Miami Herald Op-Ed Seems to Confuse the General Assembly with the Security Council

In his op-ed lambasting the “ineffective” United Nations, the Miami Herald’s Carlos Alberto Montaner seems to forget that the United Nations has a Security Council with five veto-wielding members. Throughout the editorial he repeatedly cites the large membership of the General Assembly as a sui generis barrier to solving international crises, but he fails to ever mention the smaller Security Council, which is the United Nations organ entrusted to take on global crises as they emerge.Says Montaner, “The United Nations is a costly, clumsy and corrupt bureaucracy that has not achieved any of the objectives entrusted to it at the time of its creation. The idea of establishing the principle of a majority — one vote to every nation — to settle the international clashes and crashes was foolish. How can Brazil’s vote have the same value as the vote of the Seychelle Islands?”

Further demonstrating his seeming unfamiliarity Security Council–and the United Nations system–Montaner writes, “When a crisis occurs in the world, the principal actors solve, alleviate or deflect it by holding conversations in the corridors or negotiations behind closed doors, and then taking the outcome to the plenum of the assembly so that it may be approved. And if not even this can be accomplished — as happened during the civil war in the Balkans in former Yugoslavia — the organization is bypassed…”

It is the 15 member Security Council, not the 192 member General Assembly, that works to solve international crises like the 34 day war in Lebanon this summer, or the recent flare up in East Timor. Though it would undermine his argument, it would be appropriate to make this distinction if one’s principal objection to the United Nations is that its members, taken as a whole, cannot work together to solve international crises.

Finally, Montaner asks, “Objectively speaking, what good is the United Nations? To serve as a worldwide stage for a clown like Chavez?”

Since Hugo Chavez’ rant last week, this has been a favorite refrain from the anti-UN crowd. But Hugo Chavez does not speak for the United Nations, he speaks for Hugo Chavez. If one national leaders’ personal distain for the leader of another member state proves that the United Nations is fatally flawed, then it would be hard to see how any international organization could ever exist in the first place. Thankfully, international relations transcend personal animosities.