Letter: Successes and failures of the United Nations

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your double-page spread 'United Nations: what's gone wrong?' (1 November) proclaimed that 'The promise of a golden era for the UN has turned to dust.' Only those who know nothing about human greed and aggression, and the disposition of power, could have expected a golden era at the end of the Cold War.

The best line in all those words was a quote from the Secretary- General of the UN, who spoke of 'the paradox of public opinion that craves action but fears casualties'. That is most obvious in the US regarding minor casualties in Somalia, but it could easily happen in Britain should our troops in Bosnia suffer significant loss. Then our political mettle will be tested. Do we whinge in the American manner and blame military reverses on others, or do we continue to play our full part in a difficult international operation that mitigates a hideous civil war?

In the past five years, the UN Security Council has had successes (Kuwait, Cambodia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Namibia) as well as failures (Angola), plus a number of other operations where results are mixed (Somalia, Bosnia, Croatia). Almost all of these situations arise from ethnic, racial or religious tensions that are very deep rooted.

The next time someone says the 'UN has failed to solve the problem in Ruristan or Monomania', ask them when Britain is going

to solve the problem of Northern Ireland.

Yours sincerely,


London, SE21