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UNdoing NATO
Bypassing the UN in the name of humanitarian intervention

May 20, 1999
The Iranian

Fifty years is not a long time in the life of a nation that can boast 5000 years of history. But the last 50 years have perhaps transformed China more than all of its thousands of crawling years. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Communist Revolution in China. Tiananmen Square is under repair and Beijing is in a fury of construction to pave the way for the celebrations on October 1, 1999.

Since my last visit in 1992, Beijing has changed so much that it cannot be recognized. Construction is everywhere in sight. High rise hotels, offices, and apartment buildings decorated with neon signs and huge billboards give the city the look of an emerging global city. In 1992, bicycles swarmed the streets. Today cars and traffic jams clog the boulevards. Bicycles are shoved to the sideways.

In 1992, the air was fresh and the view clear. Today, a fog of pollution hangs over the city. In 1992, McDonald's had just opened up its first fast food store near Tiananmen Square. Today, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Coca Cola signs pierce the skyline.

In 1992, only a few department stores with inferior goods were around. Today, numerous department stores are filled with the latest designer goods bearing the logos of Pierre Chardin, Gucci, and Nina Ricci.

In the meantime, a new prosperous middle class has emerged to drive the cars, to stroll the shopping centers, to flood the department stores, and to demand democratic rights. One of those rights is the right of peaceful demonstration that took place against the recent bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by NATO forces.

Whatever political views this new middle class may hold on domestic affairs, its views on international issues are intensely nationalistic. In my conversations with Chinese scholars and students, I found that none accepts NATO's labeling of the bombing as a mistake.

"How could the constant satellite mapping of Yugoslavia in general and Belgrade in particular leave any doubt as to where the embassies and arms depots are?" one of them asked me rhetorically.

"My view is that the bombing was a warning to China on the Taiwan issue," a senior professor told me. "As another warning to China, North Korea will be the next U. S. target of bombing."

This may sound Sinocentric. But perceptions in international affairs often constitute realities. The perception of NATO as a bully giving itself a new mission to intervene wherever and whenever it wishes is resurrecting the image of a new imperialism. "It is the White Man's Burden all over again," another Chinese scholar explained.

In view of the Chinese, PAX NATO is arrogating to itself the right of intervention without going through the United Nations. In an age of high and low tech weapons of mass destruction propelled by competing national ambitions, the world desperately needs the rule of law.

PAX United Nations presents the best option that the world has so far developed for the maintenance of international peace and security. Bypassing the UN in the name of humanitarian intervention may prove to be a Trojan Horse for hegemonic ambitions. Besides, in Kosovo, it has produced greater tragedies that it set out to correct.

However, the United Nations cannot fulfill its obligations so long it is under funded and undermined. If NATO's humanitarian intentions are genuine, its leaders must reverse their policy and support a United Nations Peacekeeping Police (UNPP). That force can better assist in bringing the refugees back and reconstructing a war-torn country. That would persuade China and others more effectively than NATO's protestation of good will.

UN was set up to act as a collective security mechanism in cases of outright aggression and, by extension, genocide. The UN Charter prohibits interference in the internal affairs of its sovereign member-states. However, the Genocide Convention allows the international community to act in order to stop ethnic cleansing.

The lesson of Kosovo is that the UN must now develop an early warning system to identify and effectively deal with such violations of human rights before military interventions make a peaceful resolution nearly impossible.

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