Forget the Fantastic 4, you want to know about the Fabulous 5! Greetings from the New York City my plaid friends! From the United Nations Headquarters to be exact.And there are big things are going on in the Big Apple, not the least of which is the Avenger knocking back a dozen big-ass Manhattans—my mixed drink of choice here in the big city. Hey, the town’s so nice they named it twice, so I have to drink twice as much when I party here! But I digress as usual….While this weekend’s meeting will cover many tipples and topics, I just wanted to give you a quick rant about the UN’s most powerful component: the UN Permanent Security Council. Check out these stories related to this group’s recent activity:
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the main organ of the UN charged with maintaining peace and security among countries. While lots of other committees do lots of other shit, all that shit only amounts to recommendations that are made to countries of the world.However, the Security Council has the power to make decisions which member governments must carry out under the UN Charter—a charter which all members states have agreed to. Starting to get the picture here? If the Security Council passes a resolution, it must be enforced…by force if necessary!
In example: if a country on the Security Council proposes a resolution to bomb Burma, and that resolution passes, then the UN has to act on it, and Burma will be bombed.That is an extreme scenario, but you get the point.In 1950, it was just such a UN resolution that led to the invasion of South Korea by (US-led) UN forces to counter the hostile North Korean takeover that we now call the Korean War.
But let’s look at the mechanics of how this shit actually works.The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of five permanent seats and ten temporaryseats. Ah! Now we finally see the ‘permanent’ part of this group, and the reason for this blog.The permanent five are the US, the UK, China, Russia, and France.The ten temporary seats are held for two-year terms with member states voted in by the UN General Assembly, and broken down roughly on a regional basis (i.e. like 2 from Africa, 2 from Latin America, 2 from Middle East, etc.). So those 10 temporary seats are rotating, usually about half of them rotate out every year.
But the big 5! That is where all the action really is! Why? Because the Permanent Security Council members have this one all important distinction: veto power! Any one of the 5 permanent members can stop any resolution dead in its tracks. Russia or France or China can kill anything the US or Great Britain puts forward, and the US can crush anything the Russians or Chinese want to pass.It’s just that simple. And that’s what creates all the drama!
Why so much drama? Because for the UN to actually send troops or aid to any part of the world requires a resolution from the council.See, the entire Security Council votes on all issues, with each country getting one vote.For any resolution to pass, it must have at least 9 ‘yes’ votes, and zero ‘veto’ votes from any of the permanent 5.And the big permanent 5 don’t always see eye to eye on what the UN should be doing, because they all have different allies and strategic partners and motivations to consider.So to keep our example going, the US would actually love to pass a resolution to send in troops to Burma to straighten that shit government out, but everyone knows the Chinese would veto it in a hot-shit second because the Chinese are big buddies of the Burmese regime.
Need another example? Just think back to the lead-up to the current US invasion of Iraq. That is a US invasion, not a UN invasion, precisely because of the dynamics of the Permanent Security Council.The US was working damn hard to get the Council to pass a resolution to invade Iraq, but the Frenchies outright vetoed it, so the Ruskies didn’t even have to (which would have been likely). Thus, french fries became ‘freedom fries’, but you know that story already…
To keep it even more real, consider the current Iranian situation as referenced in the stories above. The US and the UK have for some time wanted to pass some resolutions to beat down the Iranians, but haven’t really bothered because the Frenchies and Russians would veto it. Now with Nick Sarkozy and the Frenchies coming over to Team USA, the sides are starting to get stacked in their favor….BUT the Russians are big buddies with the Iranians and will still likely veto any resolution that calls for military action against Iran. Can you dig it?
Just as a side note: China typically votes against any resolution which involves military action against any country.They are big fans of sovereignty, and as such think that only some whack-ass extreme behavior by a state would warrant the use of UN force. What wusses. Actually, they are hesitant to violate any other countries sovereignty mostly because they don’t want anyone to invade theirs. They just don’t want to piss anyone off.
And you should know that a country can actually decide not to vote at all—which happens quite a bit with the Chinese.They might not like a resolution, but if everyone else wants it, they will just not vote, thereby saving face. To keep our Iranian example: if the Russians eventually agree to some use of force against Iran, China will not want to stand in the way of a resolution that everyone wants, so they will abstain from the vote….so they won’t piss off the US, UK and France, and at the same time can tell the Iranians “Hey, don’t be pissed at us! We didn’t vote for it! Send your terrorist to their countries, not ours!” See how this shit works?
To finish, you just got to know your Permanent Security Council 5, and how their behavior in large part determines the actions of the entire UN. Many folks want to expand the Permanent Security Council membership and change some of the rules to better represent the world and end the predictable stalemates. Check the stories above for activity on that front…and know this: Germany will likely join soon, as they already are invited to virtually every high-level talk that the Council holds. You will often see news stories reference meetings like this: The Permanent 5 + Germany.
Hmmm….Germany….isn’t it about time for Octoberfest celebrations to begin?