[LETTERS to the editor]The UN’s limits

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[LETTERS to the editor]The UN’s limits

The recent Russian invasion of Georgia has clearly shown us the limits of the United Nations, once again. Although the UN Charter prohibits foreign intervention in domestic affairs or use of force without permission from the UN Security Council, some countries don’t seem to care. The U.S., for one, had to go pummel Iraq despite the Security Council’s veto. Now, Russia’s acting the same without even asking for international consent. I believe such acts are wrong and must stop, for illegal intervention undermines the principle of fairness in the international order, and make ways for future illegal invasions under namely excuses.

The biggest weakness of the UN lies in the fact that most of its power is held by a few countries. This gives them an upper hand over other countries and immunity from international laws. When the powerful countries decide to break the laws, the world can but only watch. For instance, while Milosevic and al-Bashir’s atrocities are subject to punishment in international criminal courts, Bush and Medvedev’s invasions are not. Is power the sole determinant in deciding who gets punished or not? If not, it does not seem like it in the least. This is the unfairness, the inconsistency, and the limits of UN jurisdiction.

Some say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it’s definitely true in the international order. Bush, for one, first asked for the UNSC’s consent. When he failed, he tried to link Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein, which again did not succeed. He lastly insisted that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were aimed at the U.S., and was ready to roll - only to find none after his invasion. After abducting Hussein, Bush said that he was happy since he saved the Kurds. This excuse gave the implication that if you’ve got power, you don’t have to play by the rules - which led to Russia’s attack on Georgia. Making exceptions undermines principles, and Bush’s exception certainly made way for another invasion by Russia. I only hope it doesn’t lead to another one by China.

It is true that the whole purpose of the UN is to stop violations of human rights throughout the world. However, it does not mean that it can be used as a tool that undermines national sovereignty at a strong country’s convenience. In stopping this, though, the UN alone does not suffice, and other international bodies must work alongside it. For example, as the U.S. and Russia are both permanent members of the UNSC, any misdeeds by those countries are unlikely to be brought up in a UN conference. Other holders of power, such as the EU, must work as the “balancers of power.” I’m not denying the whole concept of the UN, though. It is merely that even the countries of best morals and powers need a devil’s advocate with practical power in the form of other international bodies. The era of a sole and supreme UN in the world order is over, and its limits call for global collaboration through multiple international organizations.

Hong Seung-Hwee, a student at Anyang Foreign Language High School

e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219

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