SECTION THREE: THE EFFORTS TO UNITE HUMANITY
Having clarified our attitude towards science and technology and the need to adopt holistic action to strictly limit their development, we should now explore the path to human unity.
In the past, there have been efforts dedicated to exploring and coordinating human actions. These efforts included political, economic, social, environmental, and military developments, but the focus was mainly on the prevention of war. Historically, war has been the clearest and most lethal form of destruction to humanity; however, the situation has changed drastically today. Now the root causes behind the most terrible disasters are science and technology. Not only do they cause mass destruction, but potentially human extinction as well. The development of scientific research and technology should be controlled a hundredfold—or even a thousandfold—more than war.
This matter concerns the overall survival of mankind, which propels it to the highest priority of humanity. This unparalleled importance necessarily requires that the unification of mankind must be absolutely thorough, absolutely consistent, and absolutely persistent. Efforts to unite mankind in the past have been both extensive and vigorous. Among them, the two most effective efforts were the League of Nations and the United Nations.
One: The League of Nations
The League of Nations was the first universal international organization in the history of mankind and the first organized attempt to coordinate world action and safeguard the collective security of humanity. The League of Nations was founded in the early twentieth century after a period of terrible human calamity.
The First World War that broke out in 1914 lasted for more than four years and was the first war on a global scale that involved almost all of the major powers in the world. Over ten million died in the war and more than twenty million were injured. Direct and indirect war costs amounted to 436 billion US dollars—more than ten times the sum of all previous war expenditures of the past two hundred years.
Such huge devastation shocked the world, and fear lingered on long after the end of the war. During the war, some advocated for the establishment of an international organization that would unify and coordinate world affairs and prevent a recurrence of large-scale wars. At the Paris Peace Conference, President Wilson of the United States proposed a fourteen-point plan, in which he devoted the utmost passion and greatest hope to the establishment of an international coalition. In the Treaty of Versailles, the establishment of the League of Nations was listed as the first constituent.
The establishment of the League of Nations was extremely promising to the world. In particular, some smaller countries that were bullied by larger countries saw it as an umbrella to protect their own national security and sovereign equality. Wilson—known as a scholar president—firmly believed that the League of Nations was a “reliable guarantor” of world peace.
After its founding, the League of Nations strived to play an active role in international affairs and carried out a series of tasks following the expectations of the world’s citizens. However, as proven afterwards, the League of Nations did not have the capacity for substantive action, and its effectiveness was extremely limited.
The first serious challenge to the League of Nations was Japan’s aggression against northeast China. On September 18, 1931, the Japanese Kwantung army launched a surprise attack on Shenyang and proceed to occupy the major towns along the Nanman Railway. After the incident, the Chinese government in Nanjing placed great hopes in the League of Nations and expected them to stop such blatant acts of aggression. They decided to hand over complete resolution power to the League of Nations. As a result, the Chinese government filed a petition demanding that the League of Nations take action to rectify the situation.
In response to the Chinese government’s complaint, the League of Nations immediately conducted a study and passed a resolution, but the Japanese government ignored it. Under such circumstances, the League passed the resolution a second time and was opposed by the Japanese again. With no other choice left, the League of Nations decided to form a special team to conduct investigations in the Far East.
After a six-month survey, the team completed the League of Nations Investigation Team Report on the situation in China. After fierce debate, the League of Nations Assembly passed a resolution on the mission’s report, renouncing the Japanese army’s interference in China. They declared Japan’s occupation of Northeast China to be illegal and required immediate withdrawal of Japanese troops. At the same time, they refused to recognize the puppet regime established by Japan; however, they did not impose any sanctions against Japan under the coalition’s treaty and admitted Japan’s special interests in the northeast. This was actually a resolution that compromised with Japan.
Even such a compromised resolution was met with Japan’s firm opposition. The Japanese representative immediately left the assembly, and the Japanese government formally announced its withdrawal from the League of Nations. In the face of Japan’s arrogance and dominance, the League of Nations had no alternative but to end the issue with a moral condemnation of Japan.
After the Japanese invasion of Northeast China, the League of Nations was challenged again by Italy’s aggression against Abyssinia. On December 5, 1934, on the pretext of a border incident in the Walwal region on the Somali-Abyssinian border, Italy sent troops to occupy Walwal and forced Abyssinia to compensate Italy for its losses. This rude demand was strongly rejected by Abyssinia, but the weaker Abyssinian government knew that it could not defeat Italy on the military front. Its hope was therefore placed in the League of Nations. On January 3, 1935, Abyssinia filed a complaint and requested the League of Nations to intervene to stop Italy’s aggression.
At the time, the League of Nations was controlled by Britain and France. Whether for the purpose of upholding the principles of the League of Nations or for safeguarding British interests in North and East Africa, the League of Nations should not have dismissed Italy’s aggressive acts. However, the United Kingdom and France were extremely cautious in their treatment of Italy. Their main focus was not on upholding justice and the principles of the League of Nations, but rather on the fear of an Italian-German alliance. Therefore, they adopted an extremely ambiguous attitude to avoid antagonizing Italy.
Britain and France’s compromise furthered Italy’s aggressive ambition. On October 3, 1935, Italy formally attacked Abyssinia. With such a blatant act of aggression, the League of Nations was forced to react strongly. They declared Italy’s action an invasion and decided to impose economic sanctions in retaliation. Unfortunately, due to France’s uncooperative attitude, the list of sanctions did not include important products like oil, coal, or steel. A sanction like that was doomed to fail.
In May 1936, Italian troops used chemical poisons to break the stalwart resistance of Abyssinian defenders before capturing its capital, Addis Ababa. Abyssinia was annexed. It is worth pondering that the eminent Abyssinian emperor, Haile Selassie, went to Geneva to speak at a League of Nations conference on June 30, accusing Italy for its crimes of aggression and pleading for assistance. The emperor appealed for a loan from the League of Nations in order to buy weapons to resist the Italian army. This pitiful request met with twenty-three votes of rejection and twenty-five abstentions. The only affirmative vote came from the Abyssinian government itself. On July 4, the League of Nations concluded its sanctions against Italy; thus, one can see the insignificance of the League of Nations and how vulnerable justice can be in the face of power.
The weakness of the League of Nations, its inability to uphold justice, and its submission to power deeply disappointed the countries of the world. At the same time, it opened the door for fascist aggressions. The League of Nations’ weak and incompetent treatment of the Abyssinia issue greatly aroused the aggressive ambitions of the fascists in Germany and Japan. On July 7, 1937, Japan launched an all-out war against China.
Hitler was the ultimate disincentive for the League of Nations. Inspired by Mussolini’s successful invasion, Hitler decided to challenge the Treaty of Versailles. Under this treaty, Germany—a defeated nation in World War I—was not allowed to station armies within fifty kilometers of the Rhine’s eastern bank. This area was strictly labeled a demilitarized zone.
The presence of the demilitarized zone was a thorn in Hitler’s side. It constrained Germany’s military expansion and left the west side of Germany defenseless against bordering France. Hitler had wanted to pluck out this thorn since he took office, but Germany was only just beginning to reorganize. Germany could not compete with France and Britain in terms of military strength; it would fail if the international community intervened again; however, the weak actions of the League of Nations, as well as of Britain and France, gave Hitler a spark of hope. On March 7, 1936, he commanded thirty-five thousand German troops to enter the Rhine demilitarized zone and build a military defensive line; they also occupied several important towns along the west bank of the Rhine.
This blatant violation of the Treaty of Versailles put France directly at risk. At the time, the French government advocated sending troops to the Rhineland area and forcing Germany to withdraw its troops. However, Britain, who was unwilling to risk war, opposed France and opposed sanctions against Germany. As the French government did not dare to act alone, the opportunity to enter the Rhineland and stop Hitler’s ambitions from further expanding was lost.
The frequent successes of German, Italian, and Japanese fascists made Hitler aware of the League of Nations’ vulnerability and insignificance. He quickly realized that there was nothing to fear from the organization. As a result, Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and again occupied and annexed the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia in October 1938. Afterwards, it took the opportunity to loot and destroy Czechoslovakia.
On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany publicly broke the German Soviet Pact and attacked the sovereign state of Poland. On September 3, Britain and France were forced to declare war on Germany, and World War II finally broke out. After the outbreak of World War II, the League of Nations existed in name only. It officially announced its dissolution after WWII.
Peace lovers, political leaders, and scholars alike devoted great enthusiasm and effort to the League of Nations, from its preparation to its establishment. People imagined that the establishment of an international coalition would bring lasting peace to the world; however, this was only a short-lived illusion. In the twenty-six years of its existence, the League of Nations did not stop any major wars.
Another important task undertaken by the League of Nations was the organization and coordination of international disarmament. In this arena as well, the League of Nations did not achieve any substantive disarmament progress. In fact, it only ever managed to provide unrealistic hope to the people and some reference for the establishment of the United Nations in the future.
Two: The United Nations
Humans never learn from past mistakes. We pray for peace, but peace is often easily shattered. The Second World War broke out only twenty years after the first and on an even more devastating scale. World War II resulted in one hundred million casualties, of which more than fifty-five million were deaths. The economic loss caused by the war cannot be accurately calculated.
Having personally experienced the great catastrophe of two world wars, people desired peace even more and hoped for an institution that could truly control the world and ensure peace. The United Nations was born as the result of this desire.
1. Inability to Maintain World Peace
The United Nations was founded more than seventy years ago. Maintaining world peace and building a collective security system were the main purposes and original intentions of the United Nations. During this time, although a third World War has not occurred, localized wars has never stopped. Armed conflicts of varying scales have been taking place constantly. The death toll from these wars and armed conflicts has totaled nearly thirty million, three times that of World War I. Bigger conflicts have broken out more than two hundred times. Some of them were very large in scale and involved many countries, such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the war in the Middle East, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Syrian War, and others. Though the United Nations has tried its best, it is often powerless to safeguard world peace and resolve local conflicts.
Varying national interests is the fundamental factor that affects the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts. As an international organization, the authority of the United Nations is bestowed by the states; thus, the interests of sovereign states precede the interests of the United Nations. The decisions of the United Nations can be rejected by countries when they conflict with national interests, and they are largely influenced by the major powers of the world. Therefore, most United Nations decisions are only likely to be implemented when they are in line with the interests of the major powers.
During the forty-year period between the June 1948 war in the Middle East and the end of the Cold War in 1988, only thirteen peacekeeping operations were conducted by the United Nations. However, since 1989, there have been peacekeeping operations every year ... sometimes with more than ten in a year. The differing camps of the Cold War era made it very difficult for the Security Council to reach an agreement on peacekeeping operations. Since the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the conflicts among the major powers have eased and the competition among countries has shifted to economic and social development. All countries want a peaceful and stable international environment to ensure development; therefore, peacekeeping efforts have progressed.
A new world order formed after the Cold War, and the United States has emerged as the undeniable superpower. As the only superpower in the world, the United States has habitually influenced the United Nations’ decisions and facilitated its own expansion in the name of peace and anti-terrorism. The United Nations does not always heed the United States’ demands, but whenever this happens, the United States pushes aside the UN and acts alone outside UN jurisdiction.
In 2003, the United States planned to overthrow the Iraqi Saddam regime under the pretext of fighting terrorism. The entire world was well aware that the United States’ so-called anti-terrorism campaign was nothing but nomenclature. Promoting its own hegemony and acquiring oil rights in the Middle East was the real motive. Most countries firmly boycotted the actions of the United States. Massive protests and demonstrations around the world highlighted common spontaneous actions that had not been seen since the Cold War. Even major US allies like France and Germany expressed their firm opposition. The United States tried to obtain authorization from the Security Council, but apart from themselves and Britain, the other three permanent members vetoed the motion. Under these circumstances, a handful of countries, including the United States and Britain, bypassed the United Nations and unilaterally attacked Iraq to overthrow the Saddam regime.
Such disregard of unanimous international opposition and the bypassing of UN decisions has not been uncommon during the United Nations’ seventy-year tenure. The UN passed several resolutions denouncing the blatant Israeli occupation of Arab territories and its suppression of the founding of Palestine; however, Israel repeatedly ignored these resolutions due to strong backing from the United States. North Korea relies on its special relations with China and Russia to repeatedly bypass the United Nations as well. The United Nations has no alternative but to turn a blind eye to North Korea’s frequent testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. When it comes to actions involving direct participation of major powers, the United Nations is even more helpless and sometimes cannot even verbally protest. Examples include the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the NATO war on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the United States’ invasion of Grenada, the United States’ invasion of Panama, and so on. As for the two largest wars since World War II—the Korean War and the Vietnam War—the United Nations was powerless to settle any disputes, since both wars were backed by major powers.
2. The Difficult Road to Disarmament
The UN Charter states that the United Nations will work to minimize the consumption of the world’s human and economic resources by armaments and that the UN General Assembly and Security Council are responsible for disarmament efforts. In order to promote disarmament, the United Nations has set up a series of disarmament negotiation organizations. On January 24, 1946, the UN established the Atomic Energy Commission under the UN Security Council. This was the UN’s first disarmament organization; however, the United Nations’ disarmament efforts over the past seventy years have been almost laughable.
In 1961, the Soviet Union planned to test a hydrogen bomb that would produce energy equivalent to fifty-six million tons of TNT in Novaya Zemlya. Such a huge explosion would be nearly three thousand times more destructive than the atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima, and it was extremely incompatible with the world’s desire for nuclear disarmament. Therefore, on October 27, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that required the Soviet Union to stop the nuclear test with eighty-seven votes in favor, eleven votes against, and one abstention. Three days later, the Soviet Union conducted the test as scheduled, despite the unanimous opposition of the international community.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty requires the signature of forty-four nuclear-capable countries and the approval of relevant authorities in those countries. So far, a number of nuclear-capable countries have not signed and ratified the treaty. In particular, the largest nuclear-armed country in the world—the United States—has not ratified the treaty through its congress. The UN has no power to enforce the actions of such powerful countries.
In 1967, the United States adopted the Outer Space Treaty, forbidding the deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction in outer space and prohibiting the establishment of military bases on alien planets. However, both the United States and Russia have officially launched “Space Force” projects, and Russia has officially named its aerospace force the “Space Force.”
The United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was especially regrettable. The ABM Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972 to ensure mutual nuclear deterrence by forbidding the development of a national anti-ballistic missile system on both sides. It aimed to control the “nuclear terror balance” to contain potential nuclear war. After the Cold War, the balance of power between the United States and Russia shifted. The United States became bent on becoming a military leader and dominating the world, and the world was aware that the United States might decide to unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty. As a precautionary measure, the fifty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly passed the resolution to “safeguard and observe the ABM Treaty” by an overwhelming majority of eighty-two votes in favor and five against on November 29, 2001. The UN General Assembly had passed three similar resolutions in a row; however, on December 13, 2001, the US president announced withdrawal from the ABM Treaty despite strong opposition from the international community.
The ABM Treaty was a cornerstone of the international arms control system. More than thirty international disarmament treaties were linked to it. The abolition of this treaty shook the international disarmament system, and the consequences can only be imagined.
When the UN started to devote itself to international nuclear disarmament in 1946, only the United States had atomic bombs; however, an increasing number of countries have come to own nuclear weapons despite international disarmament efforts, and nuclear weapons have increased in variety and number. The number of countries that have openly admitted to nuclear weapon possession has reached nine so far, but the actual number is likely even higher. The world’s nuclear arsenal reached a maximum of seventy thousand warheads at one point, and even existing nuclear warheads total about ten thousand. In addition to atomic bombs, nuclear weapons have also developed to include hydrogen bombs, neutron bombs, and shock wave nuclear bombs. Fourth generation nuclear weapons are also being secretly researched by major countries.
After the Cold War, the United Nations adopted many resolutions regarding disarmament; however, the minimally restrained United States has been marginalizing the United Nations. Few resolutions can have any substantive restriction on a major power like the United States ... or any major powers at all.
3. Coordinating the Dilemma Between Economic and Social Conflicts
Unlike the League of Nations, the United Nations is also tasked with coordinating international economic, social, cultural, educational, and health work. Compared to the maintenance of world peace and international dis armament, it is much easier for the United Nations to adopt declarations, conventions, treaties, and resolutions in these areas. These issues concern general morality and universal common interests; however, the number of resolutions from the United Nations must be greatly reduced if they are to be implemented. Resolutions with universal common interests are easily implemented, but resolutions of a moral nature must contend with varying national interests. When long-term interests conflict with short-term interests, or national interests conflict with global interests, resolutions become difficult to implement, and countries often withdraw their support.
Relative to war and disarmament issues, economic and social issues are less urgent and less focused upon. As a result, the world has less supervision over economic and social resolutions adopted by the United Nations. The prevailing non-implementation of such resolutions has not drawn the attention of most people in the world.
From August 27 to September 7, 1990, the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders was held in Havana, Cuba. In only ten days, forty-six resolutions were passed—a record that would never have been achieved if war and disarmament issues were being discussed. Crime prevention is a matter of concern to all countries, and not much opposition exists, but the treatment of criminals is a generally accepted moral issue. Even if some countries did not intend to improve their treatment of criminals, they would not voice such views publicly.
Drug abuse and drug trafficking are universal problems for humanity as well, and the concept of drug control generally receives worldwide acceptance. The United Nations adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances without much resistance. Similarly, the more than one hundred anti-drug motions formulated by the United Nations were also relatively easy to carry out.
Terrorism is also a big threat to humanity, so resolutions like the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic Agents and the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages received minimal protest.
Environment and resource problems are major issues that concern the sustainability of humankind. Under the United Nations, two hundred conventions, agreements, and treaties relating to environmental and resource issues have been adopted and signed around the world; however, such conventions, agreements, and treaties are much more difficult to implement. For example, after many years of difficult multilateral negotiations, more than one hundred countries witnessed the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States also signed this agreement. Unfortunately, on June 1, 2017, the new US president, Donald Trump, announced his withdrawal from the agreement out of consideration for the US economy.
The protection of forests is an important step in the protection of biodiversity, the prevention of desertification, and the control of global warming. In September 1991, the United Nations adopted the Paris Declaration and appealed to the world for better protection of forests and the rebuilding of green vegetation on Earth. Later, The Forest Principles, the Convention on Biological Diversity Protection, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification were adopted. However, poorer, developing countries ignored these conventions to boost their productivity through industrial development and development of science and technology. In order to survive, they deforested, sold their resources, overgrazed, and over-cultivated to obtain basic food and clothing.
We can see that it is not so easy for the United Nations to pass the above mentioned resolutions, and it is even harder to solve such problems fundamentally. The reason for this lies in the contradiction between the restrictions contained in these resolutions and the interests of some countries. When there are contradictions between short-term interests and long-term interests, countries generally choose short-term interests. When national interests conflict with global interests, countries inevitably choose the former.