After the end of world war two the world called for the revision of the League of Nations especially after it had been casted in a negative light by the Soviet Union after they were evicted for attacking Finland in 1940 (Chung TK).The new international order became known as the United Nations and the Charter was signed in 1945 and allowed five states to be given veto power in the upper chamber of the UN known as the Security Council. The five states were China, US, the Soviet Union, France and Great Britain. Following world war two, the Security Council was given the task of determining if there is a breach of peace, a threat to peace or an act of aggression towards another country and to decide what course of action to take (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security). However, with mounting tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, the UN would face an uphill battle as it attempted to establish itself through the Cold war era.
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The Cold war era refers to the time period in which the “Cold War” took place. This era began in 1947 after the introduction of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshal Plan by President Truman (Chung TK). This was a time of tremendous turmoil between the communist nations lead by the Soviet Union and the democratic nations lead by the United States. The Cold War did not imply the same notions that previous wars had in terms of battles; this was a time of political conflict, military tension, and economic competition (Chung TK). The Cold War is marked by several different events of conflict such as the nuclear arms race, the space race and the rise of the Berlin Wall. The conflicts are deep rooted in conflicting ideology in terms of government, economy and the existence of a rivalry that is derived from those conflicting ideologies. The United States and the Soviet Union had two utterly different governments (Chung TK). The US which is democratic believes in free press, the right to assemble and the right to elect government officials. The Soviet Union which is Communist, believes in a totalitarian form of government in which there is no election of officials, there is no right to assemble or freedom of press. They also had conflicting ideas about the global economy. The US wanted to open up trade to all nations however the Soviets wanted to shield themselves from international commerce. They felt the influence of the West would topple their totalitarian government (Chung TK). The Soviet Nation was ravaged after the Second World War and needed aid, however the Marshall plan required that nations applying for aid turn over their economic records and the Soviet Nation saw that as a threat to their privacy (Chung TK). The world was divided on two sides and the world began to see the need for a peacekeeping body.
The founders of the UN had envisioned that the organization would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible. However, the outbreak of the Cold War made peacekeeping agreements extremely difficult because it divided the world into hostile camps (“Peace: The Role of the United Nations”). Up until the end of the Cold War, the UN only intervened in the majority of cases if the conflict involved two or more Nations. This is known as the principle of non-interference. The principle of State sovereignty was adhered to more than it is today which meant that individual nations were independent and could handle their own conflicts with other nations without the UN’s intrusion (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security).
With the onset of the Cold war, the seat on the UN’s Security Council was more or less used as another power cushion. The purpose of the Security Council was to keep peace and because they were not able to do that amongst their own seat holding states, the UN was rendered insignificant or irrelevant (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security). The issue is that under this model of appointing five seats to the Security Council with decision making power- it assumes that all of those Nations are peaceful or peace loving nations and war is caused by occasional outbursts by a bad nation that is ill-advised (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security). If this were true it would imply that the world will always be more or less, a peaceful place because the superpowers could keep everything in cooperation. The dark side of this which was demonstrated through irony by the Cold war era is that if the superpowers cannot agree, there is no hope for conflict resolution (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security). This opens up the door to a difficult question: what can the world do in that situation?
During the Cold war era, a separate incident regarding the Korean War brought forth the same situation. Communist North Korea, aided by the Soviet Union and China behind closed doors launched a blatant attack on democratic South Korea (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security”). The UN condemned North Korea at the persuasion of the US and UN and US soldiers were sent to Korea to fight. Basically, South Korea was supported in the name of the United Nations. In essence, the Security Council Resolution on Korea gave the United States international authority on decision making (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security”). This compromised the symbol and reputation of the United Nations. The Soviet Union was initially boycotting the Security Council because of the Korean Resolution but then it returned to its seat once they realized the United States was using the United Nations as a platform for to show the world that since the UN was agreeing with them, they were correct (“The United Nations and the Cold War – Collective Security”). Once they returned, the ability for the Security Council to make a decision was virtually impossible because even the Council was used and split in to two sides. Also because the Secretary- General actively sided with South Korea on the issue, as he is legally allowed to do, he committed political suicide because he lost all credibility in the eyes of Moscow and the Soviet Union (Mingst and Karns). The United Nations is supposed to be neutral and act as a negotiating body of power through the collective efforts of world nations. All of the Secretary Generals have been careful to not take an outright side on an issue anymore so that the United Nations is not weakened (Mingst and Karns).
The conflicts of the Cold war continued until about 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved and became Russia and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. In the early years following the establishment of the United Nations, it struggled tremendously to gain credibility and become a true international diplomatic body of power (Mingst and Karns). The failure of the League of Nations did not do much to help it. The United Nations has evolved significantly to face the growing obstacles in the world and adapt to changing times (Weiss et al). The peacekeeping aspect of the UN was born at the time when Cold War rivalries paralyzed the Security Council regularly (“The United Nations Peacekeeping”). They were limited to maintaining ceasefires and stabilizing situations on the ground so that the governments could resolve the conflict through talks and negotiation efforts. By the end of the Cold war, the UN peacekeeping task force was changed dramatically (“United Nations Peacekeeping”). They expanded in the peacekeeping approach by making sure complex peace plans were implemented and followed through on. They also began to focus on human rights by monitoring and disarmament (“The United Nations Peacekeeping”).
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Over the next few decades, the United Nations created many different programs that are supposed to reduce all factors leading to outbreaks of conflict, as much as possible. These programs did not only focus on peace keepers, who intervene after a conflict has erupted, but also on economic and social development, human rights, and the struggle to end world poverty and hunger (Mingst and Karns). All of these United Nations programs contribute directly or indirectly to the prevention of conflicts and thus to peace on earth (Mingst and Karns). It is certainly true that, in the last 50 years, not everyone in the world has known peace, but it is gradually gaining ground. The dream of peace in the world is becoming less and less utopian and more and more attainable (“Peace: The Role of the United Nations”).
In conclusion, since the failure of the League of Nations after world war two, the world saw the dire need for an international peacekeeping body as it attempted to rebuild whole nations devastated by the war. Thus, the United Nations was formed. However, in the infant stages of the United Nations, it was thrown into the spotlight because of the increasing hostility between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union. It was used as a political tactic by the United States to further its agenda and began to cause more conflict and strife between the sides. As a result, the realization that occurred was that if the world’s superpowers are not at peace, there is essentially no hope for peace. As a result of that, the UN evolved after the cold war and has begun laying the foundation for peace in different nations and attempts to keep the superpowers out of major problems to avoid another cold war type situation and maintain peace (Weiss et al). The battle was uphill to since the creation of the UN charter and still continues to be today as well with all of the political strife and religious conflict that exists.
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