The Second League of Nations: The UN’s Lack of Power

At the conclusion of World War II, several international organizations were established to prevent the reoccurrence of a conflict of that severity, the most prevalent of which was the United Nations. The organization seeks the maintenance of international peace and security but possesses serious internal flaws which have allowed international conflict to persist despite the UN’s existence. This article will cover the fatal flaws of the United Nations that have failed to prevent global conflicts. 

The main criticism of the United Nations is the dominance of elite nations. The Security Council of the United Nations – one of the most important branches of the institution dedicated to international peace – consists of 15 nations, with both permanent and non-permanent members. The five permanent members of the council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – possess complete veto power. A very anti-democratic measure, a veto from any of the permanent members will stop any action immediately without any possible debate.

As many of the permanent nations have undertaken morally horrid actions, the veto has often curbed powerful human rights resolutions.  For example, in 2018, the Russian delegation blocked Resolution S/2018/321, which prohibited the use of poisonous gasses after Syrian President Bashar Al-Asaad attacked rebels with such. That same year, the United States blocked Resolution S/2018/516, which criticized the use of force of the Israeli military against Palestinian citizens. These two grotesque examples solely represent a fraction of the hundreds of vetoes to United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Moreover, the United Nations lacks any serious method to enforce its resolutions and actions: the organization does not possess a standing army. In a 2004 skit on The Chappelle Show entitled “Black Bush,” comedian Dave Chappelle made a mockery of the United Nations’ lack of power to halt the United States’ invasion of Iraq:

“Oh U.N. you’ve got a problem with that? You know what you should do? Sanction me. Sanction me with your army. Oh? What’s that? You don’t have an army? I guess that means you need to shut the fuck up then.” 

The satirical skit demonstrates how condemnation by the United Nation has failed to stop unjustified and violent invasions such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the US invasion of Iraq, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Of course, the United Nations is more than a useless, elitist institution. The United Nations’ Office of Disarmament Affair has helped 86 nations to sign onto the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – a truly amazing document that seeks the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has carried out incredible work to aid individuals with HIV, prevent child marriage, and provide education to those in areas with a lack of a comprehensive school system.

However, the organization needs serious, extensive change. The veto power serves as an anti-democratic tendency that only benefits powerful, nuclear-capable countries. For example, the United Nations has supported the anti-democratic belief of China that Taiwan is not a legitimate nation. Moreover, there have been serious allegations of internal racism: only 2 years ago, a survey question on a UN self-identification questionnaire asked participants if they were “yellow.”

The United Nations must be praised for its marvelous work to promote nuclear disarmament, highlight the atrocity that is climate change, mitigate global poverty, and promote a degree of international unity. Yet, without change, the organization may best be characterized as a second League of Nations – an organization that failed to prevent the rise of Nazism and the absolute destruction in the Second World War.