Nate Smith

Just exactly how does the UN benefit dictators?

4 posts in this topic

I was just reading an article by Elan Journo critiquing the United Nations (see here).

I got stuck when trying to follow the logic of how exactly an irrational regime benefits from the moral neutrality of the UN. I'll use an example to illustrate my question (which occurred to me coincidentally just seeing Serenity--don't worry, no spoilers):

Let's use the example of a government, which, for the most part, implements rational laws. In the world of Serenity, the Alliance, as far as most people governed by it are concerned, is a just government. The Alliance uses its respectability to label the Tams as Fugitives. Almost noone knows why they are fugitives. But just having this label motivates (or would motivate) countless numbers of honest officers of the law to hunt them down and return them to the authorities. These people do so under the pretense that a 'fugitive' must be someone bad, because the government says so. If these people knew the truth, many would betray their government given the opportunity. The Alliance is using what good reputation it has to obtain it's ends, dishonestly.

The United Nations works similarly for irrational dictators. Simply by the fact that more rational nations and leaders are willing to join an organization that includes the dictators, many people make the default assumption that there must be some respectability to these people. To some extent, this morally arms them. In both cases, the irrational needs a lack of knowledge by some group to continue their actions.

My question is, how exactly does this lack of knowledge, and by what group, benefit a dictator? I see three groups as potential answers:

1) The first group would be the other leaders. This doesn't seem likely though, since they understand what the dictators actually are (for the most part I guess). Many of them want to hide the truth since they act similarly, or else they are generally good, but lack the will to fight evil.

2) The second group would be the people governed by the dictator. This also seems unlikely, since a sanction by the UN would not have them believe that their torture isn't happening. They live under the regime and therefore can't have it hidden from them as easily.

3) The third group would be the people of other nations. My impression is that a dictator benefits most from their lack of knowledge. If these people knew the truth about these dictators, most of them would act to have their own leaders fight the irrationality. As far as I can tell, these are the people that are most disarmed by the UN.

Please comment on any other particulars, as well as my evaluations in 1, 2 & 3. I'm curious about exactly how this 'veil of respectability' benefits a dictator. Thanks.

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I'm no expert on international politics but I think they are some obvious benefits a dictatorship or other authoritarian government receives from UN membership. First, correct me if I'm mistaken, but member nations get to vote on various things do they not? That means countries that where women can be shot just for driving a car are elevated to having just as legitimate a say in what should go on in the world as the United States. Also, I know China is a permanent member of the security council that includes the USA, UK, France, and Germany(I'm not sure about Germany though) and has a rotating sixth seat. This council is responsible for giving UN approval/support for military actions and member nations are supposed to abide by those decisions. So if China invades the free nation of Taiwan(as they continuously threaten) to expropriate all the wealth they have created, and the USA moves to protect them, we could supposedly be blocked by China or a differnet country voting against our action, or other countries would not be able to help us because their laws say they cannot go against UN decisions. (I think is how the Security Council is supposed to work at the basic level, but anyone more knowledgeable please make any additions or corrections.)

Also, the UN gives dictators around the world a place to congregate and aid each other in their nefarious agendas.

The obvious point to make is that by giving these countries legitimacy, you take away the capacity to alter they way they do things. By saying that a country that terrorizes its own citizens can do that and be as legitimate as one that does not only gives them more incentive to abuse their power, because you have already acknowledged that is their right to do so.

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...I know China is a permanent member of the security council that includes the USA, UK, France, and Germany(I'm not sure about Germany though)

Not Germany - Russia.

Your argument is correct. It's even strengthened when you think that Soviet Russia was once a permanent member of the SC.

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---------------

  I'm curious about exactly how this 'veil of respectability' benefits a dictator.  Thanks.

I think your question gives you the direction that you should look for an answer. The issue is not so much a lack of knowledge by others that benefits the dictator but the moral sanction, respectability by others, that benefits the dictator. The reason the dictator wants to hide certain facts (torture chambers, etc) is because it would remove the "veil of respectability", i.e., the pretense at having a moral reason for his dictatorial actions. If most people had knowledge of the specific details of what a dictator was doing, they would clearly grasp that that there was no reasonable, moral goal. They would realize that the dictator is simply a thug or gangster who is using the violence for no purpose but his own power.

However, I have some doubt that "if these people knew the truth about these dictators, most of them would act to have their own leaders fight the irrationality." Since most people (including the leaders and people of other countries) share the moral code that allows the dictator to rise to power, they would be powerless to act against their moral code. Many countries, including England and the US, turned away Jewish refuges during WWII knowing full well that they would be arrested or executed when they returned to Germany. Hitler was very clear in his writings what his intentions were should he be elected. The reason people don't know the truth is because they don't want to know, because their moral code tells them that the dictator is acting in accordance with their moral code. Just look at Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela. They couldn't be any more explicit about what their intentions are.

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