As Nations, we are NOT United

By Pushpa Iyer

The news out of Syria yesterday has been too much for me to take. It is not possible to see pictures of dead children, babies really, and not have my core belief in humanity badly shaken.

Reports say that of those killed, in what is now known as the Houla massacre, over 30 were children. They were stabbed, shot or bludgeoned to death with blunt objects. One must pity the human beings that actually stabbed, shot or bludgeoned a child to death. Really, they have to be past redemption, so twisted that they deserve nothing else but our pity.

My condemnation is reserved for the powers that are: especially the members of the security council of the UN; for the slow response of countries in the Middle East and the US in taking a stand against the violence in Syria. Seriously, this level of violence has been going on for over a year in the country! I condemn countries like Russia and China who vetoed any UN intervention in Syria because they felt the proposals did not balance out and penalise the opposition forces in Syria for using brutal force. They are right and maybe even more justified in fearing any kind of ‘humanitarian’ intervention given the tragedies of the ongoing ‘intervention’ in Iraq. However, what do they propose as a solution? Why do nation states not give a thought to what happens to the mandate of the UN every time we have one country oppose a UN led action or worse, when member countries pursue their own agenda in spite of UN principles? Is this not ‘our’ world and do we not all have a responsibility in ensuring the world is a more peaceful place?

The UN is based on a principle of collaboration. But, collaboration is not something nation states value today unless it economically benefits the collaborators. The UN, I am sure, was a wonderful idea post World War II. A league of newly formed nation states all of whom went through the horrors of war and depression. Today, that shared horror of experiencing violence is gone and somehow some nations have ‘become’ superior to others. Is not collaborating with member states of the UN the best way to show hegemonic power?

When nation states fail to put on a united front through the UN, it simply means we have to accept that each nation knows best how to deal with their internal problems. Obviously, we know the consequences of such an approach. Maybe it is not the right mechanism or maybe it needs total revamping to deal with established nation states; states that have developed ‘histories’ since their formation post World War II. They are no longer fledgling states that require UN guidance. Maybe we need some other mechanism to empower all states enough so that communication amongst them can happen without anyone feeling threatened; maybe we need to focus on mechanisms through which hegemonic powers are curtailed. We need to start thinking what these institutions might be and what they might look like. Hopefully we create or transform existing institutions into ones that seek mitigation and management of violence and are not so arrogant as to aim for resolution of ‘other’ people’s conflicts.

I am outraged by the news from Syria. The UN and the international community has failed us so many times. How many more babies need to die for us to respond collectively seeking an end to violence?

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