Friday, March 9, 2012

League of Nations Redux: Is the World Going to Act on Iran? - Yahoo! News

COMMENTARY | I am a world history teacher. Right now, my sophomores are finishing the unit over World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the WWI-ending Treaty of Versailles. In January 1918, a joint session of the U.S. Congress heard president Woodrow Wilson's famous Fourteen Points speech in which he introduced a plan for what would become the League of Nations.
Despite Wilson winning the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts, the U.S. Senate decided to keep the nation out of the League of Nations, which failed to prevent World War II and was eventually replaced by the United Nations. It turns out that diplomacy that's not backed up with military muscle doesn't go very far, especially when it cannot keep Italy out of Ethiopia or Japan out of China.
According to CNN, a brewing diplomatic crisis that could turn the United Nations into a League of Nations II may be upon us. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has asserted that Iran is not honest and forthcoming about its growing nuclear program. As a result, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) and Germany have agreed on a "joint statement" to be delivered Thursday. This group, known as the P5 plus 1, wants to resume negotiations with the Islamic Republic regarding its nuclear program, likely to try and avoid an Israeli-Iranian war.
With the Associated Press reporting that Iran may be attempting to cover up pre-nuclear test evidence, what is the UN waiting for? This may well be the UN Security Council's Italy-in-Ethiopia moment, hearkening back to the diplomatic tensions of 1936. With the P5 plus 1 finally speaking in a unified voice about Iran, will it take the opportunity to pledge to use force to assert its will and prevent the aggressive Islamic Republic from developing a working nuclear weapon?
If the UN Security Council, and indeed the United Nations as a whole, does not seize the opportunity granted by the unified P5 plus 1 voice against Iran's nuclear ambitions, it will likely not have another chance to assert its relevance.
Passing up a golden opportunity to prevent nuclear proliferation will damage the international body's reputation and make it look like a second coming of the League of Nations. More impressive and longer lasting, perhaps, but in the end less than effective.

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