President George H. W Bush (Snr) led a coalition of 35 nations to wage an armed campaign against Iraq, in response to the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1991. He stated that the Persian Gulf War was about “ more than one small country; it is a big idea: a new world order,” with “new ways of working with other nations…peaceful settlement of disputes, solidarity against aggression, reduced and controlled arsenals and just treatment of peoples”. America christened it “Desert Storm”. In spite of the controversies associated with the justification of the war, the world was apparently largely in support of what many saw as a blatant aggression by Saddam Hussein. The declaration of a New World Order was greeted with open arms; thanks to the tenets embedded to justify the campaign. The majority saw Iraq and Saddam Hussein as bullies who believed that might was right. Allowing Saddam to run roughshod over Kuwait at the time would have set a dangerous trend in the world. Take a quick peek at the central part of Eastern Europe today, and you would realise how the White House’s words about the New World Order have slowed to a trickle.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda attacked America. Another New World Order was born when another Bush, this time the 43rd President of America George W. Bush, the son of George H.W. Bush launched the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) on September 16th, 2001. He declared at the time “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. It is worth noting that up and until that time, The United Nations was regarded as the moral guarantor of such campaigns. America received universal support when it embarked on chasing Al –Qaeda through the rabbit holes of the Tora Bora Caves in Afghanistan, from where the group had sought tenancy to launch their attacks on American soil.
When George Bush and America decided to invade Iraq in March 2003 as part of its war on terror, George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that the aim of the coalition was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), to end Saddam’s support for terrorism”, even though a UN inspector team had declared it had found absolutely no evidence of the existence of WMDs in Iraq. The rest is history, as both leaders embarked on the war, regardless of the UN declaration. Against all evidence and common sense, Blair and Bush waged war against Iraq, even though Saddam and Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden reportedly never saw eye to eye.
Was this the moment that the US and Britain disrobed the emperor, The UN?
Growing up as a child back in the day, we saw The UN as God’s Deputy on earth. Even in the most troubled spots around the globe, the presence of the UN troops in blue berets was a calming reassurance for peace and sanity. When President Roosevelt, together with PM Churchill (Britain), Maxim Litnov (USSR), and T.V Soong of China jointly signed a short document, which later came to be known as the United Nations Declaration on New Year’s Day 1942, it marked the beginning of a New World Order. The UN had 26 signatories by the time war was declared against Germany and by default Japan in 1945.
It goes without saying, that the UN had largely been the sole symbol of sanity and conscience of the world. Throughout its history, it has been the political, ethical, social and moral fire brigade across the world. The legality of most wars was litmus tested against the yardsticks of the UN. The UN was the custodian of the world’s foreign policy by default. In those days, it was unthinkable for combatants to even lay hands on United Nation’s peacekeepers. Sadly and regrettably today, the UN has become a voiceless shadow of its former self. No one requires or seeks its mandate to engage in wars any longer. No one recognises its peacekeeping credibility as before.
How did the UN become a lame duck and toothless bulldog?
You do not need to look far to agree that the UN is slowly becoming an echo chamber or talking shop. It is slowly becoming a shadow of its former self. Look at what is going on in Ukraine, a war or military operation (take your pick) which is not only threatening the onset of world famine but even toying with the prospect of World War 3, with Putin threatening everyone and anyone . The UN has been conspicuous by its absence on the international stage. No one mentions the UN, even when people give lip service to the prospect of a cease-fire. When last did we hear of the UN Assembly deliberating on the matters of the war/military operation in Ukraine? The UN has been side-lined. Does anyone know the name of the UN Secretary General?
The erosion of the power and sanctity of the United Nations began with the very people who set it up in the first place. When the UN was officially consecrated as the Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice in 1945, little did anyone know that it would be destroyed by its very architects, thanks to national interests that are euphemistically called foreign policies. Over the years, we saw the US and Britain defy the UN and invaded Iraq, France, and Obama invaded Libya under the guise of protecting civilians from Gadhafi, etc. Although for different reasons, but like Saddam Hussein, Putin has invaded Ukraine. There have been countless invasions and wars by mightier nations. So might is right after all.
The UN is now systematically replaced and supplanted by national/regional splinter groups called G7, G 8, G20, G 50,G this and G that. The common factor among these is economic interests; proof that foreign policy is euphemism for national interests. While the G 7 has been ramping up more sanctions against Russia, there has not been a word on a truce, a cease-fire and or peace talks. Instead, Ukraine is becoming the guinea pig for the latest test site for sophisticated weapons.
George Bush Snr justified his gulf war that it was “more than one small country; it is a big idea: a new world order,” with “new ways of working with other nations…peaceful settlement of disputes, solidarity against aggression, reduced and controlled arsenals and just treatment of peoples”. How ironic that the same is happening today with very contradictory sentiments. Those who built the UN were the first to dismantle the foundation stones.
We saw how Donald Trump worked tirelessly to dismantle the major world associations by withdrawing or threatening to withdraw America from them. It is so comical that four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, former President Trump tried to take credit for the existence of NATO. He said in a tweet, “I hope everyone is able to remember that it was me, as President of the United States that got delinquent NATO members to start paying their dues, which amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. There would be no NATO if I didn’t act…. This is coming from a man who discussed removing the US from the alliance, “America has no vital interest in choosing between warring factions whose animosities go back centuries in Eastern Europe”. He is claiming credit for Ukraine’s weapons, despite threatening to withhold security assistance worth over $ 400M, unless Ukraine helped smear Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 elections.
When you consider Trump’s bromance with Putin, his attempt to weaken NATO, his reluctance to give security assistance to Ukraine, you cannot help but think that the Invasion of Ukraine did not happen overnight. It must have been going through its gestation period during Trump’s presidency. Is that why he was so desperate to win the elections by any means necessary? Is it any wonder that after disempowering the UN, the world looks like all sail and no anchor? The UN is now a floating iceberg in the world of political global warming. Will the world ever unite under the United Nations again? The re formation of Israel was central to that of the UN. But who has defied the UN more than any other nation? Would the UN ever be the same again, God’s Deputy on earth? Is the world united under the United Nations? How United are the nations of the United Nations?
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.