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The United Nations is in the midst of an unusual constitutional crisis. It was not caused by the Organization's historic ineffectiveness but, rather, by new expectations that parts of the Organization might be evolving into something far more effective and powerful than anticipated. Yet, curiously, the crisis is not due to any widespread dissatisfaction with the substance of the decisions that have signaled the emergence of this different United Nations. Until January 21, 1992, when the Security Council directed its attention to Libya, the major new decisions pertained to Iraq and the detritus of its aggression against Kuwait. These decisions had benefited from the consensus that they were well within the province of international law and the United Nations.
The crisis that is taking shape grows out of a vague disquiet about the longerterm implications of these constitutional trends for what, in 1945, were called, in a triumph of euphemism and oxymoron, the "smaller powers." This issue is critical now because, though the world of big and small and strong and weak states reflected in the United Nations Charter persists, the sharp asymmetries of 1945 have given way to complex international interdependencies. In this new world order, constitutional arrangements about the maintenance of peace and security, if they are to be effective, require more and more cooperation between large and small states.
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