Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Myanmar and the death of Responsibility To Protect (update 7)

So today's Daily Teleegraph editorial on the Myanmar crisis starts out:

"If ever there were an opportunity for the United Nations to justify its existence, then helping to relieve the untold suffering of the millions of Burmese whose lives have been devastated by Cyclone Nargis would be one. The inherent pacifism and political correctness that generally affects the organisation's decision-making process makes it next to useless when it comes to resolving international conflict issues."

For a respected paper, this is a rather shocking failure to understand the issue and the United Nations. The UN is extraordinarily, uniquely qualified in resolving international conflict issues. It is, however, extremely limited in its ability to solve internal issues within nations. The Myanmar cyclone is an internal issue. It is catastrophic for the citizens of the country, but doesn't directly imperil citizens of other nations. If Myanmar invaded Thailand, the UN Security Council and political machinery would likely prove to be extremely well-equipped to respond to this international aggression. But by design, the UN's charter largely respects the sovereignty of member states. In the wake of World War II, the UN was designed to prevent conflict between nations. As such, it's been amazingly successful. As Shashi Tharoor loves to point out, at this time, there are zero active wars between nations around the world. There are plenty of ceasefires, border disputes, proxy wars, and occupations. But no active wars between nations. That doesn't sound like "pacifism and political correctness" to me.

For a more realistic take on the situation, try this Times of London piece on the limitations of Responsibility to Protect.

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