Bypassing the UN in the name of humanitarian intervention
May 20, 1999
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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