We have the party of the United States, and the party of the United Nations.
Within the former you'll find wildly diverse opinions about the worth of the United Nations: Some think we should leave it tomorrow, while others think we should leave it today and let battleships use the building for target practice. The moderate among them want to stay in the United Nations, if only to obtain the stern-sounding resolutions they can use to mollify editorial writers. See? We got a hall pass! We can invade now!
In general, though, the party of the United States thinks the United Nations is a toothless lion that hasn't just given in to the hyenas, but granted the hyenas a place in the pride.
The party of the United Nations regards the organization as a great improvement over the country in which the U.N. headquarters resides. Moderates may admit that it's venal, corrupt, top-heavy and unresponsive, but it's better than nothing -- and besides, it provides a necessary counterweight to America. Without the United Nations, America would do what it wants, scorning Kyoto, bombing Serbia, invading Iraq ... well, yes, America still did all those things, but don't you think it felt the teensiest bit guilty?
Within the party of the United Nations, however, are some who think it is the purest expression of humankind, a chock that keeps us from rolling backward into the Dark Ages. The very name has a talismanic quality. United Nations! If you say it, they must be.
Want a perfect example of the U.N. party's devotion to Pope Kofi and his magnificent band of tireless humanitarians? Behold this story from Agence France-Presse:
Several members of the House of Representatives want the United Nations to send observers to monitor the Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election to avoid a contentious vote like that in 2000. Recalling the long, drawn out process in Florida, nine lawmakers sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America," according to a statement issued by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who spearheaded the effort.
By some peculiar twist of events, the nine lawmakers are all Democrats. Imagine the odds! You wonder how far they'll go: If John Kerry loses, can we take the election to the Security Council? Or will we be a unilateral, go-it-alone, ally-defying rogue nation that installs its leaders over the objections of France and Syria? America's choice, after all, affects the rest of the world. Shouldn't they have a say?
The moony love of the United Nations would make a bit more sense if the institution lived up to its platitudes. But as the Oil-for-Food scandal unfolds we see how inertia, corruption, bribery and patronage are probably the norm, not the exception. If you wanted to raise the ethical temperature at the United Nations you'd have to fire everyone and replace them with Enron accountants, overseen by Tony Soprano.
The United Nations is about to get its latest last chance, in the Sudan. The word "genocide" has not been officially deployed, since that would require the United Nations to do something -- that whole "never again" idea, don't you know? Well, if you never call something "genocide," it can never happen again. At least officially. The victims of the militias can take comfort that however bad their last days might be, the world was united in its impotence.
Imagine France brought the full weight of its awesome (cough) military force (cough) down on the Sudan in defiance of U.N. go-slow strategies, threw the bad guys into nasty dank prisons run by the Foreign Legion, and stopped the slaughter. It would get enthusiastic applause from most, including the United Nations Party here at home. Hoorah for unilateralism!
Dream on. The United Nations will probably agree, once again, to do the wrong thing together rather than the right thing alone. A single death, after all, is a tragedy. A million deaths is a U.N. committee report. Nicely bound. With graphs and pictures.
Great place, the United Nations. It's like a court that indicts itself and never bothers with the trial. You want these guys checking your ID at the polling place?
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington
and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.