artemis, I have to write this in haste so I hope it will live up to the complex issues you’ve introduced.
No, the UN is not a pure (representative, international) democracy. Yet one could easily argue that in falling short of purity it emulates most (so-called) democracies in the modern world. All representative democracies are a compromise of sorts; and in the US institutions such as the Supreme Court, and the electoral college, and the overall distribution of power among different branches represent constitutional checks and balances that were deliberately put in place by the framers to counteract what were then seen (and to a large degree still are seen) as the pitfalls of representative democracies.
But, yes, to be sure, the UN is much less of a pure democracy than the US government is. Undoubtedly the structure of the UN was what was required to get all major players at that time to consent to it. (I would, by the way, argue for a restructuring of the Security Council but the details would be a hijack).
Whereas Unwritten seems to be concerned about member nations such as Burma, you seem to be concerned about SC nations such as China. Both of your would justify such exclusions on grounds of moral illegitimacy.
This is a complicated issue but bear in mind that the goal of the UN is utilitarian (to promote peace) and not merely idealistic (to do so by the most fair, just, cooperative means). It makes no more sense to exclude China from a body designed to help reach peaceful solutions on international conflicts than it would have made to exclude the former Soviet Union from its original structure. What would be the purpose of trying to negotiate peace only with those countries with whom we are very unlikely ever to contemplate war?
Let’s also not pretend that Western countries such as the US don’t already legitimate all kinds of non-liberal non-democratic countries. The US has been very keen to trade with China. How can we possibly say that it’s “moral” to trade with China but “immoral” to give that country a role in negotiating peace.
(On a more philosophical note, how can we exclude countries with whom we with disagree in the name of democracy?)
" Oddly enough, [straightforward domination by the strongest] might be in some ways - people would clearly see in that case that international relationships is just based on naked power politics (which, in truth, it is), and wouldn’t hold expectations that the current UN cannot possibly meet."
I don’t happen to agree that international relationships are based “just” on “naked power politics”–at least not in the narrow sense of the phrase that you seem to mean. More important, we both agree that the UN is not purely democratic, but structured in such a way as to express power differentials. Outdatedness aside, its structure is meant to balance democratic principles with asymmetries of power.
Most important, let’s not rush to assume that UN isn’t meeting at least some expectations. At the moment, it’s meeting my expectations just fine in the sense that the world seems to be agreed that the one remaining superpower–the US–ought to adhere to its UN commitments before making war. Without the UN it would be very hard for the world–from the relatively powerful in Europe, to the relatively powerless in, say, Africa–it express itself as effectively. The UN has thus curbed what was most arrogant and dangerous in the hawkish Bush administration policy: a policy, I might add, that is not fully supported by the majority of the US people (Bush’s hamfisted remarks on the recent protests show that democratic principles are hardly foremost on his mind).
You seem to want it both ways: to damn the UN for not being idealistic and democratic enough; but also to damn it for not measuring up to the “reality” (as you see it) of naked power politics.
Yes, the UN is full of contradictions, and we could talk meaningfully about how to improve it. But nothing in your analysis, which is itself partly characterized by those same contradictions, provides evidence for the theory that the world would be better off without the UN.