The League of Nations, born of the destruction and disillusionment arising from World War One, was the most ambitious attempt that had ever been made to construct a peaceful global order. It was rooted in a comprehensive liberal critique of the pre-war international system, which was widely believed to have been the cause of the carnage of 1914-18.
The idea of the League was to eliminate four fatal flaws of the old European states: in place of competing monarchical empires – of which the Hapsburg Empire was perhaps the most notorious – the principle of national self-determination would create a world of independent nation states, free of outside interference.
By December 1920, 48 states had signed the League Covenant, pledging to work together to eliminate aggression between countries. A series of disputes – between Germany and Poland over Upper Silesia, between Italy and Greece, and between Greece and Bulgaria – were resolved under its auspices.
Like the proverbial old soldier, the League never died, but rather faded away. Between the humiliation of seeing one of its members, Austria, taken over by Germany in 1938 without even a formal protest, and the absurdity of expelling the USSR after the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 (an event that neither the USSR nor the League were involved in), all that remained were such wraithlike undertakings as the British Mandate in Palestine.
When the Allies finally began to prepare for the end of World War Two, they rejected any idea of restoring the League, and instead moved to establish a new organization, the United Nations (UN). The structure of the United Nations was to give a much stronger position to the traditional great powers through the UN Security Council. The UN’s first attempt to resolve a serious conflict, in Palestine in 1947-8, was unsuccessful, even disastrous: it failed to implement its own partition plan, and its special mediator was assassinated.
None-the-less, UNTSO (the UN Truce Supervision Organization) opened the gates to a wave of – often bafflingly labelled – successors: UNMOGIP, UNEF, UNOGIL, UNFICYP, UNIMOG, ONUMOZ, and UNPROFOR. Some, like the observer force in Kashmir, have remained active for 50 years: no evidence of brilliant success, admittedly, but evidence of hard necessity and a degree of usefulness at least.
(Charles Townshend, Professor of International History, Keele University at BBC HISTORY)
The United Nations defines “major wars” as military conflicts inflicting 1,000 battlefield deaths per year. In 1965, there were 10 major wars under way. The new millennium began with much of the world consumed in armed conflict or cultivating an uncertain peace. As of mid-2005, there were eight Major Wars under way down from 15 at the end of 2003, with as many as two dozen “lesser” conflicts ongoing with varying degrees of intensity.
Most of these are civil or “intrastate” wars, fueled as much by racial, ethnic, or religious animosities as by ideological fervor. Most victims are civilians, a feature that distinguishes modern conflicts. During World War I, civilians made up fewer than 5 percent of all casualties. Today, 75 percent or more of those killed or wounded in wars are non-combatants.
Africa, to a greater extent than any other continent, is afflicted by war. Africa has been marred by more than 20 major civil wars since 1960. Rwanda, Somalia, Angola, Sudan, Liberia, and Burundi are among those countries that have suffered serious armed conflict.
War has caused untold economic and social damage to the countries of Africa. Food production is impossible in conflict areas, and famine often results. Widespread conflict has condemned many of Africa’s children to lives of misery and, in certain cases, has threatened the existence of traditional African cultures.
Conflict prevention, mediation, humanitarian intervention and demobilization are among the tools needed to underwrite the success of development assistance programs. Nutrition and education programs, for example, cannot succeed in a nation at war. Billions of dollars of development assistance have been virtually wasted in war-ravaged countries such as Liberia, Somalia, and Sudan.
(The World at War at globalsecurity.org)
Dag Hammarskjöld of the Sweden was elected to the office of Secretary-General in 1953, and he is still considered to have been the most outstanding holder until today. Dag Hammarskjöld considered himself to be a ‘mere’ representative and administrative head of the United Nations. With a firm aim in mind and great aptitude, he used the loopholes in the UN Charter during the following years to continuously extend the duties and flexibility of the Secretary-General. Without any particularly request or mandate from the Security Council or the General Assembly, he attempted to mediate in the sense of ‘preventative diplomacy’ as soon as a conflict arose and before the dispute reached a critical state.
During this phase of international politics, the main problem lay in the fact that the suggestions for solutions made by the United Nations were paid little attention to. In his annual report to the General Assembly of 1983, Pérez de Cuéllar spoke of a ‘process of disintegration in multilateralism and internationalism’ which is seriously detrimental to the work of the United Nations. He lamented the tendency of the major powers to get involved in regional disputes using weapons: ‘This went so far in several cases, that regional conflicts degenerated into replacement wars for the more powerful nations. In situations like this, there is a tendency to circumnavigate or snuff out the United Nations or … to use it as exclusively a platform for exchanging polemic blows.’…..
(THE UNITED NATIONS, Its Development During the Cold War (1946-1988) Part II of III By Ragnar Müller of Dadalos – political scientist for Pharos Education Server at unitednations.ispnw.org)
Societies always act as best they see fit to reach their objectives. When there is a conflict, the first thing they do is to appeal to a super society. If such a super society does not exist, it is inevitable that the societies do what they consider best to reach their objectives. Sometimes this will be a war. A society, by waging war, takes a natural response, namely trying to reach its objectives.
We see that it is no wonder that two societies with conflicting objectives go to war. In a nation, the governing sub society makes the decision to attack or cooperate according to how it sees the best way to reach its objectives. Once it has taken the decision, the general population acts according to the emotions evoked by the governing sub society and according to existing habits and regulations for civilians and the military forces. The governing sub society will present the adversary as cruel, greedy, barbarian, and nasty. It will appeal to patriotism and ideals. For all this it will use existing communications media that appeal to emotions and preexisting mental inclinations.
In medieval times a baron that lived in a castle and was feudal lord of a village and surrounding lands, could and did declare war on his neighboring baron. Why does this situation not exist today between the mayors of neighboring towns? Today a dispute between towns is settled by the super society, the society of which both are members, namely the county or province. Similarly in the area of sports, for instance in a dispute between clubs because of a swimming event, both clubs will appeal to the local swimming federation. A dispute between local federations is resolved by the national federation and finally a dispute between national federations is resolved by the international swimming federation.
Some persons say that limiting the armed forces or weapons could avoid or at least lessen the ferocity of wars. Let’s analyze this. Let’s suppose that a successful ban exists on nuclear, bacteriological and chemical weapons. Let’s further assume that even conventional firearms are successfully banned. Does this eliminate war? It seems logical that they will attack with whatever they have at their disposal. Probably they will first use economical measures and diplomatic campaigns. If these do not bring the desired results, they will call on their populations to defend the nation against the vile opponents. They will arm the population with lances, swords and crossbows. When no other weapons are available, these are very effective in killing the enemy. War, with these, is just as bloody and final for the citizens that die.
For forty-three years, although no war between the superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union was ever officially declared, the leaders of the democratic West and the Communist East faced off against each other in what is known as the Cold War. The war was not considered “hot” because neither superpower directly attacked the other. Nevertheless, despite attempts to negotiate during periods of peaceful coexistence and détente, these two nations fought overt and covert battles to expand their influence across the globe.
During postwar settlements, the Allies agreed to give control of Eastern Europe—which had been occupied by Germany—to the Soviet Union for its part in helping to defeat Germany. At settlement conferences among the Allies in Tehran (1943), Yalta (February 1945), and Potsdam (July/August 1945), the Soviets agreed to allow the nations of Eastern Europe to choose their own governments in free elections. Stalin agreed to the condition only because he believed that these newly liberated nations would see the Soviet Union as their savior and create their own Communist governments. When they failed to do so, Stalin violated the agreement by wiping out all opposition to communism in these nations and setting up his own governments in Eastern Europe. The Cold War had begun.
During the first years of the Cold War, Soviet and American leaders divided the world into opposing camps, and both sides accused the other of having designs to take over the world. Stalin described a world split into imperialist and capitalist regimes on the one hand and Communist governments on the other. The Soviet Union and the Communist People’s Republic of China saw the United States as an imperialist nation, using the resources of emerging nations to increase its own profits. The Soviet Union and China envisioned themselves as crusaders for the working class and the peasants, saving the world from oppression by wealthy capitalists.
Other scholars argue that the United States and the Soviet Union chose actions that would promote national self-interest, not ideology. That is, the nations were not primarily motivated by a desire to defend capitalism or communism but by the wish to strengthen their position in the world. These scholars reason that the highest priority of every nation is not to promote its ideology but to protect and promote its own self-interest. Thus, these theorists claim, the superpowers advanced their sphere of influence throughout the world in order to gain advantages, such as a valuable trading partner or a strategic military ally. Moreover, these scholars argue, the superpowers aligned themselves with allies who could protect their interests against those who threatened them.
The causes of wars are complex. In some instances nations other than the US may have been responsible for more deaths, but if the involvement of US appeared to have been a necessary cause of a war or conflict, it was considered involved for the deaths in it. In other words they probably would not have taken place if the U.S. had not used the heavy hand of its power. The military and economic power of the United States was crucial.
A study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly involved for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also involved. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.
But the victims are not just from big nations or one part of the world. The remaining deaths were in smaller ones which constitute over half the total number of nations. Virtually all parts of the world have been the target of U.S. intervention.
To the families and friends of these victims it makes little difference whether the causes were U.S. military action, proxy military forces, the provision of U.S. military supplies or advisors, or other ways, such as economic pressures. They had to make decisions about other things such as finding lost loved ones, whether to become refugees, and how to survive.
And the pain and anger is spread even further. Some authorities estimate that there are as many as 10 wounded for each person who dies in wars. Their visible, continued suffering is a continuing reminder to their fellow countrymen.
(Deaths in Other Nations since WW II Due To Us Interventions by James A. Lucas, 24 April, 2007 at countercurrents.org)
On November 8, 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed a unanimous resolution calling on Iraq to disarm or face “serious consequences.” United Nations arms inspectors were sent back to Iraq. On December 7, 2002, Iran submitted to the United Nations a lengthy declaration stating that it had no weapons that had been banned. In mid-January, United Nations inspectors discovered undeclared empty chemical warheads. During January, President Bush received a letter signed by 130 members of the House of Representatives, urging him to “let the inspectors work.” By this time, nearly 200,000 United States troops were in the Middle East region.
On January 28, 2003, the president delivered his State of the Union address and stated that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from Africa, even though he already had the intelligence that Iraq had not done so. By February, United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix indicated that there was some progress with Iraq’s compliance. Later that month, the United States, Britain, and Spain submitted a proposed resolution to the United Nations Security Council that authorization for war was necessary. Germany, Russia, and France opposed the resolution. By March 14, 2003, the council had only four out of the necessary nine votes to support military action.
On March 19, 2003, President Bush declared war on Iraq without a United Nations Mandate, as he said he would in his State of the Union address on January 28, and Operation Iraqi Freedom was commenced. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed concerns about the war, saying, “What will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict. It will be of a force and a scope and a scale that has been beyond what we have seen before.” Unfortunately, Secretary Rumsfeld’s prediction of a swift and efficient victory in Iraq has not come to be, as the Iraq War has gone on longer than US involvement in World War II.
(United Nations and the Iraqi War by John R. McGeehan, M.A. at netplaces.com)


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