Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Who Needs The United Nations? Answers On A Big Postcard

October 18, 2015


19th October 2015

New York

Do we really need the United Nations? Or as some say, if there was no UN would it have to be invented?

It was founded 70 years ago this week on the 24th of October 1945 just 89 days after the United States dropped two nuclear bombs over Japan, the final act in the most horrific war of all time.

The United Nation’s task in 1945 has never changed: to fix the problems of a world that knew there was more to come.

Here at 760 United Nations Plaza on the bank of the East River few of the thousands who work at UN headquarters would say the original objective – peace and security; the protection and promotion of human rights; and human development – has been achieved.

The UN was the great ambition born from the failed League of Nations set up in 1920 with a purpose of disarmament, collective security and ending disputes by arbitration and not military means and so prevent a second world war.  WWII happened.  The League of Nations had failed. Here was a time of butchered democracies, redrawn boundaries and global societies and economies bewildered and damned by the events of the previous five years. None believed a new institution was the fixit from recovery while many of the principles fought for were immediately threatened by the creeping Cold War.

The greatest hope was for the forum in which everyone could be heard and for all its weaknesses the UN is the only place where ambitions for a better world can be laid out and its frailties exposed.

The too often unworthy experiences of failure may be counted in post-1945 war zones. Yet recovery from failure, even partially, may constitute some form of success if not victory; 63 global peace keeping operations since 1945 (currently 16 plus 12 political missions across five continents) give a statistical value to the determination of the UN to bring about something more than a truce and the fact that the UN manages to get some form of military monitoring to protect such fragile agreements.

But here is the temper of the images and reputations of failure levelled at the UN. That original demand to fix problems, particular conflicts, has come to nothing. The Secretary General’s call for cease fires are platitudes and often the Secretary General must know this. That indifference – so much more damning than rejection of advice – says the UN has no function in matters of resolving conflict.

Here is an example of the misunderstanding of the value of the UN. The UN is not here to stop conflicts happening or bring them to a conclusion.

The UN has four roles.

Firstly it is the clearing house for the valuable UN agencies – heath, refugees, medicine, education etc.  It can coordinate efforts where as a single non-government organisation can’t.  These are the prime values within the workings of the 44,000 UN workforce.

The second role is the management of military conflict resolution.  At the out break of fighting or in the transition to conflict, the UN can provide a Resolution that the conflict is justified, for example to prevent war crimes or breaches of human rights. Thirdly the UN under the auspices of an agency such as the UN High Commission of Refugees can work to relieve the misery of conflict. Fourthly  the UN is there to guarantee any peace at the end of a conflict.

Public concentration is too often on military and political crises and where there is failure it is because the UN can only be the sum of the hopes of its 193 parts.  But all is not lost.

The UN’s true strengths are in the great High Commissions – Human Rights, Refugees and increasingly the UN lead on tackling Global Warming.

Finally we have to take on board that the UN’s major roles are governed by the rules that were drawn in 1945.

The great global anxieties of 2015 are similar to those that existed in 1945. For all the downplay, the world is a better place for millions than it was 70 years ago and the UN has done much to make it so.  It could never have prevented Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But it was there when others were not once conflict began.

Has Obama, Cameron & Co Underestimated Putin Again?

September 27, 2015


27 September 2015

New York

Putin is a dangerous ex-KGB bodybuilder who plans to knock over as many democracies as possible and if not rule the world then say how it should be ruled.

That is the mix of mocking and alarm bell ringing image put about by Washington and London and their client states such President Poroshenko’s Ukraine. Whereas London, Washington and the coffee morning gathering that runs the Western Alliance, NATO have the true masterplan to peace, prosperity and the eventual downfall of the leader of modern Russia.

The slight problem of it all is that when Putin ordered the taking of Crimea the West posted bare back and chested pictures of horse riding Putin and told him him to get out of Crimea and East Ukraine. The West’s Make My Day Punk plan did not work.  Putin put on his shirt and doubled the deployment.  The West did nothing about that.  Putin has already assessed that they would not. Obama, Cameron et al did not mention the subject again.

Then President Putin started loading its port facility in Syria and took over the main airbase south of Latikia.  Now at the UN General Assembly Putin (during his first visit in ten years – he does not need the UN) said the deal is that we all back Assad, bin and deals with the rebels and then go for IS in Syria.

The Western punditry, echoed by London and Washington leaders said Putin should wind in his military neck, get out of Syria and forget any deals with Assad.  Now there is an idea that Putin is right but no one can say so.

Today the plan is looking something like this:

The West has long realised that it should never have backed the Syrian Free Army etc but cannot say so.

The West should never have rushed in to the anti-Assad camp without thinking through the strategic end game. Putin did think it through.

Putin’s Russia has long been an ally of Assad and knows from decades of fighting rebel forces, especially in Chechnya, that backing Assad’s enemies was a mug’s game.

Now we have squeaky briefings in Whitehall and here at the United Nations that Assad can stay for a while but should agree to go eventually and that zapping IS should be the main effort.  The French have started.  The Australians are in on it.  The British have done so and will do more and the Americans are leading the way.

No one of course will put boots on the ground. No one that is other than the Russians. Russia is now running the show and the West is playing a dangerous catch-up.

There are three reasons for this change of tune and tactic by the Western coalition:

1  Bad Intelligence four years back made them back the wrong horse and they are only just realising that.

2  Secondly (and reluctantly) they are privately saying that Putin’s game could be the surest bet

3  Thirdly (and most significantly) there is every evidence that IS is beatable thanks to a combination of better Intelligence gathering, drone reconnaissance and attack and the fortitude and bravery of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters

What does this tell us today at the UN?

Firstly, Western Intelligence analysis four years back of what was going on in Syrian and the likely outcome was a failure.  (They should have listened to Sitrep on BFBS Radio – that programme has consistently got it right!)

Secondly, Putin may not have been right but his crude opportunism was based on what was possible and now he is looking right and although they will not say so Western governments know this

Thirdly, Syria is not a single example of Western failure to get Intelligence analysis right. Western assessment of what was happening in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Syria? All wrong.

When the critics of what goes down here at the UN blame the United Nations then they should think again.  It is not the UN that is consistently wrong.  The misjudgements are to be laid at the doors of foreign policy analysts who are either failures or who cannot overcome the preconceptions of political leaders too busy to think through the jumble of reality and possibility.

The shorthand for that is that Western leadership (the French and Germans are honourable exceptions) for all their assets are not up to the task of the management – never mind the crisis management – of today’s world.

Putin may be loaded with all the terrible characteristics our leaderships say he is but so far he has out thought them by sticking with the basics of Intelligence and Opportunity Assessment: it is easy to assess capability it is then the hard job of assessing intentions of an enemy and opportunities to exploit the current situation. So far at least, Putin is ahead of the game.