Many Americans may be infuriated that Russia and China have signaled their readiness to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for intervention to punish Syria’s use of chemical weapons in its brutal civil war.
According to U.N. rules, adopted in 1945 when the international organization was created, any of the five permanent members (the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France) of the Security Council may veto any resolution brought before the council, thus preventing any action the other members may favor.
Critics believe that the U.N. founders made a terrible mistake in granting that veto power, and perhaps they’re right. But it would be a serious mistake to think that the veto power doesn’t serve American interests as well as those of our adversaries.
Over the years, the American ambassador to the U.N. has frequently exercised the right to cast a veto. …
The first United States veto came in 1970 and dealt with a major crisis in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The United Kingdom, of which Rhodesia was once a colony, vetoed seven Security Council resolutions on that subject. Two years later, the United States cast the only veto on a resolution that was critical of Israel.
In fact, since 1972 the United States has been by far the most frequent user of the veto and nearly all the vetoes involved resolutions that were contrary to Israel’s political interests. …
Benjamin Ferencz, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II, suggested (in a recent letter to The New York Times) that in this case the Security Council should refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, “which is competent to penalize crimes against humanity.” What he didn’t say, however, is how the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, could be forced to face that court.
Still, the U.N., for its faults and machinations, does provide a useful if imperfect global platform for maintaining peaceful relations and providing humanitarian aid, as world leaders envisioned when it was formed at the end of World War II.
The United States should never allow its involvement to diminish its security or sovereignty, but the United Nations, vetoes and all, does serve a valuable purpose.
— The Tampa Tribune,
Florida, Sept. 9