Watching the final episode of the detective series Foyle’s War set in May 1945 on ITV 3, Sergeant Milner expresses the belief that the baby his wife is expecting will be born into a world where there is no war. After the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945 and the revelation of the most appalling events in human history, there could only be optimism about the future.
It was the sort of optimism found in “P Tang Yang Kipperbang,” Jack Rosenthal’s 1982 television film set in the Post-War Britain of 1948.”Quack Quack” Duckworth, the shy and awkward fourteen year old who loves the prettiest girl in the school, walks along with Tommy, the school groundsman as Tommy marks the boundary of a cricket pitch. He believes Tommy has been a soldier serving in battle after battle, not knowing he is wanted for desertion. Quack Quack tells Tommy that the soldiers have brought in a new age:
“From now on, there’ll never be any more wars, never again, for the simple raison d’etre that the United Nations will insist there’s no more wars. Any country wanting to invade another, well, hard cheddar . . the United Nations will vote against them, QED”
The belief that the world would be one without war proved to be unfounded; the belief that the United Nations would usher in a new age, even less so. The Cold War era had begun before the hostilities in 1945 had ceased and the United Nations’ Security Council evolved into the confrontation of the monoliths of West and East.
The fall of the Iron Curtain at the end of the 1980s ushered in a new era, but after the mid 1990s, it seems astonishing, in the light of the United Nations’ record in Srebrenica and in Rwanda, that anyone should still believe that the United Nations could, or would,do anything to protect people, unless there were some major economic interest being threatened.
The veto of a Security Council resolution against Syria by Russia and China stands in a long tradition of the United Nations failing to protect innocent lives. What is surprising is that anyone would expect the Russian oligarchy and the Chinese dictatorship to do anything to promote liberal values.
The ideal world is inhabited by Quack Quack Duckworth and Sergeant Milner; it’s not inhabited by the people of Syria, or by the countless millions of others whom the United Nations have failed over the past six decades.