U.N. – The ‘U’ is for ‘Useless’

Reuters: Annan doubtful of U.N. return to Iraq

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says violence in Iraq will prevent the world body from re-establishing a major presence in the country anytime in the foreseeable future.

Annan told reporters that even the small team now in the country, led by top U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi, has been hampered in advising Iraqis on forming an interim government and plan for elections early next year.

“Of course given the deteriorating situation and the violence on the ground, even that task has been rather difficult,” Annan said.

“For the foreseeable future, insecurity is going to be a major constraint for us. And so I cannot say right now that I am going to be sending in a large U.N. team,” Annan said.

Certainly, the last place one wants to send an international peacekeeping body is a place where there’s violence going on. . . .

Annan is simply acknowledging a reality: The idea that the United Nations will ever be an effective military force is absurd on its face. It is past time to acknowledge this and to stop pretending that the UN is ever going to do anything about anything. The organization has utility as an international mediation body and has done some excellent work in the humanitarian assistance milieu, although a Third World level of corruption hampers both.

Hat tip: Laurence Simon/Command Post

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Andy says:

    Why send peacekeepers to a war zone, surely combat troops are required ?

    Since the UN does not have a combat force, why send them ?

    Now if the UN were to agree to the concept of UN combat troops under UN command, one could imagine UN combat troops being sent to Iraq, but since the US would veto it, the possibility is moot.

    The UN can only be a effective as the lowest common denominator (with a veto) will allow, since the US does not want the UN to be strong, and definatly not as strong as the US, then the UN will continue to be weak and the UNII (coalition of the coerced) will get spanked.

    Many blame the US for all world ills, this is unfair.

    The US though is responisble for much of the worlds ills, a case of reaping what they sow.

  2. Saheed says:

    You cannot hobble a donkey and expect him to pull a cart for you.

  3. W Smith says:

    The ‘U’ is for ‘Useless’ in USA

    Remember what Ramsfield said “We can fight 2 wars at the same time”

    what a joke

  4. M. Murcek says:

    Since there won’t be an army of blue berets enforcing one world government, what will the black helicopter crowd worry about instead?

  5. Art Keon says:

    Just curious as why the UN would want to goto URAQ> They didn’t make the mess. Why should they clean it up? Oh and would they be acting as peacekeepers between the IRAQI people (who Don Rumfeld tells us love their freedom) and the US occupation forces (formerly the forces of liberation)?


  6. Kevin Drum says:

    Unless I’m missing something, very few people have ever suggested that the UN should be a war fighting body. Their role has always been to (hopefully) keep the peace in a place where the war has already been fought.

    I’m not a huge defender of the UN, but even so an awful lot of the criticism is hypocritical. The reality is that its success depends largely on support from the U.S., but the U.S. is seldom willing to provide that support. If its bigest member remains profoundly ambivalent about it, its chances of success are slim.

    (As for Iraq, criticism is absurd. The U.S. decided to go in without UN blessing, and can now hardly complain when the UN holds back until the U.S. can provide adequate security.)

  7. Lily says:

    The United Nations–not the United Peoples of the world the United Governments. And most of those governents are run by a pretty narrow elite. Their priority number 1 is staying in power, regardless. So you can expect only so much from the UN.

    As for the UN’s military weakness being the fault of the US, well why should the US bear the burden of strengthening this organization? The EU has more people and is more or less as rich and technically sophisticated as the US. The EU nations obviously have more votes than the US in the UN and similar organizations and so they are in a better position to push for reforms. So if they truly care they need to do something more than sit back and complain.

    I am speaking of military contributions here and not the “send money” approach. Some of these rich nations remind me of a bourgeois who is troubled about the poor neighborhoods. He congratulates himself about sending money to organizations run by the slumlords. If kids at an orphange were being abused he’d “speak out” about it, and then maybe send more money to its directors.

  8. Andy says:

    ‘As for the UN’s military weakness being the fault of the US, well why should the US bear the burden of strengthening this organization?’

    Lily, the US wants a ‘coalition of the willing’ yes ?

    Well, the UN would be willing if what was demanded of them was fair; the UN would be able to act if it was given new powers to effectivly peacekeep (fire back) and could even have its own command and control – like NATO.

    The only reason this has not happened is because permenant members with vetos do not want this to happen, especially the US who always wants control over thier troops.

    The UN is week because of the US, no other reason.