Sunday, April 26, 2015

United Nations - Faulty Structural Composition and the Cold War "Stacked Deck" Syndrome

The United Nations has faced many challenges and difficulties in their operational capabilities and decision-making implementation since its post-World War II origins, especially during the decades of east-west Cold War.  The two largest challenges that the United Nations faced during the Cold War, and still face today, are found in the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and private sector influence in the form of international organizations on permanent Security Council members, as well as all general assembly members, which impacts United Nations efforts, actions and missions.

The key issue when looking at the United Nations Security Council is the fact that each of the five permanent members of the Security Council held, and still holds, veto power that can block or shut down the intentions of the other members of the Security Council, as well as block the General Assembly vote.  Looking at history, we can easily understand that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council were the major powers within the victorious Allied forces in World War II.  What could not have been seen at the time was how the divide between expanding global capitalism and communism would deepened, and eventually become quite a serious threat toward future international conflict (as was eventually realized by the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis).  With the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council consisting of the United States, Russia (Soviet Union during the Cold War), Britain, France and China, it is easy to see how the Cold War balance of power between capitalism and communism often played out in the Security Council and limited or prevented actions by the United Nations concerning important crisis situations.  One can analyze the actual historical statistics and see that “the five permanent members cast 199 vetoes between 1946 and 1989 - well over four per year - preventing the Council from taking action on many important matters” [1] due to conflicting individual state or private sector interests.  This inherent trait of the Westphalia state, which is a defining characteristic of international politics, is unable to be extinguished even in the format of an international democratic organization designed to establish world peace…as the concept itself is an oxymoron.

The paralysis of the United Nations due to the permanent members of the Security Council and their politics can be seen more in-depth by taking a closer look at their actions during the Cold War.  The Soviets led all permanent Security Council members in veto usage and in the first ten years of the United Nations actually utilized veto power an incredible eighty times, often as payback for the United States refusal to admit Soviet Republics into the United Nations, while the United States has been a consistent protector of Israel through veto usage, which was considered a strategic Cold War ally in an excellent geographical location [2].  The British and French veto was used, alongside of the United States, during the Suez Canal Crisis when Israel launched a military offensive (followed by France and Britain, to liberate the Egyptian nationalized canal, which was of major private sector interest for the capitalist west.  The permanent member of the United Nations Security Council who cast the least amount of vetoes was China, who had cast one veto during the Cold War decades.  

In addition to the structural flaws of the United Nations Security Council during the Cold War, and today, the United Nations also found its efforts challenged by capitalism and the private sector dollar, which influences states and international organizations in the pursuit of profit generation.  The fact that the International Monetary Fund was “created in the midst of the war, at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference”[3] hints that the United Nations would never be capable of being an unbiased international organization capable of placing true humanitarian efforts above individual state and private sector interests.  The large sums of IMF and United States capital that was invested into post-war Europe through the Marshall Plan, which required protection in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, further laid the foundation for problems within the United Nations as the main permanent members vied for their individual interests with the U.S., Britain and France holding a stacked deck against Russia while China remained introverted on domestic issues and development.

In closing, the largest challenges facing the United Nations during the Cold War are the same challenges that hamper it today and fill its actions with hypocrisy.  Those challenges are embedded in the charter of the United Nations, as the United Nations was no more than an attempt to consolidate international power within a five-seat council of an international organization.  While during the Cold War, the United Nations was often divided between capitalist and communist interests, today we see the same fragmented politics at play in areas of the world such as the civil power struggle occurring in Syria and the nuclear talks with the state of Iran.      

[1] Celine Nahory.  2004.  “The Hidden Veto”.  Global Policy Forum, May 2004.  Accessed on April 25, 2015.

[2] Aleksandra Czajka.  2011.  “The Analysis of the Veto Power in the United Nations Security Council”.  Pompeu Fabra University: Barcelona.  Accessed on April 25, 2015.

[3] International Monetary Fund.  2012.  “The IMF and the Force of History: 10 Events and 10 Ideas That Shaped the Institution”.  International Monetary Fund, p.5.  Accessed on April 25, 2015.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

United Nations Resolution 181 - Literary Review

The impact and negative consequences of the partitioning of Palestine and the establishment of an expansionist Israeli state initiated through United Nations Resolution 181 has been the root of conflict in the Middle East region since the conclusion of World War II.  While the United Nations have also succeeded in positive security implementations in regions outside of the Middle East, the organization failed to recognize international law and to uphold its organizational responsibilities in the Middle East, which is a direct result of Cold War politics, a weighted organizational structure, disregard of the United Nations charter, and capital influences of international Zionism, along with organizational legal failures in decision making processes dealing with the region of Palestine.  United Nations Resolution 181 and the partitioning of Palestine was not only implemented on illegal precedents, the United Nations enforced temporary security on those established illegal precedents, and sorely failed in upholding organizational responsibilities in the post-partitioned region.  The following five literature reviews support the claims that the United Nations acted in Palestine without consideration to international law prior to the establishment of the United Nations, implemented and attempted to enforce security measures in the illegally fractured region, became paralyzed to act unbiasedly pertaining to the injustices faced by the Palestinian people, and simply served as a collective instrument for promoting the emerging international transformation period from colonialism to private sector globalization.

            In the article by Nabil Elarby, the legal issues that were discarded by the United Nations are closely examined.  The Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations after World War I not only established Britain as the mandated power that would control the protectorate of Palestine, Britain entered into international contract through that mandate to “assist the peoples of the territory to achieve full self-government and independence at the earliest possible date” (Elarby, 98) while, at the same time, making political promises that would eventually impact Palestine such as the Belfour Declaration and negotiating with powerful Zionist organizations over the Peel Commission Report and a future national homeland for the Jewish people despite the territory of Palestine falling under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations:

            “To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant.” (League of Nations Covenant, Article 22)

            “Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory” (League of Nations Covenant, Article 22)

Therefore, Britain, assuming a permanent position on the United Nations Security Council after the end of World War II, was already in violation of their international commitment to the people of Palestine before the United Nations voted in favor of establishing a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) instead of placing the issue of Palestinian independence before the General Assembly (Elarby, 100).  It is ethically questionable that the Jewish problem occurring in Europe and the British request to relinquish the mandate in Palestine were considered under the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine, as they were two separate political issues, and was a direct result of Zionist influence on Britain and UNSCOP members leading up to May of 1947.

            Halderman’s 1968 article reinforces the ability of the United Nations to bend international law through the failures of the organizational constitutional charter structure, specifically within the Security Council where permanent members such as the United States and Britain wield veto power that can promote or protect states and promote or stop collective security measures (Halderman, 78).  Before UNSCOP recommended that the future government of Palestine should be turned over to the United Nations, it was evident that international Zionist groups, capitalist interests, and Cold War factors had established great influence within the permanent member ranks of the United Nations Security Council.  With the most capital-enriched “Western states, which had the greatest interest in the success of the Organization” (Halderman, 84) at the controls of the United Nations Security Council during the implementation of the partition of Palestine, despite Arab rejection of partition based on colonial injustices and a breach of international contract by Britain, the United Nations implemented the first UN Security Mission to the Middle East, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), in order to enforce a semblance of stability and to protect the independence of the implanted state of Israel under the international auspices of the newly created United Nations.  Quincy Wright’s article from 1968 also provides criticism toward the legalities of how the United Nations handled the Palestinian issue, with an emphasis on how pre-World War II Zionist influence within Britain was a major factor leading into eventual United Nations decision-making and policy dealing with the Jewish problem in Europe and British withdrawal from Palestine.  Not only was the British government promising Zionist organizations a national homeland for the Jewish people through the Belfour Declaration, but were also allowing Zionists to help shape political reports such as the Peel Commission Report and the White Papers, especially the White Paper from 1939.

While Arab states rejected the partition plan from the beginning, Israel’s independence was quickly recognized by the odd bedfellows of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, and incredibly enough the infant state of Israel received full membership to the United Nations (Wright, 7).  Studying the two years of conflict between the Arabs and the newly established state of Israel after the partition and so-called independence of Israel, which saw the state of Israel usurp “fifty percent more territory than had been accorded to Israel by the United Nations resolution of 1947” (Wright, 7), it becomes distinctly clear that the organizational structure of the United Nations and the Security Council is politically weighted.  After Israel had annexed portions of Jerusalem in 1948, the organizational structure of the United Nations was not even effective enough to enforce a resolution insisting that Israel withdraw from the territories it had taken by force due to American and British political influence insisting “that a cease-fire should be established first without consideration of responsibility for initiation of the crisis and that withdrawal from the occupied territories should be contingent on settlement” (Wright, 10).

            The Soderblom paper also enforces the dual sided and illegal measures utilized by Britain during their mandate as the controlling power of the protectorate of Palestine and the transition of Palestinian territorial control to the United Nations when he points out that the “1917 Balfour Conference occurred without the consent or the knowledge of the Arabs, and was a stark contradiction to the outcome of the McMahon Pledge of 1915 which stated that a Jewish settlement in Palestine would be allowed” (Soderblum, 1).  In addition to Capitalist interests and Zionist influence in the West, it is also important to look back at the previously mentioned strange bedfellows of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union which recognized Israeli independence and provided support for Israel through the United Nations Security Council.  The Soviet Union, along with their satellite states, viewed the newly created state of Israel as a possible “bulwark against British imperialism” (Soderblom, 5).  Interestingly enough, Greece and Cuba were the only non-Arab or non-regional states that voted against United Nations Resolution 181, and they voted ‘Against’ with the states of Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen (Soderblom, 5).  Another reference that questions the legality of the partition resulting from United Nations Resolution 181 is the problematic fact that the partition plan was adopted by the General Assembly, not the Security Council, and the enforcement of such a resolution was in violation of Article 1 of the United Nations Charter pertaining to the self-determination of peoples (Soderblom, 5-6).

            The final literature review piece is an article written by Radha Kumar which, while analyzing the international problems of post-colonial partitions, provides further support to verify the problems previously identified in United Nations Resolution 181, which resulted in a new independent state being achieved while the original inhabitants of the territory were partitioned into an occupied zone that has yet to be allowed self-determination or independent statehood (Kumar, 4).  The Palestine partition plan was reliant on a proposed economic  union between partitioned sections, required by both the original stateless population and the newly created state of Israel, but this collateral cooperation was never achieved since Zionist capital was flowing into Israel and Palestine was left more and more isolated under growing poverty (Kumar, 4).

            The evidence compiled through the five literature reviews clearly illustrates that the partition plan on Palestine, developed by Britain and implemented by the United Nations, can be viewed as a violation of international law, a violation of the United Nations Charter, and a blatant injustice to the people of Palestine.  In retrospect, it was only the beginning of a long road of injustices that would follow for the Palestinians.     

Selected Bibliography

Benbassa, Esther.  1990. “Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the 19th and the Beginning of the 20th Century,” Studies in Zionism 11, no. 2 (1990): 128

Elaraby, Nabil.  1968.  “Some Legal Implications of the 1947 Partition Resolution and the 1949 Armistice Aggreements.” Law and Contenporary Problems (1968): 97-109.  Accessed April 1, 2015.

Halderman, John.  1968.  “Some International Constitutional Aspects of the Palestine Case." Law and Contemporary Problems (1968): 78-96.  Accessed April 1, 2015.

Kumar, Radha. "The Troubled History of Partition." Foreign Affairs (1997): 22-34.  Accessed on April 1, 2015.

League of Nations.  1924.  The Covenant of the League of Nations.  Yale Law School.  Accessed on April 4, 2015.    

Peel Commission Report on Palestine, Public Domain, 1937, Jewish Virtual Library, 1937,

Söderblom, Jason.  2003.  "A State of Inequity: The UN Partition Plan of 1947." The Terrorism Intelligence Centre, Canberra. (2003): 1-12.  Accessed April 1, 2015.

Wright, Quincy.  1968  "Legal aspects of the Middle East situation." Law and Contemporary Problems (1968): 5-31.  Accessed on April 1, 2015.