2003 December 29 Monday
Mark Steyn: Destroy The International System

Oh come on, don't hold back Mark. Tell us what you really think. Mark Steyn sums up his attitude on the international institutions which give legitimacy to people who ought to be considered illegitimate.

The one consistent feature of the post-9/11 era is the comprehensive failure of the international order. The French use their Security Council veto to protect Saddam. The EU subsidises Palestinian terrorism. The International Atomic Energy Agency provides cover for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN summit on racism is an orgy of racism.

All these institutions do is enable nickel'n'dime thugs to punch above their weights. The New York Times, sleepwalking through the 21st century on bromides from the Carter era, wants the UN to run Saddam's trial because one held under the auspices of the Americans would "lack legitimacy". Au contraire, it's the willingness of Kofi Annan, Mohammed el-Baradei, Chris Patten, Mary Robinson and the other grandees of the international clubrooms to give "legitimacy" to Saddam, Kim Jong-Il, Arafat, Assad and co that disqualifies them from any role in Iraq. I've come to the conclusion that the entire international system needs to be destroyed.

I share Steyn's lack of faith in and antipathy toward the United Nations and assorted associated international institutions. My own simplistic view is that organzations made up of member governments which are basically bad in all sorts of ways (illiberal, undemocratic, corrupt, etc) can't be good. But what is intriguing here is his support of their destruction. I wonder what Mark has in mind. Airborne JDAMs? Or perhaps a more controlled form of destruction where experts are brought in to plant explosives to provide a controlled collapse? Or am I being too physically literal? Should the US and allied governments instead simply label these enemy entities as terrorist-supporting institutions, freeze all their bank accounts, and then let them collapse when their employees stop getting paid and the utilities are turned off?

Speaking of matters of faith in international institutons, while he doesn't use this exact term Mark Steyn makes note of Howard Dean's attempt to be an agnostic on the question of international institutions.

There was a revealing moment on MSNBC the other night. Chris Matthews asked Dr. Dean whether Osama bin Laden should be tried in an American court or at The Hague. "I don't think it makes a lot of difference," said the governor airily. Mr. Matthews pressed once more. "It doesn't make a lot of difference to me," he said again. Some of us think what's left of Osama is already hard enough to scrape off the cave floor and put in a matchbox, never mind fly to the Netherlands. But, just for the sake of argument, his bloodiest crime was committed on American soil; American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.

I doubt the sincerity of this agnosticism. Mark, though, does make an excellent case for Dean as a member of the "Bike Path Left" that no longer has faith in so many big ideas that they used to be enthusiastic about. So maybe Dean really has no deeply held convictions about the UN. But my fear about some on the political Left (and there are admirable notable exceptions even among those of my readers who lean leftward) is that they will support bad ideas and bad institutions just in order to avoid taking positions that agree with those on the political Right (not that Rightists are totally immune to this phenomenon). Support for the UN and like institutions seems (at least in the minds of some who don't attach much importance to the need for a serious foreign policy that protects threatened national interests) like a harmless way to enhance political brand identity. They can signal their opposition to unilateralist cowboys by praising institutions that work against US interests. So I tend to view agnostic sentiments from Leftists on the question of the legitimacy of international institutions as basically still likely to lead to support for such institutions once they are in power. Therefore nothing short of a firm renunciation of the international institution faith is enough.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 December 29 12:32 AM  UN, International Institutions


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