Small nations are mistaken if they come to the United Nations with an illusion that the international clinic has supernatural medicine to heal their diseases. This is what experiences have proven.
But the Organization’s inability to end all the conflicts in the cosmic village does not mean that it has lost its purpose. It is no secret that the health of the clinic itself depends on the consensus of its senior surgeons - the major states - to diagnose diseases and find means of treatment.
As in any hospital, the conflict between doctors complicates the patient’s recovery and extends the sufferings. Despite the mix of successes with failures, the United Nations remains a reference, a haven and a platform.
The presence of states in the United Nations is often a reflection of their presence on the international scene. The international organization has only the weapon of legitimacy to read through open crises. In the end, it is gathering the strong and the weak.
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This is why it can make wrong and correct decisions, it can hurt sometimes and be thoughtful other times. The United Nations cannot simply be an echo of the voices of the powerful. But it cannot ignore them either because it needs them whenever it wants to impose its prestige and obtain respect for its decisions. It borrows their strength and later suffers from their power.
With the holding of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, talks renewed about the organization and its effectiveness, crises which it has successfully resolved, and those that it failed to contain. The UN was born out of the rubble of World War II and out of a dream that the world would not fall again in a similar experience that could take the form of a destructive nuclear calamity.
Experts in monitoring the performance of the visitors of the international organization considered Trump’s appearance as successful in terms of stealing the spotlightGhassan Charbel
Cuban missile crisis
Fortunately, the world did not fall into the big trap and acted with panic when the Cuban missile crisis almost exposed a frightening American-Soviet confrontation. Those familiar with that era insist that UN Secretary-General U Thant has helped resolve that crisis, although the spotlight has been directed towards other cooks.
Diplomats, who have been addicted to following up the General Assembly sessions, remember that the United Nations went through difficult exams and succeeded, not only in staying alive, but also in emphasizing that it was needed.
Even those who are angered by the international organization because they have different views ultimately concede that there is no alternative in sight to the safety valve the organization represents or is trying to represent. It has witnessed the Cold War, intermediate wars through explosions of maps and civil strife. When it failed to solve the problems, it tried to limit the losses and ease the suffering.
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If the role of the international organization is to seek solutions, international tensions have sometimes turned it into an arena for attacks and counter-attacks. The long speeches of Fidel Castro were never lost in the memory of that generation.
These speeches were the reason for the decision to reduce the period dedicated to each speaker to only a quarter of an hour, after which a light signal is initiated to remind him/her of the time limit. But there was always a rebel, including Margaret Thatcher. The marathon speeches began with Krishna Menon, Nehru's foreign minister. The minister spoke so long that he fainted and collapsed; and when he woke up, he insisted on continuing his speech.
There were other exciting shows. The General Assembly has seen Muammar al-Gaddafi exceed the time limit, then become angry and tear apart of the Charter of the United Nations. Idi Amin also claimed in one of his speeches that he was good at talking to crocodiles and making jokes with them.
One should not also forget when Nikita Khrushchev began to riot and hit the table in front of him with his shoes. Until now, visitors ask about the place where the Soviet Prime Minister committed this precedent in the history of the UN.
General Assembly platform
Many stars have passed on the General Assembly platform, including Nelson Mandela, whose centennial was commemorated by the International Organization this year and welcome his effigy as a symbol of liberation and the end of racial discrimination... Also, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly and called on the world not to let the olive branch fall from the hands of Palestinian resistance.
In this year’s session, the stardom has been decided since the opening. Wherever Donald Trump is, the spotlight follows. The Twitter general masters the rules of the game. An experienced boxer, he does not leave the ring. He strikes and receives blows. His Tweets are awaited daily in the world. The world has never seen a head of state running the most complex battles and crises through short sentences that quickly invade screens and social platforms.
From the General Assembly and the Security Council, Trump addressed the Americans and the world. It is a whole new way of dealing openly with international relations… A new way and a new dictionary. Using expressions suitable for Twitter, Trump spoke about the trade war with China, his achievements with North Korea, and the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear and missile ambitions and its policy of destabilizing the Middle East. He used a whole new rhetoric even when addressing his European and Atlantic allies.
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Experts in monitoring the performance of the visitors of the international organization considered Trump’s appearance as successful in terms of stealing the spotlight and confirming the continued presence of the United States in the first place.
They said his performance has reminded them of Ronald Reagan’s appearance on the same platform. They also saw Trump succeed in imposing the actual agenda and make the Iranian issue at the forefront both in the assembly and its corridors. Washington’s warnings to the Europeans against easing Iran’s encroachment on sanctions suggested that the coming months would be rich with stances and tweets.
Trump’s stardom does not eliminate the glamor of Vladimir Putin and his policy that made Sergei Lavrov’s interventions remind the world of the days of Andrei Gromyko, with some differences of course. Stardom itself does not negate the fact that any escalation in the trade war with Mao Zedong’s heirs will be greater than the ability of the international clinic to provide treatments.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan’s Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.