More than a week ago, a decisive meeting at the UN Security Council set in motion an armed intervention in Libya. In its wake, the UN secretary general has called on all members to support international action there. But how much does the global bodys stamp of approval matter? Having helped launch military strikes against the forces of Libyan leader Gaddafi, is the United Nations capable of finding a way out of the crisis? 1. A UN resolution makes war legitimate Legality and legitimacy are not the same thing. A UN Security Council resolution, such as the one passed March 17 that authorised the international community to protect civilians and establish a no-fly zone in Libya, makes a war legal but it does not necessarily make it legitimate. Many observers believe that the Security Council, with its antiquated, World War II-era membership, great-power veto rights and backroom negotiations, is itself illegitimate. Russia, China, India, Brazil and Germany which represent more than 40 percent of the worlds population abstained on the Libya resolution, raising further doubts about the depth of international support for the mission. Moreover, the Security Council has authorized plenty of missions that quickly lost whatever luster they had when first conceived. In the 1990s, for example, UN-backed interventions in Bosnia and Somalia both designed to address grave humanitarian crises failed spectacularly. When the American and international public considers the validity of a new UN-sponsored initiative, the councils spotty record does it no favours. 2. Bush admin hated UN, but Obama it Not exactly. Yes, the Bush administrations decision to wage war in Iraq without a thumbs-up from the Security Council won it an enduring reputation for antipathy to the organization, and yes, John Bolton, who served as President George W. Bushs UN ambassador from 2005 to 2006, once declared: Theres no such thing as the United Nations. But Boltons vitriol hardly captures the entire Bush record. UN peacekeeping expanded dramatically during the presidents second term. With full US support, the United Nations authorized two major peacekeeping missions in Sudan between 2005 and 2008. By contrast, the first two years of the Obama administration were one of the councils slowest periods in recent history. And on key issues, including Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran, Bushs and President Obamas relationships with the United Nations have not differed significantly. 3. Russia, China always oppose international intervention Actually, Moscow and Beijing have acquiesced to all sorts of UN-sanctioned interventions over the past 20 years, including in northern Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Sudan and now Libya. They also agreed to refer alleged crimes by Sudanese and Libyan authorities to the International Criminal Court, a body to which they dont belong and that they havent actively supported. Russia and China tend to be skeptical of intervention in other countries internal affairs because they worry that the precedent might someday be turned against them. China frowns on any resolution that touches even indirectly on Taiwan, while Russia fiercely protects its leadership among the former Soviet republics. 4. The UN is too corrupt to be effective On Capitol Hill, the United Nations is routinely pilloried for graft and inefficiency. The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), recently described the United Nations as 'broken and advocated withholding US funds unless the organisation tackles 'waste, fraud and abuse. When critics of the United Nations discuss scandals at the organisation, they often begin (and sometimes end) with the infamous UN oil-for-food program for Iraq, which ran from 1995 to 2003. They allege that pervasive UN corruption allowed Saddam Hussein to siphon off billions of dollars in oil revenue intended for humanitarian aid. The facts are more complicated. Exhaustive investigations into the scandal found instances of midlevel corruption, but it was mainly inattention and discord among the Security Council countries monitoring sanctions that allowed the money to be diverted, rather than corruption by UN staff. There are many reasons the United Nations is not as effective as it could be, but corruption is not the principal one. 5. UN peacekeepers would help stabilise Libya As the situation in Libya evolves, the need for an international stabilization force to guide the country through a political transition will probably become pressing, and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force will be tempting. But peacekeepers may not be the answer. The iconic blue helmets are most effective when they can serve as a buffer between organized and disciplined military forces. Neutral UN forces have in some cases helped prevent conflicts from reigniting once a cease-fire is in place. In more fluid environments, however, peacekeepers tend to lose their way. Most come from militaries in developing countries and typically lack the heavy equipment, training and coordination to carry out complex combat or stabilisation operations. For its part, the Security Council has often provided confusing authority to peacekeeping commanders in the field. Remember, UN peacekeepers were in Rwanda and Bosnia while massacres took place but lacked the wherewithal and mandate to stop them. Washington Post