Posted by: aboutalbion | August 10, 2012

Syria, and the state of internationalism

I feel that the apparent impotence of the UN Security Council in the face of the disturbing situation in Syria is reminding my generation of the weakness of an international outlook.

Earlier this month, the resignation of UN envoy Kofi Anan (after the collapse of his six point plan for Syria) was followed by the UN General Assembly voting against its own Security Council on this matter.  These events would seem to be a reaction to the strength of the underlying strategic calculations on the part of individual members of the Security Council which had led to a collective failure to influence the resolution of the Syrian situation.

It has been natural for my generation, born during the Second World War, to think in terms of internationally negotiated and agreed solutions to maintain “world peace”.  However, an international outlook does not have the deeper roots that nation states have.

The fact that the UN has noted but not resolved the disputes around the issues of “Biafra”, “Kashmir”, “Kurdistan”, etc, suggest to me that caution is the watchword in and around the UN.  And I don’t think it is too difficult to find a critical event that generates this caution.

For me, I find it hard not to conclude that the 1947 vote of the UN to implement a two state solution for the territory of Palestine (when the British mandate ended in 1948) was in some sense a watershed for the UN.  In the event, although implementation never formally took place, that UN decision more than six decades ago has not been “received” by the family of nations as a contribution to “world peace”.

When the history of the (young) UN comes to be written, I feel that the wisdom of redrawing boundary lines in a part of the world that has been occupied by (As)Syria, Iran/Persia, and Egypt for millennia will be questioned.  In other words, I find it difficult to conceive of how the authority of the UN can be restored.


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