The Evolution of the United Nations

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Established in a postwar world reeling from the shock of the Second World War, the United Nations has played numerous roles in its short history. Initially, the UN was purely an international forum, a meeting place where dignitaries from around the world could meet to share grievances and mediate conflict. The UN differed from its predecessor, the League of Nations, in that it had a militarized arm. As a result of this small military it did not take long till the UN has found itself drawn into conflict.

Since its founding, the UN has evolved into a sort of world police, a far venture from its original goal of facilitating peaceful international relations. Some argue that given the UN's unique composition of many nations that its intervention is purely a representation of the general global will, especially in extreme cases that seem to demand military response, namely genocide. This logic, while at first glance seems justifiable. Genocide is an evil act that should be stomped out by all means necessary. But such acts by the UN, whether the world likes it or not, violate the sovereignty of the guilty nations, an act the UN charter specifically forbids.

In addition, the UN's military track record isn't without its own violations of human rights. UN peacekeepers are responsible for numerous acts of forced prostitution, rape, and sexual slavery. Finally, deploying a military to stop genocide from taking place ignores the root cause of the problem. Defeating the perpetrators wouldn't kill the idea, no matter how many soldiers the United Nations had.

Collective security is the banding together of the world's states to stop an aggressor. The UN Security Council is such an example of collective security. According to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter the Security Council has the authorization to use force against aggressor nations in the event of a diplomatic breakdown. This use of force only happens if one of the great powers on Council doesn't veto that action. In the case of genocide, a veto seems improbable.

But what if that genocide is being committed by a Council great power? Former UN secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said, "There is no one set of European rights, and another of African rights…" But that statement is simply false. One man's genocide is another man's counter insurgency. What if Russia begins systematically eliminating accused rebels in Chechnya? What if Saudi Arabia beings killing ethnic minorities? Saudi Arabia is too important to the West because of its oil reserves to invade and a veto for intervention isn't improbable. Even if the United Nations had a military large enough to prevent genocide, there is no guarantee that it would be deployed. And if it did, would they act as a professional fighting force?

The UN has already been accused of numerous human rights violations. Investigations into UN troops serving in the Democratic Congo found hundreds of cases rape and sexual slavery. The UN had only 19,000 soldiers in the country at the time. If their size was increased to 50,000 or even 100,00, an untold number of violations would be likely to occur. UN soldiers are given by their various nation-members as part of a quota. They do not hold any loyalty to the UN that lies with their respective nation.

It's not unimaginable that a soldier who enlists in their country's military who finds himself suddenly deployed with other soldiers from various nations fighting for an organization he holds no loyalty towards, in a conflict not dictated by his home state, would feel embittered and possibly lash out on the population that he's supposed to be defending. So not only does the UN seem unlikely to interpose themselves in a country to stop genocide, they seem unable to form a disciplined fighting force even at a small scale. And those small-scale forces that are deployed around the world cannot contain minor conflicts. Large-scale mass slaughter is simply out of the reach of the UN no matter the size of their army.

All the soldiers in the world can't kill an intangible idea and that is what genocide is. The mass slaughter of an ethnic, religious, or general minority group isn't the deranged belief of a government. Soldiers don't slaughter civilians who sale simply because they're ordered to. Genocide has its roots deep in the socioeconomic histories of nations or groups. Adolph Hitler didn't flip a switch to make Germans gas millions. Anti-Semitism, homophobia, and beliefs of cultural superiority were perverse concepts and traits that perforated the shadows of German culture.

After the Allies defeated Germany the genocide that took place stopped. But the radical beliefs of Nazism didn't die out with the leaders. That taint still exists and there are those who would perform a second holocaust were they given a chance. In Bosnia numerous conflicts and ethnic cleansings have occurred. The genocide stops when NATO or UN peacekeepers come, but it starts again the second those soldiers leave. No matter how many soldiers the UN pours into a region to halt genocide, they can't occupy a nation forever.

The United Nation is a diplomatic forum. It is not a military entity. Failures throughout the world and horrific crimes perpetrated by UN Peace Keepers show that the UN cannot handle small-scale military deployment, let alone the logistics and personnel necessary to halt wide scale genocide.

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