truly become a "global village". No continent, no nation, no segment of humanity is an "island" unto itself. We must recognize that the era of the "sovereign" nation-state is long over -- a dead relic of the era of the supposed "divine right of kings". Either we act accordingly to reform or rebuild the necessary structures, or else we give up and allow millions of people to die or suffer while whole countries or regions of this planet struggle through repeating all the same mistakes this past century that caused World Wars I and II. We must not enter the next century trying to keep peace in a world with rules that ceased to function effectively over a century ago.

RWK 4/5/99

Published in the Gaylord Herald Times

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