US versus UN


Your editorial, Mandela stands tall again, (October 2002) provides a lot of food for thought. I would like to extend the discussion a little wider. The UN was formed after World War II to replace The League of Nations which had failed to stop a heavily armed Germany from invading its neighbours and thus starting the most destructive war (thus far) in human history.

Among the first principles of the UN was the inviolability of the sovereignty of nation States and the end of the might-is-right ideology. This pursuit of might had led to countless wars, the building and destruction of empires and the loss of lives in the millions. Just as the principle of might-is-right had been gradually eliminated in civil society and replaced with universal laws, so the UN founder members decided to do away with it and replace it with a set of international laws.

The result was an unprecedented period of world peace. It was broken only where societies still attempted to impose the might-is-right principle, as in Africa and Latin America. The futility of this approach was evident in the destruction of societies as half-literate soldiers, some only young boys, attempted to impose their will on society through the might of their arms.

All evidence proves that societies that are based on universal law and order tend to thrive and societies in armed conflict regress. So it is at a global level.

Unfortunately, the US, having built up the most powerful armed force in history for defensive purposes, is now attempting to use it for offensive purposes. The temptation to do so must be overwhelming. But it is the same temptation that a general in Africa or elsewhere in the developing world is faced with. But when the consequences are thought through, and history shows us that they are terrible, the temptation often vanishes.

This is what Nelson Mandela meant when he warned the US that its stance was threatening world peace. He also alluded to the fact that should the US resort to force to achieve its own short-term ends, and should it succeed in doing so, we can say goodbye to international law and order. If force works for the US, why should force not work for anybody else? There is no doubt that the race for armed supremacy, which has been gathering pace in the last decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, will accelerate. Those without the means of increasing their conventional forces will resort to the sort of tactics employed by Bin Laden and his ilk.

In such a scenario, to be peaceful and defenceless will be to invite trouble, even invasion. If the UN cannot keep its strongest member in check, its authority will be non-existent and we will all be back...

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