The Geopolitical Right of Exception at the United Nations

13 Apr


The notorious, yet influential, German jurist, Carl Schmitt famously insisted that ‘a right of exception’ was the core reality of national sovereignty. By this he meant that internal law could be put aside by ‘the sovereign,’ inhering as the crux of the relationship between state and society. In this regard international law has no overriding claim of authority with respect to sovereign states, at least from the perspective of statist jurisprudence. This discretion to ignore or violate law is distinct from submission to law as a realistic adaptation by weak states to political realities or compliance undertaken voluntarily for pragmatic reasons of convenience and mutual benefit.


When the UN was established, it was configured, to appeal both to realist minds who were eager to show that they had learned the lesson of Munich and to those architects of international cooperation that did not want the folly of the League of Nations, seen as a politically irrelevant sanctuary for utopians and dreamers to be repeated in this newly created organization. To achieve these ends the UN Charter vested only the UN Security Council with the power of decision (as distinct from recommendations), and limited its membership originally to nine states of which the five designated winners of World War II were given both permanent membership, and more importantly, a right of veto. In effect, the right of veto was a constitutional right of exception embedded in the UN Charter. It formulated the master procedural rule of the Charter as one that allowed permanent members of the Security Council to block any decision that was perceived to be sufficiently against their national interests or those of its friends. Just as Woodrow Wilson falsely misled the world with his pledge after World War I of ‘making the world safe for democracy’ the UN was more effectively manipulated into the actuality of ‘making the world safe for geopolitics.’


In effect, the UN was set up on the basis that it would never be strong enough to challenge these five major states, and that its effectiveness would rest on two possibilities: sustaining the voluntary cooperation that had worked successfully during World War II to thwart European fascism and Japanese imperialism or cooperating on issues of secondary concern in the peace and security area on which the permanent members could agree and persuade enough non-permanent term members to lend support. As was discovered several decades ago, these permanent members could only agree on what to do in the Security Council on the rarest of occasions, and that decisions relating to secondary issues, although often useful, left the really dangerous conflicts beyond the reach of the UN. The UN also committed itself to respect territorial sovereignty of its members, and by virtue of Article 2(7) of the Charter, placed all forms of civil strife beyond its writ unless the Security Council agreed that there were present substantial threats to international peace and security.


This constitutional right of exception to some extent contradicts the basic imperative of the Organization “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” that is set forth in the Preamble to the Charter. To the extent that major wars have been avoided during the lifetime of the UN it is not due to the efforts of the Organization. It is rather a consequence of deterrence, and geopolitical self-restraint and prudence, which were greatly encouraged by the awareness that any war fought with nuclear weapons would be a catastrophe regardless of which side prevailed. Major wars were prevented by a reliance on traditional notions of balance, containment, and countervailing power fine tuned for the realities of the nuclear age. These were realist instruments of statecraft associated with the European state system as adapted to the distinctive contemporary challenges. In the over 400 pages of his 2014 book, World Order, Henry Kissinger, the realist par excellence of this era, hardly mentions the UN, and accords it no significant role in shaping or even misshaping the ‘world order’ in the 21st century. The UN is simply seen as a diplomatic sideshow. He sees the present world order need to be primarily concerned with incorporating the non-Western major states, especially China, in an enlarged conception of a state system that is based on European ideas. For this process of incorporation to occur smoothly it will be essential that Westphalian logic of statism be newly perceived as reflecting the values and worldview of these diverse civilizations, and no longer be understood as an integral aspect of the Western world domination project.


Although the UN is a disappointment when it comes to ‘war prevention’ or the encouragement of a global rule of law, it has managed to achieve universality of membership. Unlike the League that failed to induce the United States to join and lost along the way several important members, the UN has neither expelled countries from its ranks nor have states withdrawn. The Organization has proved sufficiently useful as a site of diplomatic interaction and contestation that every government regardless of ideology or outlook finds it useful to participate in its activities. Even Israel that consistently complains loudly about the flawed and biased character of the UN, still tries with all its diplomatic ingenuity to influence its various activities in directions consistent with its foreign policy.


What has received too little attention so far is what I would call ‘the geopolitical right of exception’ that is quite distinct from the constitutional veto, but at least as pernicious from the perspective of enabling the UN to promote the human interest in its actions throughout the world. The geopolitical right of exception reflects the ability of one or more political actor in the world to promote or undermine policies that express its particular interest. In UN contexts the geopolitical right of exception allows a state to prevent the implementation of behavior that has been otherwise given formal approval. For instance, in the UN Human Rights Council there is no operative constitutional right of exception, and this allows certain steps to

be taken on the basis of majority approval. Yet when it comes to implementation or enforcement, acting behind the scenes, threatening funding cuts and actions for and against a high official, the political will of the Organization is effectively resisted and controlled. For instance, Israel despite ignoring strongly backed UN General Assembly resolutions dealing with such matters as refugees, Jerusalem, the separation wall, has been able to be defiant over the course of decades without experiencing any inter-governmental adverse consequences, and this is because it is protected by the United States exercise of its geopolitical right of exception on its behalf. The availability of such a geopolitical right is in direct proportion to the perceived hierarchy of hard and soft power in the world, which has meant that since World War II, the United States far more than any other political actor has enjoyed a geopolitical right of exception within the UN.


The existence of this geopolitical right of exception undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN. It is integral to regimes of double standards, and cuts directly against the grain of global justice that seeks to treat equals as equally as possible. It also implicitly endorses backroom strong arm tactics and procedural manipulation, as well as modifies and distorts the rights and duties of membership in the UN.


Overcoming the geopolitical right of exception would require its repudiation by the United States, in particular, through a recognition that its exercise is incompatible with the search for a peaceful, just, sustainable, and more participatory form of world order. Because it is often exercised invisibly, this geopolitical right is also a vehicle of influence relied upon by private sector corporate and financial interests that are contrary to the global public interest. At present, it seems hopelessly out of touch to expect any moves by the American and other powerful governments to forego the benefits of the geopolitical right of veto. Because its exercise is neither claimed nor acknowledged, there can be no accountability, thus operating in a manner that is contrary to the democratic spirit. The constitutional veto has the benefit of discourse and debate as various political actors try to offer convincing reasons for casting a veto to block a Security Council decision. For this very reason the geopolitical right of exception is often a more desirable option than the constitutional right if the policy or position being promoted is unpopular with public opinion and other governments. The U.S. Government struggles often behind the scenes at the UN to provide effective support for Israel in ways that get the job done without having to achieve such an unpopular result by a seemingly arbitrary reliance on its veto.


Unless a full-fledged world government were to be established, which seems slightly less likely than awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Vladamir Putin, there is no prospect of any renunciation of the geopolitical right of exception at the UN in the foreseeable future. The best that can be hoped for is a recognition of its existence and role, some sort of greater self-restraint exhibited in its exercise, and critical commentary by those who conceive of their political identity as that of ‘citizen pilgrims.’

26 Responses to “The Geopolitical Right of Exception at the United Nations”

  1. Schlüter April 13, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Great Post as usual! I dare to mention my collection of articles on the US:
    Andreas Schlüter
    Berlin, Germany

    • Gene Schulman April 13, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

      No point in commenting on this latest post about the ineffectiveness of the UN. Richard, as usual, tells it like it is.

      I do thank Andreas Schlüter for his collection of articles which I will read with interest.

  2. truthaholics April 13, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “The existence of this geopolitical right of exception undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN. It is integral to regimes of double standards, and cuts directly against the grain of global justice that seeks to treat equals as equally as possible. It also implicitly endorses backroom strong arm tactics and procedural manipulation, as well as modifies and distorts the rights and duties of membership in the UN.”

  3. ray032 April 13, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    Thank you for tackling this important subject, Richard

    Unfortunately, this is an understatement, “Although the UN is a disappointment when it comes to ‘war prevention’ or the encouragement of a global rule of law,”

    He who pays the Piper, calls the Tune, and the US calls the UN Tunes, except for being denied permission to invade Iraq in 2003.

    It is the US, more than any other UN State, by it’s immoral behaviour and example in defying the UN Security Council, that has ushered this world into having no respect for the UN Principles, or International Law, having violated so many of them with impunity.

    In my opinion, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations is a US stooge, and should be replaced ASAP by someone more Independent of US dictates, and having a passionate, effective, resounding voice in war prevention, and upholding the Global Rule of Law, not being hesitant to chastise even the 5 permanent Members Publicly when they violate UN Principles.

  4. Mike 71 April 13, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    The U.N., like its predecessor, the League of Nations, has never been an effective deterrent to war. Even the much vaunted “Kellogg-Briand Pact” of 1928, for all of its idealism, failed to prevent the later 1939 outbreak of World War II. The presence of nuclear deterrence and the “Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction” has filled that gap, as the nations of the world now well know the destructive potential of nuclear weapons.

    Professor, your condemnation of “European Fascism and Japanese Imperialism” is somewhat disingenuous without mentioning “Russian Imperialism,” or what the Chinese, in the Soviet Era, characterized as “Soviet Social Imperialism.” Each of the powers on the Security Council has its own particular interests and less powerful clients to protect. Of course, you wouldn’t expect the Chinese to remain silent on Resolutions condemning the DPRK for human rights abuses, any more than one would expect Russian silence on those condemning the seizure of Crimea the and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, or the U.S. protesting the one-sided condemnations of Israel, which despite its problems, has a far better human rights record than the DPRK, despite even more Resolutions against Israel!

    There are too many entrenched interests among the members of the Security Council to expect them to willingly give up those prerogatives. Perhaps, you forgot that originally, he “United Nations” was the alliance of the allied victors of World War II, including the U.S., the USSR, the U.K., France and China, and that as an outgrowth of that alliance, those nations sought to create a forum in which their differences could be aired, and in rare instances, be resolved. While the U.N. still exists, one cannot expect there to be a replacement organization.

  5. Giftoftruth April 13, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on Giftoftruth United.

  6. patricknelson750 April 14, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    When the UN has the upper hand over national sovereignty then we have a one world government. The problem with a one world government is that if it falls into tyranny where would people flee to? who would resist it? It would be game over for humanity. 1984 would have arrived.

    • Katie April 14, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      I am afraid to tell you that all these wars are pushing the world toward “world government” where is supported by Mr. Falk and Chomsky where they label it as ‘global governance’ to fool others. This project is pushed upon the world by the Rothschild/Rockefeller families and their extension Soros and their stooges where are put at the WH and elsewhere. People must be united against these war criminals and their stooges.

      • Richard Falk April 15, 2015 at 10:05 am #

        For what it is worth, to be clear, I have always opposed world government; global governance aims at minimal arrangements
        to handle such issues as climate change, nuclear disarmament that states cannot handle on their own.

      • Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 11:29 am #

        Katie – you can look at this in another way:

        “World government” is evil top-town (in effect).
        “Global governance” is bottom-up (in effect) things of sustainability – that what Professor Falk has indicated.

        As you observe now – “world government” is few in acting (dictators) that have an evil impact on global population.

        “Global governance” would be global population dictating few what needs to be done / accomplished for the global population. (But this would be random people-power and all wicked/wicked rulers hate that due to essence that dictates, itself).

        I know this – I know how forces operate – so your assumption is inaccurate.

        Biblical warning against “One world government” would be that that “One world government” is in wicked spirit (AntiChrist/AntiGod/Anti – Spirit of God, in essence). It is not “One System of Government in the world” as many falsely believe.

        “One System of Government” is rule of Globaly-wicked.

        Same with the currency. Meaning: “Flip the stock & market whenever you can – you wicked” Church Charismatic says that.

        While is possible that (in natural) One System of Government could come to pass? (laughter) not before (II-Time of Jesus Christ of Nazaterth) Jesus Christ Himself reappears again in resurrected form…

        This who are in Antichrist are roving, and they are so blind – they do not even know that they are in Satan.

        Time have hit before we even know it. Look and see AntiChrist in the world! – whenever you can. He just get’s bigger and bigger – that Beast that comes from the sea (people tribes/all nations, including Israel).

      • Chuck Woolery April 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

        The only thing more horrifying than world government is no world government. The trajectory of global threats require we federate the nation states of the world with a constitution that puts the protection of human rights and the environment superior to the rights of nation states or corporations. Global governance with unenforceable laws and good intentions can’t hold mass murderers accountable, cant stop wars, cannot stem the desire to produce and abuse WMD. To maximize both human freedoms and human security we must create a global ‘rule of law’. Laws made and enforced by a democratic process, equally applied to all people (regardless of title, race, sex, nationality…) and protective of a basic set of inalienable human rights like those outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Any other form of world government could lead to the tyranny feared. But that would also lead to a global revolution of ‘we the people’ against any tyrannical government. And I don’t think many of the world’s soldiers would stand to defend such a government.

      • Richard Falk April 17, 2015 at 5:41 am #

        I share your sense of the need for institutional mechanisms that can protect the global public good, yet I think it
        is politically impossible to move in this direction if the issue is framed by reference to ‘world government.’ It may
        be a matter of semantics, and the widespread conviction that concentrations of governmental power also widen inequalities
        and generate repression to sustain order in the face of arrangements perceived as unjust.

    • Jerry "Peacemaker" April 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

      If one compares a family with mother, father, sisters and brothers to the commonly held perception of the “family of man”, there seems to be no difference, but in magnitude, between the two. When the family sits down, talks and comes to an agreement, the result is most often peace, and the same path is open for humanity (family of man). The mother, father, son, and daughter maintain their sovereignty, yet they’ve agreed to a set of understandings and agreements most amenable to good relations. It may sound simplistic, but the family of man can do the same, while, though it may seem counter-intuitive, the chances for tyrannical behavior greatly decrease.

  7. Kata Fisher April 14, 2015 at 7:22 am #

    This is what I understand:

    Americans assassinated their president, and they assassinated their senator – back in 60’s. They assassinated people that were Baptized into the Church-Charismatic – for generations.

    When that crime takes – we know this: they brought guilt of blood that does not get canceled for many generations – if ever.

    US is in a doom and destruction that they brought upon them selfs – just by killing few people of good will. That is all that takes for them to be accursed when Church Charismatic finds out about it and curses them by God’s Spirit in the Name of God Yahowa and in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

    It was church wicked and those who worshiped in the same lies of the church wicked who have killed them.

    Now they have the blood of their children upon them, and not only that..

    You can look and see that they have not repented of their national / generational wickednes that were just more empowered due to sins against Church Order. What makes us think that they (as satanic churches / and oter individuals in same satanic spirit/s) would not worm their illegal ways in into world body, as well? They will do that. We accept that satan is ruler of this world.

    They will have few leaders just to bring them trough for the sake of the Church that is valid, people of good will, and those who must be grafted into the Faith of the Church. But as a nation they will remain guilty for Holocaust of Jews (WWII) as well as Jewish exiles (post WWII) and I tell you all that they will remain accursed in satanic seals and blasphemy of Gods Spirit, in corporate essence.

    They brought on all evils just by disorder by which they handled New Testament Scripture and Order of the Church of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

    What Russia has done and is doing now is irrelevant – corporately, they are decent Church and they always were with Church Order. Their doctrine is off, but that, too, is irrelevant.

    A Nation such as China / Japan are in Natural Revelation of them selfs and do not fall under judgment by the Church unless they do grave harm to the Church and anyone else of good will – then they, too will be accursed by the Church-Charismatic, and doom shall be upon them.

    • rehmat1 April 15, 2015 at 6:07 am #

      Wrong again as usual. Most of American leaders were killed by Israeli Mossad for challenging Israel’s supremacy in the Middle East.

      • Mike 71 April 15, 2015 at 6:33 am #

        These are the mad raving of a rabid anti-Semitic bigot. What evidence does he present that the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others were the work of the Mossad. The U.S. has been a consistent supporter of Israel’s right to exist within “secure and recognized boundaries” per UNCR 242 and 338. It would be madness for Israel to assassinate the leaders of the one nation which supports and defends it!

      • Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 8:09 am #

        This is what I understand:

        They killed Roman-Catholic/s, first and foremost.

        When they killed Dr. King – they killed someone in prophetic anoiting – if he was not Church-Charismatic under prophetic anoiting.

        Boundaries of Israel are Jew hating and Antisemitic – just as boundaries of Jordan are.

        But Roman Catholics have not had to do anything with that.

        Just as Roman-Catholics have had nothing to do with charismatic Church disorders that brought on WWI and WWII. In Germany, it was a charismatic disorder of English and US origin just as are God-hating, landmarks and boundaries in Holy Land that are God-hating and in spirit of Satan, the Antichrist – now there are some scriptural facts. It is just a evil tribe in satanic seals and blasphemy of God’s Spirit, and they do not go away! – if their offspring ever gets Baptized into the valid Church Charismatic – then they are “saved!!!!”

        Why would not some evil secret services agencies of US and Israel even Britain do evils things and assassinate people that are in their way?

        USS Liberty was bombed (1967) and it was called incident. Was it incident? – and you tell me that some evil people would not and did not assesinate a president?

        They will assassinate anyone they can.

        They killed Iran’s Scientist that, in fact, could have been Jewish exiles as contemporary Muslims. Regardless, when they kill scientist – they sin against a nation, and Church Charismatic within the nations will come together in Spirit and will curse them by Spirit of God Yahweh and in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and will cut the wicked off – just as they cut of research and development.

        Why does US have CIA supporting wicked churches at their church mission? They are the just evil bunch, all together – that do not bring Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to anyone with them but only Church Disorder and evil things. US Church is not in Charismatic Order that Baptises people only by Free Fall of God’s Spirit and does not ordain women and demonise Non-Jewish/Hebrew tribes.

        CIA and evil organization such as that should be shut down in all nations.

        Church of Jesus Christ says to the wicked, “Hallo – you wicked you do not Baptise in God’s Spirit Non-Jewish/Hebrew tribes – you demonise them with you evil disorders in the spirit of Antichrist).

        Other US Churches that do not have Teaching office with Church Laws and Church Order are NO Churches of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, corporately.

        They may have a pastor that is under prophetic anointing (an individual) may-be like 1% of all of them all together that is sufficient to give them Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Find the Church whenever you can).

        And from all members – they may or may not have 3% that are authentic Christianity. They are bunch of babblers that take the Scripture and handle it the spirit of witchcraft and Antichrist – for their gain, primarily.

        They are not valid Church/ Church Charismatic and in addition to that they are in invalid Church- marriage. Their ordinations are invalid, as well.

        They are full of devices of Satan and are not aware of any of them. They are not Church/es that is commissioned by Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

        These are the people that try to give a false Gospels (in spirit of false Christ/Antichrist) to the nations and do them grave harm (spiritual and natural).

        With their evil, they spiritually excommunicate and demonise people tribes that are under moral laws.

        What can be done?

        But we can ask Pope Benedict what can be done to do good to those evil people in the land? What can Church Catholic do for the children of the wicked (spiritual and natural)?

        – for them selfs are spiritually excommunicated and are not saved without Church Order, Church Law and Church Teaching office under Baptism of God’s Spirit that can give them Baptism of God Spirit because they are in grave sins, and not repenting.

        It is so much evil, and so much complicated – that only Pope Benedict that could have valid idea what can be done for the wicked to sustain next generations among them.

        I am very serious about this. I do no old women babble.

      • Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 8:15 am #

        Rehmat: What are the sins of the nations against each other – put those on Family table, and lets see (if anyone here can see / understand ) how far generationally they may have come?

        I do not know myself, a whole lot – but I know somewhat.

        Yesterday – God just made me reflect on death of Kennedy’s for some reason not known to me.

      • Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

        I came across these lectures (and serval others). These people are complaining and are not served by the Church Catholic Charismatic.

        Look and see where Israelites are hiding under: “cover of Islam” in the wicked land.

        Injustice has been done. Now what?

        He said that “justice is not diplomatic language.”

        – he is almost mocking diplomats!

      • Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

        I just have this reflection that this particular conference: Reparation Conference is something significant – I believe that Rome has to send observers for this, just as for Southern Baptist Convention.

        SBC is dead, – but the Reparation Conference can and should be a moment in the land that is re-directed to much glorious way.

        They are calling for “Reparative Justice” – strong prophetic anointing there and rough edges need to be smoothed out – this is corporate undertaking, however. I think that is just what it is.

        DO not overlook that gathering: go and study what is going on there.

  8. Kata Fisher April 15, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    Reparative Justice for this taking place – from the point of the start.

  9. Beau Oolayforos April 16, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    In speaking of Woodrow Wilson, it sounds like you think of him as having deliberately ‘falsely misled the world..’ I always believed Keynes’ portrayal, in ‘The Economic Consequences of the Peace’, of an idealistic neophyte (in European affairs) manipulated by Clemenceau and others. Thank you also for giving us what is maybe (?) the only, tiny bit of useful advice from 400 pages of Pinochet’s old friend.
    You rightly point out the UN’s limitations, but it is at least somewhat comforting to know that, for the really important negotiations, there’s always Switzerland, the more level playing field where diplomats can drink wine, swirl fondue, look around them, and get some notion of the advantages of neutrality and peace.

    • Richard Falk April 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

      Beau Oolayforos:

      Well-said. Woodrow Wilson was a complex political figure whose hopes and aspirations were crafted
      on the basis of a positive reading of the American experience without much appreciation of civilizational
      differences, or even national differences, and a very naive view of European colonialism. As for Switzerland
      it provides this level playing field in the midst of its mountainous terrain, which is a sort of dialectic.

  10. Kata Fisher April 16, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I just watched this.

    A very important note:

    This priest is telling about one of the most important and most coded rituals in the Church (I believe).

    There are many abuses to this ritual.
    (I know about this, in fact – counterfit Charismatics are in all disorder also with this ritual that do grave harm – or add to the grave harm).

    This priest here is the one who can organize trainings — according to the need — that are efficient to impact Protestant Churches — if they also would like to add this ritual locally, and legitimately to their Church practices that is in accordance with same codes / effectiveness / legitimacy that Roman Catholic ritual would hold. Roman Catholic Priest will be more then happy to train Protestants along with Catholic Priest.

    I know that US had like six legitimate exorcists around 2010 (that was official Church-report to the press) – and they held many training conferences — so that now they have legitimate increase to about 70 of them. This in not enough for local US Church mission, and Protestants need to be trained as well in accordance with legitimate codes.

    The priest is telling us about this, as well. But abuses were not just in the past – they are now.


  1. Richard Falk: The Geopolitical Right of Exception at the United Nations - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics - April 15, 2015

    […] By Richard Falk By arrangement with Richard Falk […]

  2. TRANSCEND MEDIA SERVICE » The Geopolitical Right of Exception at the United Nations - May 5, 2015

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