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Reform and relevancy

It occurs to me that one of the large obstacles in the way of invading Iraq is the Security Council veto. It further occurs to me that the rationale behind the veto, that being the great power status of the Allied nations after World War II, is somewhat antiquated.

I don’t think any pro-war pundit can deny that the veto is tremendously frustrating. As so many have pointed out, it seems ridiculous that France can effectively stand in the way of UN action. That ability — the ability of one nation to unfairly stop debate in its tracks — prevents the UN from being effective. Again, many argue that the UN’s inability to press the issue of Iraq is ruining the UN as we watch.

OK. Let’s get rid of the veto. I won’t go so far as to recommend that the permanent members of the Security Council lose that status, but let’s get rid of the vetos and enable the UN to respond in a timely fashion without fear of being blackmailed by any single nation.

Nota bene: Russia has vetoed over 60% more resolutions than the next most frequent vetoer. Someone on NPR tonight was claiming that the US held the record. Incorrect; the link above has the real numbers.


  1. Well,as to the record-holder, NPR probably meant “inthe modern era”. Evidently, NPR was founded in 1970, after most of the USSR vetos had occurred.

    I haven’t followed your link to verify this, but my recollection is that the US has taken up vetoing anti-Israel resolutions as quickly as the UN passes them, which seems to have been pretty quickly.

    My problem with eliminating the veto is that, in many situations, it reflects reality. If, for example, the UN were to condemn Russian activities in Chechyna, and propose to send a peace-keeping force, a Russian veto would reflect the grim reality of the situation. Of course, if the UN actually took its votes seriously, maybe it would not even attempt such a peace-keeping resolution, since the enforcement would be impossible. Hmm. But I think this relies on the UN for better judgement than it has shown thus far.

    Lots of similar situations can be imagined – China and Tibet, or Hong Kong, or Korea all come to mind. The real problem is, none of these situations involve France, which is not now a Great Power. It is not the veto per se, it is the wrong countries having a veto, that is the problem.

    The U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain have vetos – fine. Drop France, and I am not sure who, if anyone, to add. India? Oh, Pakistan would go nuts.

    Permanent Security Council seat, as a middle ground, for France, Japan, and Germany. India comes in at this level. But only four vetoes.

    Four vetos – that’s my two cents. Well, unless the UN takes up the question of invading Monaco.

  2. OK, weird story straight from memory, could be wrong. I have the recollection that the US did not use its veto for years. Finally, something sufficiently irked us that we vetoed a resolution that Britain had already vetoed.

    Having broken the dam, away we went. My guess is that, before this, we would try to kill resolutions before they came to a vote. Afterwards, we said, screw it, and vetoed everything in sight.

    All hazy recollection, however.

  3. Tom — you’re no doubt right about NPR, and one can also claim that Russia and the USSR should be counted separately. The vast majority of the USSR vetos were in the early years; I’ve read that they were blocking new members of the UN, but I can’t confirm that. Lately it’s been all the US.

    I think that realistically Great Britain doesn’t have a ton of stature without the close relationship with the US — if you’re cutting the veto down to the current Great Powers, it’s just the US, China, and Russia. But you gotta have some mechanism for determining what a GP is, and it has to be objective, and that seems unlikely.

    Not, mind you, that any of this is likely. I have to admit I meant my post as somewhat of a cheapshot; I got tired of people ranting about how obstructionist France was and thought I’d point out that they ought to be criticizing the mechanism that allows France to be so obstructionist.

    I don’t really rely on the UN to be sensible, though. I think of ’em as a very important braking factor on some stuff, but I expect some wackiness in the mix.

    Thanks for your posts!

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