Wednesday, November 24, 2004

UN and Moral Legitimacy

Patrick Belton has been running a series of posts on the latest corruption scandals at the UN and strongly implying that this undermines any claim to moral legitimacy claimed by it, and thus, perhaps, that it should have no ability to confer moral legitimacy on state actions. Maybe, then, one is to take from this that the U.S. should not feel constrained by the need to gain the imprimateur of the UN for whatever foreign policy actions it wishes to take. But I'm not sure that that argument goes through. There is a distinction to be made between how the world views the UN as a group of people actually doing things and how the world views the UN as a group of countries supporting the actions of another country. In the first case, these scandals (peacekeeping soldiers raping women, among other things), clearly undermine moral legitimacy the UN might have in its actions -- and reinforce, as Belton says, the need for more accountability. But this has very little immediate impact on its moral legitimacy to sanction the state actions. That is, even if UN peacekeepers no longer seem so pure, the legitimacy of a UN resolution is not affected, at least in the short run.

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