ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Bullying the UN

Was the United Nations conceived of, among other things, as an “effective tool of great power diplomacy”, in addition to being an “efficient deliverer of humanitarian aid”, a “weapons inspector” and an “effective peace-maker”? That is what Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, believes. He said as much when speaking in the Security Council chamber on January 20. He was invited to speak there by Richard Holbrooke of the US who happens to be the Council president for the month. The meeting Senator Helms addressed, though described by Holbrooke as “historic”, did not, it was made clear, “count as a formal Council session”. In what sense the meeting could be considered historic Holbrooke himself will have to explain, but it has apparently turned out to be somewhat embarrassing for the US administration, of which Holbrooke is a member. Also, ensuring that the meeting did not count as a formal Council session was perhaps the best that UN secretary-general Kofi Annan could do while accommodating Helms, notorious for his diatribes against the UN and its working and his fierce opposition to the US paying up its dues as a UN member.

The purpose of Senator Helms wanting to address Security Council members was not just to warn the Council against any UN bid to cross the path of US foreign policy, but also to demand that UN forswear any right of approval over US resort to use of force. According to Helms, the American people “see the UN aspiring to establish itself as the central authority of a new international order and global laws and global governance. This is an international order the American people will not countenance.” He went so far as to threaten “eventual US withdrawal” on the ground that “the American people will never accept the claims of the United Nations to be the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force in the world”. For Senator Helms, it is obviously legitimate for the US to decide the when, where and why of the use of force in international relations, but not be obliged to seek the approval of the UN, not even of the Security Council where it enjoys a veto along with the other permanent members. Not that the US has not in the past resorted to use of force without UN approval, but it has attempted to keep up the pretence of seeking some sort of ex post facto approval. Evidently, Helms and his ilk do not like to have to seek even such nominal approval.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top