What does the UN have to be Thankful for? Well….
The past week has been absolute hell for world politics. Countries from Chile and Pakistan to Palestine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have seen intense internal and external strife, in some cases (such as the DR of the Congo and Palestine, resulting in major violence, destruction and death). The events of the past week would lead many a skeptic and doubter to ask, where was the United Nations in all of this? Do the events of the past week only underscore the United Nations’ weak position in regulating world affairs, or do they simply point out the limitations that an international body has when it does not have money or weapons behind it?
In the case of Palestine, the United Nations actually lucked out. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States, a celebration of family, togetherness and what we are thankful for. The United Nations may be going through a rough period, personally, as it gets denounced for what it hasn’t done, but tomorrow it can be thankful for the fact that a truce was finally called between political/terrorist group Hamas and the Israeli government, ending 8 days of rocket-blasting and bombardment that left (according to Al-Jazeera TV) 161 Gazans and 5 Israelis dead. The UN should be particularly thankful since they actually had nothing to do with putting a stopper in the fighting.
Indeed, it was Egypt that mediated the dispute. Even the Arab League had paid a visit, and France had sent out feelers. But where was the United Nations in all of this, the United Nations which, unlike the United States, actually supports the Palestinian cause? In other instances this past week, the United Nations did not have the benefit of another country’s diplomatic skills, as was seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Although United Nations troops are stationed in the DRC, they were not able to stop the rebel army from overtaking regional capital Goma, which has led to international criticism of the organization. Rightly so, the United Nations (again, see Al-Jazeera TV News Hour) fired back that they are not there to fight, only to maintain peace.
The United Nations exists to promote peace and harmony between nations-hence, ahem, the word “united.” It does not fight, because fighting is the complete opposite of unity and harmony; therefore, it is indeed “useless,” as some may say, when it comes to a war’s political outcome. I have quoted in the past Noam Chomsky that it is only those with the faith or weapons that can control the world, and unfortunately the United Nations does not possess a legitimate army; it’s “troops” are peacekeepers, shipped out to protect ordinary citizens, not fight on a designated side. It also possesses a faith that is generally not shared by the developing world. Freedom of speech and religion? Equality between man and woman, between the wealthy in the government and the uneducated poor? To a corrupt or dictatorial government (as most in the developing world are, unfortunate but true) these are not motivating ideas. Likewise, the United Nations is not a money machine that would convince developed nations from necessarily listening (in the United States’ case, we don’t listen because effectively our money mostly makes up the UN and we therefore seem to believe we can ignore it).
How many sanctions have been slapped on countries like Iran? Syria has been delivered several since it’s revolution began, but has this stopped President Bashar al-Asad? No-but this does not mean that we should give up on the United Nations. Unfortunately discussion and non-violent (and non-corrupt) retaliation will not deter a country or a people: some situations will still be settled, as of now, the old-fashioned way, with violence or a dollar sign. The United Nations is important simply because it allows two people to try to settle a dispute the correct way, through discussion and reason, instead of the old way. It is important because it stands as a beacon for those who want to make the world a better place. Hopefully, one day, the principles behind the United Nations will be so widespread that bombings, like the ones that took place in Pakistani cities (including Quetta) this Wednesday, do not happen thanks to hate, and that people will not have to protest severe measures, as they are doing in Greece, because of corrupt and insensitive governments that squandered public money.
This Thanksgiving, we should be thankful that the United Nations exists, and that there are people who are willing to fight to stop fighting.