Apr 082009
Authors: Caleb Thorton

Every time I get a glance of Kim Jong-Il, a bit of a shiver runs down my spine.

I don’t know whether it is the freaky old-man afro, the glasses that are thick enough to deflect a bullet or the stare that could make the devil himself cower in fear, but the North Korean dictator gives me a strong sense of uneasiness just to look at him.

Considering the public outcry put out by the Obama administration over Jong-Il’s decision to test a ballistic missile that could potentially reach the Western U.S., I would say that the president might possibly share my same sentiment.

Thankfully, for all of us concerned, the missile test did not go as well as the dictator had probably hoped — crashing into the ocean before making orbit. And for those within the United Nations, the incident played out perfectly, allowing for the single international body set up to deal with this type of situation to respond in its own typical fashion- by doing nothing.

In fact, despite all the tough talk from Washington, London and other allies across the globe, the big news out of New York City on Monday was that the Security Council had failed to pass even a resolution condemning the dictator’s choice to test the missile, much less put in place any substantial punitive measure that had also been threatened.

News reports claimed that both Russia and China opposed any such resolution, thus killing any action that the international body might have taken.

The way I see it, this latest incident just exposes a glaring problem within the international body: It is next to impossible in today’s age to accomplish anything within the UN of real or lasting significance.

Much of this is due to the fact that a unanimous vote is needed in the Security Council for the body to take significant action, which, understandably, is nearly impossible in many situations to accomplish — especially if the issues do not directly affect the permanent nations on the Council.

Want an example? Then look no further than the continent of Africa. The genocide that took place in Rwanda and the one that is still taking place in Darfur are two glaring examples of the UN Security Council’s failure to act.

It’s time to face the facts — the UN as currently constituted is an international body with very little power or political will to actually work to solve the crises that face the world today.

Of course, there are two solutions to this problem.

The first would be to simply hand over a large amount of national sovereignty to the UN, thus giving it the power to solve any potential crisis, even without the consent of every nation involved. This is also a solution that I would argue tooth and nail against, and one that I guarantee will never happen.

The second solution, however, would be to simply reconstitute the UN, remaking it into an international body that would focus only on the diplomatic side of international disputes, and rid it entirely of the Security Council.

In principle, this would significantly weaken the UN’s power. However, in practice, it would be changing very little at all. And considering that the U.S. monetary contribution to the UN currently accounts for about one-fourth of its overall budget, a change would happen if we wanted it to.

In principle, the UN is not a bad idea, and even with its failures, it does do a fair share of good work within the world. However, in practice, when the world faces a real crisis the UN is the last place where nations turn, and for good reason — it can’t get the job done.

It is time for a fundamental change to get this international body back on track. With the U.S. footing its fair share of the bill, it’s the least we can ask for.

Caleb Thornton is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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