Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hypocrisy, thy name is the U.N

So, North Korea has launched yet more nuclear tests, to widespread international condemnation.

The United Nations Security Council - the permanent members of which, lest we forget, are all nations with nuclear weapons - have met to "unanimously condemn" North Korea's actions.

Do as I say and not as I do?

Maybe, as the guardians of the world's most powerful weapons, the Security Council members should just nuke North Korea. Then we could all live happily ever after, right?

Just wait for that Security Council resolution. Bet they'd have no problem whatsoever getting an agreement...


CrazyDaisy 26 May 2009 at 08:57  


International Law states (don't quote me!) that matters within a Sovereign Nation's boundaries is its own affair.

The UN is powerless, unless - Iraq = Oil, Afghanistan = Heroin/AQ.

However, if the UN intervenes with force, the NK public will disperse North into China and South into SK, which could completely unstabilise the region.

And not what I want to be involved in cleaning up!


Malc 26 May 2009 at 09:02  

I know.

You could have left your comment at "The UN is powerless" and it would have been enough!

Anonymous,  26 May 2009 at 10:03  

Trouble is, this is exactly the sort of stuff the UN should be doing, and the US ends up doing.

We can't allow North Korea to develop fully capable nuclear weapons. We can't allow for it to be too late to act, and the only way to do that is to act now. If North Korea gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it, and we all know it.

Malc 26 May 2009 at 12:07  

Funny, does that argument not apply to the US? I seem to remember the US being the only state to have nuclear weapons AND use them.

Also, no one in the States seems too concerned with Israel's fascination with nuclear weapons...

Indy 26 May 2009 at 12:38  

‘Trouble is, this is exactly the sort of stuff the UN should be doing, and the US ends up doing.’

No. The trouble is the US persistently undermines the UN by intervening militarily in situations where the UN might – if it were given the opportunity – be able to achieve a political solution.

People are very keen to decry the UN and with good cause on occasion. But let us look at the record of US interventions since WW2 both overt and covert – Korea itself, Vietnam and Cambodia, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan – Iran? Not a great track record.

For the sake of world peace the US needs to stop trying to be the world’s policeman because it is rubbish at it.

Anonymous,  26 May 2009 at 12:38  


Yes and no. If the US had been saying for the last fifty years that it intended to invade Mexico, and destroy Canada, and they were a totalitarian dictatorship where the government's actions are not held to account by the people, and they suddenly, after years of disarmament, decided to arm up on nuclear weapons and sing their own praises whilst doing it, then yes, that would very much apply to the US. As it is right now, America is a democracy, with a long-standing commitment to disarmament, with no heightened tension between themselves and their enemies in the region (in this case Cuba).

Or to put it another way, America is not North Korea, and North Korea is not America. To say the two are the same does a great injustice to both.

Whether people in the US are bothered by Israel's illegal weapons has no bearing on whether or not other states should be allowed to have nuclear weapons. You seem to be arguing that any country that pleases should be allowed to have weapons that can destroy the entire planet, simply because the devil America has them. Well, I say no.

I say it would be fantastic if we had as few of these weapons around as possible. I say any new nuclear weapons are definitely a bad thing. I say all countries should be looking to reduce their weapons. But I also say that it is a sad fact that once you let the genie out of the bottle, there is no going back. America cannot destroy all her nuclear weapons because countries like North Korea are so desperate to get their hands on them, and pose a genuine security threat to places like South Korea and Japan. In fact, I might venture the entire region.

Anonymous,  26 May 2009 at 12:48  

Hello Indy,

"No. The trouble is the US persistently undermines the UN by intervening militarily in situations where the UN might – if it were given the opportunity – be able to achieve a political solution."

The UN has tried to achieve a political solution. There have been years and years of talks, and resolution after resolution. And what has North Korea done? Ignored the resolution, and conducted more tests. Well done United Nations. All talk, no progress.

"For the sake of world peace the US needs to stop trying to be the world’s policeman because it is rubbish at it."

I agree. I agree absolutely. Which is why I'm saying that this should be the job of the UN. The UN is impotent. It can make resolutions but has no way of enforcing them. When talk stops working, when we get ever closer to too late, that's when it becomes clear that the UN needs tanks with guns, and camouflage not blue berets.

Malc 26 May 2009 at 13:51  


My point about Israel wasn't really that all countries should have them. My point is that the UN (and, to a greater extent, the US) only care about this, and other issues when it suits them.

Iran can't have nukes. Neither can North Korea. India, Pakistan? "We're not happy... mumble mumble... but we're not going to do anything about it."

Like I say - the UN = hypocrisy in the extreme.

Have a principle of non-proliferation, disarmament if you want to go that far. But for goodness sake, let's make it a principle for all and not just some.

Political Dissuasion 26 May 2009 at 14:43  

Even if just one of the 'big boys' agreed to ditch theit weapons, it would send a sign.

But, by not doing so or even discussing such moves, they send a bigger signal that they each have their own agendas within the 'common goal'.

Reaganite Republican Resistance 26 May 2009 at 18:07  

Somehow all the talk of how Kim is a crackpot eccentric, while Obama is portrayed as fatherly, all-knowing, and wise doesn’t quite square with reality when the “crackpot” is running circles around our flawless messiah.

This is the same Obama that was apparently busy with his puppy-vetting process or playing basketball while the Russians where nabbing our Afghan supply air-base in Kyrgizstan.

Obama is endangering our national security, a failure of his most primary duty as president… maybe we should draw a line here?

Living in a celebrity-driven/liberal/MSM fantasy world is not a right of Obama supporters to cling-to indefinitely, as it’s both the voters and the press’ duty to make informed, good-faith decisions… not waste power making a hollow fashion statement instead.

It’s rapidly getting to the point where this kind of willfully-ignorant “thinking” is not just irresponsible, but dangerous. Obamania’s sheeple are deeply delusional, and as Obama’s enablers, these fools are going to get us killed.


Sam 26 May 2009 at 21:30  

Good to see the spirit of Reagan's pandering to the lowest-common-denominator demographic is alive & well, unlike the Great Communicator himself.

Maybe Obama was too busy puppy-vetting to monitor his national security advisors on Kyrgyzstan. Can't imagine where he got that defence from. Oh, wait, didn't an ex-President claim that in relation to a small arms-trafficking/war-funding fiasco in Central America in 1986?

Malc, a brutal dictatorship neglects its people in favour of massaging its ego towards nuclear power status & you decide to write about the weakness of the UN?

I think you, & most of the "UN is powerless"-brigade, might have missed the point here.

The UN is a construct of its member states.The UN cannot confront existing nuclear powers with force. Where would its force come from? National armies, obviously, like its money comes from national treasuries, its staff from national contributions, its members from nations and its legitimacy from international agreement.

If you want to blame the failure of diplomacy blame China's refusal to allow extreme sanctions. If you want to blame a lack of force blame the only country able to locate, target & destroy North Korean nukes; the US.

If you want to condemn anti-proliferation efforts blame the original five, and Pakistan for passing it on to NK. Blame the US for signing a nuclear cooperation agreement with India outside the NPT.

There's a lot of blame to go around, and the UN has to take responsibility for the failure of its sanctions. But these are proposed, discussed, agreed upon and enforced by the powerful states that sit in the Security Council. Don't let them off the hook because for whatever reason you don't happen to like the UN.

Bill 26 May 2009 at 22:08  

I've not had the 'pleasure' of visiting North Korea, but several of my friends/colleagues have. From what they have told me it is not remotely comparable with other nations typically considered as 'baddies' by the US (e.g. Cuba or Iran to name two of those most commonly cited).

Whether one might consider a nuclear-capable Iran (or Pakistan) a major danger, in practice, to world peace or not is moot in my view, but I'd say North Korea would certainly be a danger to its near neighbours, specially Japan and South Korea, at the very least. It is difficult to sift through the 'propaganda' (that we in the west be me exposed to) about how awful is the NK regime, but my friends/colleagues who have been there (of British, Indian and Hong Kong Chinese origin) are unanimous in suggesting it is a deeply-weird society with obvious signs of poverty and fear even given the close supervision they were under whilst there to try and shield them from seeing it.

As for that old meme about the US hardly being in a position to talk, given that it is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in anger so far, it is true that their motives in doing so are questioned by some, but certainly not by me - it saved a lot of lives, both American and Japanese that would likely have been lost had WWII been allowed to drag on for years whilst Japan attempted to defend itself 'to the last man', which many people think it would have quite literally tried to do. My views on this matter were in flux until I had lunch with a business acquaintance in Tokyo many years ago, a gent about 8 or 10 years younger than my father. He had been conscripted into the Japanese military toward the end of the war at the age of about 15 or 16 as a trainee Kamikaze pilot, but he had not had to go on his mission because the country surrendered the day before he was scheduled to fly on his 'one way' trip. He was obviously glad, but I shall never forget as long as I live how he explained his complex feelings at the time. He said words to the effect: "The good thing is I didn't have to go on my mission, which I wasn't too keen on anyway (but there was no way of refusing to go in the climate of the day in Japan). On the other hand, all my family came from Hiroshima."

There are all sorts of things one can say about present-day international power politics; why for example did we go after Saddam Hussein, but not Robert Mugabe? Some people say it's because one had oil, but not the other. Perhaps there's some truth in that, but it's also the case I think that logistically it would be very difficult to 'take out' Mugabe without the tacit cooperation of neigbouring countries, specially South Africa. The US/UK did have tacit or overt cooperation in both 1991 and 2003 from countries such as Iran (yes, in 1991 at least), Saudi Arabia and Qatar, less so in 2003, but still tacit cooperation specially from Qatar.

However I think the reason North Korea has been left alone, in practice, is anxiety about how it mighht react. Impoverished it may be, but it is quite populous and it would be a very messy operation indeed. It's that fear which has allowed it to get aid over the years as a bribe for it not to do things which it promises not to do, but then secretly tries to do anyway and then when found out ups the ante with more demands. I really don't know what the solution is, but however bad it may be that we, the French, Russians and US (and many others such as Israel, India and Pakistan etc) have nuclear capability, I feel a lot happier about that than I would be if NK had them and the delivery systems to project them at distance; I don't think many people really think that today's Russia or US would actually use them - the same assumption I don't think can be made about NK.

Sorry for rambling on.

Bill 26 May 2009 at 22:11  

I just read Sam's comments by the way and they seem to have a lot of merit to me.

subrosa 27 May 2009 at 05:14  

Interesting posts. You've just suddenly reappeared on my feed Malc so now I can keep up.

Malc 27 May 2009 at 09:09  

Bill (and Sam)

Yes, your points both have merit. And Bill I do agree that the US ending the war early saved thousands of lives. But to condemn one country on the basis that they want to develop the same weapons that the US has (and has used) is hypocritical).

Sam, my attacking of the UN is not regarding their toothlessness (on this occasion at least). It is to do with their hypocrisy (clue - its in the title). How can they condemn a state for wanting to develop something that their own Security Council members have and will not give up?

That, for me, is where the hypocrisy lies. Sure, there's plenty blame to go round. But if the world, the US and the UN is serious about non-proliferation then its' own Security Council permanent member states must show a lead. Otherwise they just look daft.

Sam 27 May 2009 at 22:16  

But again you're confusing the UN as a body & the members of the Security Council. Who is leading the efforts the deal with NK? The SC members. They do indeed look daft (hypocritical) for condemning the breach of the spirit of a treaty that they also continue to breach. But that's what the US & Britain & China pretty regularly do, & as they make the rules & give the UN its power that's how that cookie crumbles.

Also the UN, through its agencies such as the IAEA & (linked) the Nuclear Suppliers Group can certainly try to avoid new cases of nuclear proliferation. A nuclear North Korea is a scary prospect. Far more scary than the existing & more powerful arsenals of the Security Council members.

It seems to me to be legitimate to attack that actual threat rather than the weapons of more civilised countries whose past behaviour is surely an indication that they can be trusted with the responsibility those weapons entail.

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