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The U.N. Charter Forbids a Country to Defend Itself

September 9th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

The UN Charter is very poorly written. Article 2 of the UN forbids the US to fight Syria in self-defense, but it does allow us to fight Syria for humanitarian reasons. On the other hand, it forbids the UN itself from intervening anywhere for humanitarian reasons.

Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

This is crazy stuff. Read literally, it forbids a nation to defend itself against military attack. “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means”. Suppose Russia invades Finland. Finland is naturally upset, but it is supposed to resolve the dispute by peaceful means; only the UN can use military means. It is drafted poorly enough, however, that it DOES allow the US to nuke Syria in the present situation. We have no international dispute with Syria, and no intent to violate Syria’s territorial integrity or independence. Rather, we have a humanitarian objection to Syria’s domestic policy. The UN cannot intervene to stop Syrian atrocities against Syrian citizens (“Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”) but the United States can.

Reading a bit further to Article 51, I see the Charter contradicts itself— here, it says that self defense IS ok, even if it is forbidden elsewhere in the Charter. I guess we should expect a poorly written document to contradict itself. That’s one reason to keep a statute short; you may leave gaps, but you run less risk of contradiction between the sections.

Article 51
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

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