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Saturday, November 27, 2004

I noticed some time yesterday, reading about the UN oil-for-food scandal, that deep down I just don’t care one bit about the UN. Even though I have for many many years found the UN rather ineffective, useless and even counterproductive, I had always hoped for and wanted it to be reformed. During the run-up and direct aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime I was still dismayed that the UN couldn’t be made to work and devoted some intellectual energy to coming up with ideas to rectify the thing. I thought a major failing of the Bush administration was that it didn’t try to reform other the UN and other international bodies, but instead side-stepped them; the idea being that international law and institutions can be an effective instrument of security policy. But my disenchantment has just kept growing. It’s not really an intellectual thing as I still think a revamped UN would be a highly useful tool for making the world a safer and better place. It’s just in my heart I don’t believe it’s possible anymore, and in fact, I just don’t care anymore. In that context I just found this essay by Charles Krauthammer, an essay he wrote in 1987, but that unfortunately still rings too true today. He goes a lot further than my thinking on the issue, but my gut agrees quite a lot. Conclusion:

the major point: the U.N. has failed in its principal role, which is keeping the peace. In fact, it has degenerated to the point where its actions exacerbate the few conflicts it still influences and where its remaining moral authority is used to promote ideas and policies inimical to those of the Western democracies.
The United States stays in the U.N. for a variety of bad reasons: sentimental attachment to the hopes of 40 years ago, guilt over the fate of the League of Nations, inertia. One can respect the one-world idealism that attended the founding of the U.N. and still face the facts of today. The U.N. is more than just a failed instrument. It is a bad instrument. We have the power to see it shelved. We should use that power.



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