Jewish World Review March 17, 2003 / 13 Adar II, 5763

David Warren

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United? Nations?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Readers will appreciate that I have no idea at present, and suspect neither have they, what the Bush administration in the United States plans to do about the United Nations. Therefore I cannot possibly represent any present American position, public or secret. I mention this because a proportion of my readers are under the impression that I am, in the words of one, "a minor White House spokesman". This is not true; there are good reasons why they do not hire me.

For example, I am entirely opposed to what the U.S. President did this week, allowing the U.S. to be dragged down into the pit for sordid last-minute diplomatic manoeuvring in the Security Council. His purpose in doing so, as it was from the beginning in taking the whole matter of Iraq back before the U.N., was to save the British prime minister, Tony Blair's political skin. This was not a purpose good enough to justify what has since happened -- and which, as I argued months ago, would almost certainly happen. Far better to ignore the U.N., than to confer moral recognition upon the sort of interests that must be served when the U.N. is asked for support.

The concession was demoralizing, in the full and original sense of that word. By agreeing to go before the U.N., President Bush has detracted from the justice of the U.S. cause.

George Will pointed, this last week, to the height of absurdity to which the U.N. has ascended. "The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire, the United Nations is a disunited collection of regimes, many of which do not represent the nations they govern."

When its own Secretary General, Kofi Annan, avers that by going to war in vindication of the plain words in Security Council Resolution 1441, the United States would be acting in defiance of the U.N. Charter, we are fully aloft in the faux-empyrian. It necessarily follows, and let me spell this out, that going to the rescue of the victims in Rwanda would have been against the U.N. Charter. Exactly the same principle applies. The Korean War of 1950-53, and the Gulf War of 1991, were the only military actions upon which the U.N. ever conferred its supposed legitimacy.

France, and verily, Jacques Chirac, were instrumental in keeping the allied confrontation with Milosevic's Yugoslavia out of the U.N. -- for the express purpose of avoiding the quagmire, when he thought action urgently necessary. He did not dream of asking U.N. permission before recently dispatching French troops to the Ivory Coast.

The only reason the U.N. vote carried, when North Korea invaded the South, was because the Russian delegation happened to walk out before the vote was called. They would otherwise have vetoed even the Korean War, and Kim Jong-il would today control the entire peninsula. And in 1991, George Bush the elder stopped the attack on Iraq a little beyond the Kuwait frontier, because he did not have a U.N. mandate to proceed. He turned to the U.N. to deal with the rest of the problem, caused by the survival of Saddam Hussein; and 12 years later, see what it achieved.

See what is achieved by Mr. Blair's ludicrous six-point plan, quickly cobbled together this last week to persuade such incidental Security Council members as Cameroon and Guinea to support another plain statement of fact, in the face of threatened French and Russian vetoes.

Reading through the text, I was reminded of when I was a teenager, and went to a Model United Nations in which my high school participated. The resolutions were similarly childish and impractical -- "Saddam must get on TV and say he is hiding WMD" is the sort of thing we might have come up with -- for we were, after all, around 15 years old. And one of my discoveries, now that I am almost 50, is that the world's business is conducted thus -- that grown men are not merely capable of thinking like early adolescents, but incapable of laughing at themselves a moment later.

But as Mr. Blair persisted, only grim laughter. Heretofore the British and Americans, Spaniards, Czechs and others in their train, had in fact been making a deadly serious case. It was by stooping to where they must try to win favour from various small, sleazy regimes, and engage in sophistries with continental politicians of the moral ilk of Schroeder and Chirac, that they tipped over. From the beginning, the proposal to take the problem of Iraq to the United Nations was an act of folly.

But now that the folly is complete, some kind of lesson must be taken from it. This latest U.N. travesty has demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, that the U.N. is itself a counter-productive institution. No organization that puts advanced constitutional democracies on a par with corrupt, dysfunctional, Third World dictatorships can have any moral authority. No bureaucracy such as that which has sustained the inspections rackets of Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradei has any business entering into serious matters of life and death.

And while there is hardly space to review the whole comprehensive disaster of the U.N.'s organizational efforts in social, economic, and cultural affairs -- or the very mixed results of its humanitarian efforts -- I can find no part of the main institution worth retaining. Such useful agencies as those which regulate civil aviation, intellectual property, or cross-border mail delivery, do not require the U.N. edifice to continue their work. Most such were founded long before the U.N., and the only contribution from headquarters is to make them bloated, inefficient, and political.

But that is hardly the worst sin of which the organization can be accused. In the final view, the evil of the U.N. consists in its having appropriated to itself the very ideals of human co-operation and solidarity, our hopes for international order and peace. By making all effort towards such ends dependent upon an apparatus of bottomless cynicism and corruption, the U.N. subverts those ideals and hopes.

The most effective way to proceed is for the United States to lead, by withdrawing its membership and all support, including all diplomatic and even parking privileges accorded to delegations in New York. For all that it has achieved, the U.N. deserves to be reduced from an international, to a municipal problem.

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JWR contributor David Warren is a Columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. Comment by clicking here.

03/12/02: Blair goes wobbly
03/10/02: Ready aye ready
03/06/02: Logic of war
02/10/02: Play up, play up
01/30/02: No ambiguity
12/05/02: A farce
11/13/02: A game of chess
10/30/02: Material breach
10/21/02: Armed & dangerous
09/11/02: The enemy within
08/21/02: Bush v. world
08/06/02: Has Sharon gone 'wobbly'?
07/24/02: Evil Sharon
06/19/02: The end is nigh
06/17/02: Those darn American imperialists!

© 2002, Ottawa Citizen