Photo by Nina Bayatti/The Gazelle
As the international community grows anxious with the growing nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, it is time to reanalyze our approach to international relations and question our ideas of what countries are or are not allowed to do. If you read any western newspaper, odds are you will find the lack of cooperation from countries like North Korea and Iran depicted as the result of mad statesmen and an embarrassment to the international community. However, when you find other countries showing similar defiance to the United Nations or a lack of international cooperation, you may find it depicted as a quirk in foreign policy, but certainly not a grave fault. I think it is about time we question why it is O.K. for some countries to kill civilians in the name of war; to use drones - without consent from the .UN., or the country they are being used in - but it is wrong for North Korea to perform missile tests in the water. It is time to really analyze why some countries can get away with statements like “all options are on the table,” to instill or support undemocratic oppressive regimes while remaining unpunished at the same time certain other countries are ostracized and sanctioned.
Noticing that the previous systems of alliances or balances of power had not worked, the allies after WWII decided to create an institution to foster peace and diplomacy. Ever since the U.N. has, in theory, stood as the epitome of international relations, the epicenter of international cooperation and a place where every country can be heard and problems solved peacefully. The idea of giving a voice to the voiceless, however, gets distorted when certain countries have more of a say than others. For example, in the Security Council — perhaps the most influential of U.N. councils — five countries have veto power over any and all decisions, which include where and when to send peacekeeping troops and who will be on the shortlist to become Secretary General.
When we learned through the press about all the crazy antics of the North Koreans and the Iranians, few journalists stopped and wondered why we are either mocking or villainizing these two governments. Should it be because they went against direct orders from the U.N. and against the wishes of the international community, like the U.S. did when it invaded Iraq? Or is it because of its continuous breaching of human rights, killing of civilians and reluctance to participate in international movements that create a safer world — such as the U.S. keeping Guantanamo open, using drones to kill civilians in Pakistan, and Congress and Senate voting against joining the Disabilities Treaty and the U.N. Arms Treaty? Why is it that we are quick to frown on Iran’s desire for nuclear capabilities, which they have repeatedly denied, but we are O.K. with the U.S. having an arsenal that could blow up the Earth ten times over?
The problem with pointing fingers is that it is hard to notice when we don’t. If we rely on the U.S. and a handful of its frenemies to dictate who we demonize, we might overlook when these countries perform or condone similarly heinous acts. The 20th century is plagued with examples of dictators who were overlooked if not encouraged because they were under a superpower's sphere of influence, as well as a couple of democratically elected leaders thrown out of office because their ideologies were not on par with that of the international community.
I am not condoning the blatant disregard for human rights in North Korea nor the increased provocation of unrest in the Middle East by the Iranian government. I’m just saying that international cooperation has to stop being The U.S. and Friends and start being an actual amalgamation of voices. The Cold War has been over now for over two decades. It is time to stop thinking of the international community as a couple of big players and their allies, but as geopolitical regions with increasingly intricate nuances and relevant actors.
Andres Rodriguez is opinion editor. Email him at email@example.com.