2003 March 12 Wednesday
George Will On The United Nations

George Will thinks the UN is a bad idea.

Certain political phrases become, through mindless repetition, cant that bewitches the intelligence. One such phrase is "the international community," which is oxymoronic because "community" denotes unity based on shared political interests and cultural values. And beware of political entities absurdly named. Just as 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.

The United Nations is premodern because it is unaccountable and irresponsible: It claims power not legitimized by the recurring consent of periodically consulted constituencies of the governed. Inebriated by self-approval, the United Nations is grounded in neither democratic consent nor territorial responsibilities, nor independent fiscal means, nor the material means of enforcing its judgments.

Stanley Kurtz points out that shared cultural assumptions are what make trust and international collaboration possible.

Yet Huntington's players are civilizations, not nations. Shared cultural assumptions, Huntington believes, make informal social contracts based on trust and genuine international collaboration achievable. Yet just as surely, says Huntington, deep cultural differences make such trust and cooperation unlikely, thus forcing civilizational players back onto temporary and hardheaded calculations of military and economic interest as the only solution to conflict. Of course, Francis Fukuyama believes that something approaching a true worldwide "social contract" might someday be achieved, but only after the globe itself is converted to liberal democracy. In the meantime, we shall have to reckon with Huntington's civilizational state of nature.

The United Nations amounts to a case of putting the cart before the horse. The needed shared assumptions do not exist. The majority of the member states will not cooperate with goodwill toward each other. They have conflicting values and conflicting goals.

While the UN Security Council is a farce that is getting a lot of attention it is worth reviewing what has been happening in some of the other agencies of the UN.

Libya is now chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators.

Since its nomination by the African Union, Libya has indicated that it would invite U.N. investigators and international human rights groups to visit Libya. It has declared its intention to review the role of the grossly unfair Peoples’ Courts, with a view to abolishing them, and announced several amnesties for prisoners.

The EU is officially very supportive of the UN and other international organizations. Human Rights Watch says the EU thinks it is more important to make nice with the nastier regimes that are on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Even the European Union virtually stopped its traditional strong denunciation of governments by name on the floor of the Commission. Instead, EU countries confined such criticism to written statements, which are far less visible. European governments spent more time seeking to build consensus, both amongst themselves and with abusive governments, than galvanizing criticism where it was needed.

Back in 2001 the United States was voted off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights when at the same time France, Austria, and Sweden were voted onto it.

Sweden logically pressed for fellow EU member Austria to have a seat on the panel. And why not? But then Stockholm also moved to secure itself the remaining seat at America's expense.

A few years ago,despite its sizable contribution, the U.S. was voted off the equally crucial Administrative Committee on Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The Clinton Administration was baffled and it took a few years for the USA to regain its seat.

Then there is the UN Conference on Disarmament which will soon be headed by Iraq.

Later this year, the U.N.-established Conference on Disarmament will seat a new president: Iraq.

The nation under scrutiny by the world body for weapons of mass destruction will have control – for nearly four weeks – of the agenda of a committee established in 1979 as "the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community."

Of course the UN Security Council gets all sorts of repressive states rotating thru its membership.

Syria was then and remains today on the U.S. State Department's list of official sponsors of terrorism, one of seven countries so designated. Some 35,000 Syrian troops have occupied Lebanon since 1975, where they protect and support a variety of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Last summer, Syria assumed the temporary presidency of the Security Council, 20 years after the brutal suppression of an uprising in the Syrian city of Hama, where about 20,000 civilians were massacred.

The United States can either do what it needs to do to protect its national security or it can treat the UN as a legitimate institution. The forces in control of the UN are anti-democratic and anti-liberal. Some regimes are indifferent to threats to US security. Others positively support those who would attack the US and kill many Americans.

The biggest national security problem the US now faces is how to prevent terrorists from getting nuclear weapons and nuking US cities. A very aggressive strategy of preemption to prevent nuclear proliferation is the only strategy that has a chance of preventing US cities from being nuked. If the United States is going to pursue a strategy of preemption then it should withdraw from the farce that is the United Nations and cease to show the UN any respect as a decision-making body.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 12 11:39 PM  UN, International Institutions


Comments
Brian J. McKee said at March 16, 2003 7:54 AM:

And the joke continues, manifesting itself in false dogmas and ideologies (given free reign and voice) in a forum that offers a "free vote and platform" to those who will not, and never will, tolerate any semblence of same from those that they manipulate and over whom they dictate their power and control. One of the most insidious practical jokes ever perpetrated on Mankind! A voice given to someone whose throne crushes the very people he supposedly represents!! Imagine our representatives tolerating the voice and actions of a Senator who had forced his way into power through means other than the ballot box...whether they had their means achieved criminally, economically, militarily or otherwise! Without this all-important "shared cultural assumption"; a [shared] elective process achieved by trust, garnered from their respective constituencies, in and through universal liberty, the U.N. will continue to be a farcical and dangerous gargantuan blundering about the world stage. Shall we propose a vote? One that states this concern rooted in fact? How many "ambassadors" on any of the councils would be willing to go home with this "resolution" in tow? It is time to reject the U.N. and start afresh, with only one stipulation for entry into the new body: Free and Open Liberties and balloting/voting procedures open to any and all inspections...after all, this is truly where any aspirations of trust and tolerance and acceptance must begin, is it not? Sometimes, at some given point, we must (as they say) "Damn the Torpedoes and full speed ahead!"


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