Accessibility links

Breaking News

Pro and Con Debate: Is the UN still relevant?


Now for our Pro and Con segment, one of my favorite segments on Newsline, we take a look at a controversial topic in the news and present both sides. Today, the United Nations, is it still functional and relevant?

Joining us today, Steven Dimoff, of the United Nations Association, he is a U.N. proponent; and Brett Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation, he is a skeptic, a critic.

Thanks, gentlemen, for joining us. Since Mr. Schaefer has been on the program before and debated on Pro and Con before, we are going to give the first crack at this discussion to Mr. Dimoff. Mr. Dimoff, why is the U.N. still relevant?

Well, the U.N. is relevant because it provides a legitimacy for actions that are taken by the international community, especially in matters of peace and security. There is no question but that a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force carries world opinion with it. And that's very significant in terms of trying to have the broadest possible alliance in peace and security issues.

Mr. Schaefer, jump in.

Well, a Security Council resolution is a good thing. We would like to have a Security Council resolution. But to say that that's the sole source of legitimacy in international affairs is simply incorrect. The fact of the matter is the United Nations has had a responsibility to enforce previous resolutions, especially in this issue with Iraq, and has failed to do so. And to say that that failure is a bonus or a credit to the organization I think is vastly overestimating the importance of the organization. And a failure to act is something that undermines the legitimacy of the Security Council, particularly in this instance.

Mr. Dimoff?

Well, I think, Brett, you make a useful point, but I always come back to the notion that the organization is nothing more than the sum of its parts. And to the extent that the Security Council fails or is unable to reach agreement, it is really an issue of the inability of member states themselves to actually try to resolve problems. And so rather than focus on the institution itself, I would tend to look at the politics of the issue. Ultimately, what the Security Council decides is going to depend on what its members want it to do, with the United States playing, of course, a major role.

Well, I agree with you. I think that this actually supports my point, because what we have here is the difference between the ideal and reality. The ideal of the United Nations is that it should be addressing these obvious threats to international peace and security, which Iraq obviously is. And in the Security Council's case, however, we have to deal with the reality of what Iraq is and all the politics surrounding it.

And many member states obviously have an interest in Iraq, a personal, a national, interest in Iraq that would lead them to oppose U.S. military action to enforce resolutions passed by the Security Council and voted favorably by many members of that current Security Council.

Well, yes, I think that essentially you're dealing with a situation here in which member states are trying to react to a situation that they have acted on before. There has already been a fair amount of international agreement on how the issue of Iraq needs to be handled. And the Security Council has called on Iraq to disarm. And this has been over a number of years. I think the issue now is the extent to which diplomacy is going to be given more time in order to reach the desired result.

The issue of whether the inspectors have had enough time, whether they have been able to do their job, whether they have had the proper support and contributions by other member states to be able to locate weapons, interview with scientists, et cetera -- I think we're at a point at which it's an issue about whether diplomacy should continue or whether we should make a decision concerning war.

Well, this is the source of the debate and my contention here. And that is that Iraq is in obvious noncompliance with previous Security Council resolutions. It obviously has weapons of mass destruction. Every week, every day, it seems to turn up more weapons of mass destruction that miraculously had escaped its notice before. And this is obviously a situation where they're scared, they're desperate, and they want to do whatever token gestures they can to avoid forceful disarmament by the United States.

And what I see here is the arguments of those people that say that the inspections are working are based on a flawed premise. Because those inspections would not work at all except for the fact that there are 200,000 U.S. troops on the border, ready to take action if Saddam does not comply. And therefore, how can you say the inspections are working if the only impetus for them to work is a U.S. threat of military force, and then condemn U.S. military force as being a counterproductive measure? It doesn't work both ways.

U.S. military force is the reason the inspections are having the limited success they are and the only reason why Saddam Hussein will ever come into full compliance with this. And therefore, we must keep military options on the table. And I think we've come to the end of this road and we need to take action.

Mr. Schaefer, the end of the road is a nice and fitting way to end this segment. You have the last word today. We'll give it to your rival the next time you're on the program.

Thanks, both of you, for joining us. Steve Dimoff, of the United Nations Association; Brett Schaefer, of the Heritage Foundation. Thank you, both, for joining us. We appreciate it.