What You Need to Know
About the Most Important Issue
In the World Today

Bruce A. Roth

Chapter 15

The UN is Powerless to Prevent War

“A painter can paint square wheels on a cannon
to express the futility of war.
A sculptor can carve the same square wheels.
But an architect must use round wheels.”
—Louis I. Kahn, architect

The primary reason the UN cannot control war is that it cannot effectively govern its Member States. The UN Charter prohibits interference in the domestic affairs of its Member States. Nations are not required to bring matters of conflict to the UN for settlement. The UN does not have a standing law enforcement agency to enforce international law.

The UN General Assembly hardly represents the people of its Member States since it is not elected by those people. In many cases, the governments currently choosing their representatives were not elected themselves. Furthermore, under its present one-state-one-vote system, representation is not proportional to population. And, although the UN General Assembly does pass resolutions, which become part of international customary law recognized by many nations, including the U.S. Supreme Court, they are not binding on the Members, hence they are not enforceable.

The Security Council is the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) only means of enforcing law. It is entirely up to the Security Council to determine what measures should be taken to enforce any Court decision or judgment. Of the Security Council’s fifteen members, five are permanent members: the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China. They represent more than half of the world’s population and more than half of its military might.

A privilege of the five permanent members is that any one of them may veto a resolution, except over insignificant procedural matters. Consequently, one “no” vote may undermine the entire UN. The veto power gives each permanent member control over enforcement of ICJ decisions. Permanent members are as immune from the ICJ as they choose to be.

Although there have been countless treaties, world organizations, national alliances, and extensive diplomatic efforts throughout history, they have not brought, nor will they bring lasting peace. We’ve just been recycling the same ineffective methods. The UN is withering into irrelevance because it is a cannon with square wheels. It has not been able to maintain or restore international peace because of its structural defects. A new form of governance without those flaws will most likely need to be established in order for us to enjoy the rule of international law.


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