The UN facilitates endless rounds of doomed negotiations between powers who will never agree because they have opposing interests
Recent history is strewn with how Pakistani establishment, its bureaucrats, its politicians, both of the right and the left, variety hide behind the controversial veil of the United Unions (UN) to maintain the status quo. When issues of conflict and diplomacy unravel out of their control they conveniently jump on the UN mantra, and its plethora of resolutions despite having no faith in this institution’s ability to resolve anything in reality. While thousands of innocent Kashmiris over the last seven decades have been killed or maimed on both sides of the border with indiscriminate firings including four full-scale wars, the UN could only table resolutions exposing its inadequacy. All this has only enabled dominating states of the region to continue brutal occupation and allowed Kashmiri nationalists to cower behind UN’s façade of peace and as an institution that could resolve conflicts. The national and economic oppression of Kashmiris has gone on unabated.
The role of the UN in the Middle East is even more horrific. Despite over 250 resolutions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict it has miserably failed to stop genocidal elimination of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Its role in Afghanistan is no different. The UN stood as a spectator while Afghanistan burned under the US and western imperialist-backed reactionary clergy in the 1980s and 1990s, and then subjugated to a barbarity of the Taliban never seen before. The horrific murder of Dr Najib Ullah by the Taliban, and mutilation and hanging of his body from a lamppost in Kabul overran the UN compound in Kabul revealed the fallacy of relying on the UN. This unfortunate country has been under direct US and western military occupation for over 14 years now under the direct authorisation and legitimacy of the UN. One can comprehend why the right sings hymns in praise of the UN but the left doing this is nothing but an outright betrayal and creating false illusions amongst the masses whether it is in Afghanistan, Palestine or Kashmir.
The same story is also true in the western politics. Foreign policy is always an extension of domestic policy. The bourgeois politicians who slash the welfare state, attack trade union rights and suppress protests at home use the same methods abroad in their pursuit of profits for their banks and big corporations. ‘Diplomacy’ is a means of dividing the loot of the exploited workers of the world, particularly in the former colonies. The UN simply is another arsenal in their stock to control and plunder. An imperialist action does not become less imperialist because it has the approval of this institution. A UN resolution is only there to sow the illusion that war is just.
The UN is governed by the main imperial powers (France, China, Russia, the UK and the USA) and can only act when these powers agree. There are very few military conflicts in which all these five powers find themselves on the same page and, consequently, the UN very rarely intervenes anywhere. As Ted Grant pointed out, “Since the Second World War, there have been wars every year, and in everyone, the United Nations has been unable to take action.” The UN ‘peacekeeping’ forces seem to resemble a man trying to mop up a flood with a hand sponge, so relentless is capitalism’s drive to war and chaos. Earlier Lenin had characterised the similar ‘League of Nations’, as “a group of beasts of prey…do not at all trust one another…” (A Thieves’ Kitchen)
The UN was founded as a result of an agreement between the ‘victor’ imperialist powers and the bureaucratic caricatures of socialist states in 1944-45 at Yalta, Tehran and Potsdam when Roosevelt, Stalin and Truman divided the spoils of the Second World War and laid the foundation for the UN. Today the UN is merely a concubine of the five veto-wielding permanent members, and in particular that of the US imperialism. It acts in accordance to the interests, desires and wishes of these bosses. It is in reality a debating club of the elite leaders who oppress billions across the planet. It is a place infested with horse trading, exchange of favours and buying of votes in the General Assembly with promises of aid, the bulk of which regularly winds up in the pockets of state and political elites. The recent controversial appointment of Saudi Arabia as the Chair of the UN Human Rights Panel is without drawing conclusions for what this implies about the UN itself. The Independent noted that “the Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a ‘macabre spike’ in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.” It is entirely clear that the Saudis have been given this position in an attempt by the western powers to improve relations after recent deals with Iran.
Evidently, the UN has no power or interests of its own to somehow stop the endless violence of capitalism. Those who call for UN approval to legitimise imperialist bombing of other countries believe there has not been enough talking and that we are too quick to rush to action. Not enough talks! The UN facilitates endless rounds of doomed negotiations between powers who will never agree because they have opposing interests as can be seen by divisions in all UN bodies. The record of Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty speaks volumes on this as it not been able to prevent many countries from developing nuclear weapons. Similarly, the UN-sponsored climate change treaties are routinely ignored by all the polluting powers. Israel ignores what the UN says on its borders, and gets away with it. The UN issues plaintive reports about the humanitarian disaster engulfing Yemen thanks to Saudi bombing, but will do nothing because the US backs this action. It is likely that Assad has now used chemical weapons even after promising to hand them all over to the UN, but nothing will be done since the main powers cannot agree on what to do. The same situation prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s when US imperialism was carpeting Indo-china with cluster bombs.
It is an institution that plays on national divisions. All serious issues in politics and society are resolved by wars and revolutions. The imperialists are waging those endless wars. The proletarian vanguard is preparing for revolution. There is no magic power to the UN. This body is nothing but a group of disunited nations that plays on national divisions. It merely serves as an instrument for buying time and diplomatic cover for the imperial designs of the capitalist powers. Leon Trotsky argued long ago:
“The bourgeois states do not divide themselves into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’ of peace — especially since ‘peace’ as such does not exist. Each imperialist country’s paramount concerns are protecting and furthering its economic interests and in the process it will trample on almost anyone that comes in its way.”
The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at email@example.com