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Thursday 12 September 2002

High Noon at the U.N.

George Bush has made a reasonably good speech at the U.N. today. It was full of nucyelars and other verbal missteps, but that’s how we know it’s the genuine George Bush and not a clever robotic double.

The content of the speech was good, though, and without bluster. The most important part, though, hasn’t got as much attention as I thought it would, listening on the radio:

Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence?

Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?

In the eyes of the United States, unless the U.N. responds appropriately to this, the U.N. will be irrelevant — and rightly so.

The U.N. and its supporters talk a lot about “international law” and “the rule of law”. The point is to do make international relations more like civil relations, by replacing the rule of might with the rule of law.

Trouble is, the rule of law is based on the threat of state violence. If you break the law, the state will use force to put you behind bars, or to seize some of your assets by fining you. If you don’t pay the fine, or don’t show up in court to be sentenced to prison, the state will send big, strong, well-armed men to find you, restrain you, and see that the state’s violence is done to you.

The U.N. is not a wholly bad institution; it provides a forum for speeches like the one made this morning by George Bush. It allows for some intermediate step in international relations between peace and war. But of late, as a lot of half-ass nations have learned how to work the system, the U.N. has come to be not about allowing some state of disagreement short of war, but about eliminating war entirely, and about lobbing rhetorical stones at the U.S. and Israel.

The paper handed to you by a state trooper when you’ve been caught going 80 mph isn’t the “rule of law”: the rule of law is the certainty that you will be locked up if you don’t pay the fine.

Similarly, the rule of “international law” — a dubious concept I’m just going to accept as a given in this particular rant — is not a horde of diplomats arguing in New York. There can only be the rule of international law if there’s a certainty that U.N. resolutions will be enforced with violence, if need be.

If the U.N. does not accept that, it truly is irrelevant.

Posted by tino at 12:17 12.09.02
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Posted by: Bryon at September 16, 2002 08:54 AM