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Looking up the skirts of the United Nations

The battle cry of the Kerry campaign, when it comes to international relations, seems to be "the United Nations!" The UN is the panacea, the miracle cure, the wonder of the modern age that solves all problems. "Get the UN involved." "Turn it over to the UN." Get the UN's approval." "Take the dispute to the UN."

Just what is it about the United Nations that inspires such faith? What great achievements can be laid at its feet that give it such credibility? What ideals and principles does it embody that merits such trust? I went looking.

(Yeah, it's another long one. Consider yourself warned.)

First, I looked at its membership. 191 nations constitute the General Assembly. After some research, I discovered that at least 50 of those nations are monarchies, dictatorships, tyrannies, or other un-democratic regimes. They have exactly as much weight as the most liberal democratic republics (notice the use of lower-case; nations that put "Democratic Republic" in their name, such as North Korea, never qualify for either) hold.

And it's not just in the General Assembly. The United Nations Human Rights Commission currently counts Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the Sudan, those bastions of enlightenment, liberty, and freedom, as members. I know there's an old cliché that "it takes a crook to catch a crook," but this is so ridiculous as to be obscene.

And then there's the International Atomic Energy Agency. Their mission, as quoted from their own web site, is to be "…the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world's 'Atoms for Peace' organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies." Under it's watchful gaze, India and Pakistan have both recently developed and tested nuclear weapons. They have repeatedly come to terms with North Korea and its rush develop it's own nukes - "repeatedly" because each time North Korea trades promises for concessions, then breaks it's promises and demands new concessions. Iran is following North Korea's model. It's worth noting that all four nations listed above are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which apparently isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

But at least they're good as peace-keepers, right? After all, they've kept the peace between the Koreas for forty years. But that's about it. The UN sent peacekeepers to the Congo to protect refugees, and instead they extorted sex from them in exchange for food and protection. They sent peacekeepers to Kosovo, and one (a Palestinian from Jordan) opened fire on fellow peacekeepers, killing three Americans and wounding eleven more. UN peacekeepers in Burundi stood by while hundreds of refugees were slaughtered. The UN pulled it's peacekeepers out of Rwanda, triggering a bloodbath (some call it genocide; I won't quibble) that ultimately claimed most of a million lives in less than 100 days. Peacekeepers in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone extorted sex from refugees in exchange for food and medicine. It's getting to be the smartest thing you can do when you see the blue helmets is run like hell.

But how about the humanitarian aid programs? Surely those are worthy? Let's just look at the Palestinian Relief Program, or as I like to call it, the Permanent Employment Program For Overeducated, Do-Gooding Twits To Permanently Exploit A People. (I'm sorry it lacks a catchy acronym.) For over 50 years the UN has kept Palestinian refugees in "camps" (which are communities in all but name) and cooperated with the rest of the Arab world in keeping them destitute and desperate to feed the hatred of Israel. Everyone talks about the 850,000 Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 who, along with their descendants, want to return. But no one mentions the fact that they left willingly, despite urgings from Israel they stay put. They put their faith in their Arab neighbors, who told them "we'll destroy the Israelis for you, then you can go home. Just get out of our way first." Several wars later, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Nor do people wish to acknowledge that while 850,000 Palestinians fled Israel, about 850,000 Jews fled (or were driven out of) Arab nations TO Israel at the same time. They didn't spend the next 50 years perpetuating their victimhood status; they picked themselves up and started building new lives.

But I digress. I was talking about the United Nations' failures in humanitarian efforts. One common scene in the Occupied Territories is the UN ambulance, racing back and forth, giving aid and comfort to the injured and afflicted. But those are remarkably useful vehicles. When not transporting the sick and injured, they are used to transport explosive belts for use by suicide bombers or evacuating terrorists fleeing attacks. However, it isn't these uses that provoke the howls of protests, but the stopping and searching of ambulances (previously proven to be used as tools of terrorism) that inspires outrage.

But at least they helped the Iraqi people, right? It protected the people from the harmful effects of the sanctions against Saddam Hussein's government, didn't it? Just do a quick Googling of "oil for food scandal" and see how they turned this noble idea into Saddam's private slush fund, giving the dictator literally billions of dollars to bribe officials all around the world (including the UN) to preserve his grip on power.

But it must achieve some good, right? So it's worth the money we spend, correct?

The United States contributes 22% of the entire United Nations general budget. (It was 25% until we protested.) The rest of the world, 190 countries all told, divide the remaining 78% among themselves. And that doesn't count special programs and our participation in other programs. We've kicked in 2.5 billion alone to the UN Refugee Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees alone. The United States usually donates the lion's share to any peacekeeping mission. We even host their headquarters in New York.

I could go on and on and on (there's just that much crap out there, I'd need a forest of plungers), but I think I've said enough here. The UN has long outlived it's usefulness (presuming it ever had any), and needs to be replaced. It's long overdue we founded an alternative body, one that actually values such ideas as democracy, freedom, and human rights. Dictators, tyrants, and monarchs need not apply.

J.


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Comments (7)

I could not agree with you ... (Below threshold)

I could not agree with you more, the United Nations is a joke. While it has been successful in at least giving nations a forum before going to war, its peace keeping efforts, etc. have been completely spoiled by politics, poor management and more politics.

We could reform the UN by (... (Below threshold)
Brent Papworth:

We could reform the UN by (a) restricting membership to democracies -- eliminating China, or (b) add Japan and India, at a minimum, to the permanent Security Council. Or both.

UMm, "Monarchies need not a... (Below threshold)

UMm, "Monarchies need not apply"? I think you are being a little too restrictive on who qualifies as a democracy there.Monarchies in Europe include : Spain, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark...Luxembourg is a Duchy...Ok, OK, maybe you not worried about them. The UK? You know, these Brits who have Tony Blair as PM, the one you're running ads to "Thank Tony"? In fact, same Queen as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica (and half the rest of the Carribbean) and ....well, are you absolutely certain that you want to exclude all of those countries from whatever new organisation you're going to set up?
What I think you're missing is that one does not have to be a Republic in order to be a Democracy. Just as being a Republic is no guarantee of being one either, as you note.

Tim, I meant "monarchies" t... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Tim, I meant "monarchies" that actually have monarchs that also serve as chief executive. The monarchies you cite are "constitutional monarchies" where the actual monarchs are largely figureheads.

I meant nations like Saudi Arabia, Brunei, etc. etc. where the monarch has serious power.

J.

OK, that's fine. Just so lo... (Below threshold)

OK, that's fine. Just so long as the entry ticket for the new thing makes the same distinction.
Then again, I have to admit to desiring a little more QE II and a little less T. Blair, but that's another matter :-)

A couple of things. <... (Below threshold)
Ian Gordon:

A couple of things.

I'd be interested in where you got your information on the UN from for two reasons. Firstly to separate opinion from fact and secondly as I want to know more about the UN and where criticism of it may be found.

While I have no idea as to your nationality I would be surprised if you were not a US citizen.

Americans are very quick to use words such as freedom, democracy and human rights, especially self-reflexively. While I would agree that the US in many respects does represent the liberal cause I would be careful bandying these words around without thought.

The U.S. is hardly a paragon of virtue where human rights is concerned. A few examples should serve to prove my assertion. Native American land claims, breaches of international sovereignty (Panama, Iraq), support, tacit or otherwise, of murderous dictators (Pinochet, Saddam Hussein). What about global rights to justice and a clean environment? Well scuppering the Kyoto Agreement and refusing to allow US personnel be tried for war crimes by international court are hardly moves in the right direction.

Democracy? The US has a two party system that to outsiders seems to represent the choice of the people to choose between two virtually indistinguishable candidates backed by the same elite groups.

Freedom? Freedom is nothing without power to effect change. In the US, as almost anywhere outside Scandinavian nations, this is the privelige of the rich.

Believe it or not I am not US bashing. My country, the UK, is certainly no better. Its history is tarnished with much the same global abuses as the US is perpetrating now. It goes with the position. You do because you can.

Back to the UN. I agree that it needs reforming to make it a more transparent, accountable organisation that actually does the job it is being funded to do. I would not however agree with scrapping the UN and starting again from scratch unless there was strong evidence that the benefits of doing so would outweigh the costs.

Given that it is a well known fact that the developing world has no voice in international affairs, and has little power to effect change to their benefit in every other arena does not their slight power at the UN strike you as merely just.

Finally, would you disband the UN Security Council? It's not democratic, its dictatorial, wouldn't you say?

A couple of things. <... (Below threshold)
Ian Gordon:

A couple of things.

I'd be interested in where you got your information on the UN from for two reasons. Firstly to separate opinion from fact and secondly as I want to know more about the UN and where criticism of it may be found.

While I have no idea as to your nationality I would be surprised if you were not a US citizen.

Americans are very quick to use words such as freedom, democracy and human rights, especially self-reflexively. While I would agree that the US in many respects does represent the liberal cause I would be careful bandying these words around without thought.

The U.S. is hardly a paragon of virtue where human rights is concerned. A few examples should serve to prove my assertion. Native American land claims, breaches of international sovereignty (Panama, Iraq), support, tacit or otherwise, of murderous dictators (Pinochet, Saddam Hussein). What about global rights to justice and a clean environment? Well scuppering the Kyoto Agreement and refusing to allow US personnel be tried for war crimes by international court are hardly moves in the right direction.

Democracy? The US has a two party system that to outsiders seems to represent the choice of the people to choose between two virtually indistinguishable candidates backed by the same elite groups.

Freedom? Freedom is nothing without power to effect change. In the US, as almost anywhere outside Scandinavian nations, this is the privelige of the rich.

Believe it or not I am not US bashing. My country, the UK, is certainly no better. Its history is tarnished with much the same global abuses as the US is perpetrating now. It goes with the position. You do because you can.

Back to the UN. I agree that it needs reforming to make it a more transparent, accountable organisation that actually does the job it is being funded to do. I would not however agree with scrapping the UN and starting again from scratch unless there was strong evidence that the benefits of doing so would outweigh the costs.

Given that it is a well known fact that the developing world has no voice in international affairs, and has little power to effect change to their benefit in every other arena does not their slight power at the UN strike you as merely just.

Finally, would you disband the UN Security Council? It's not democratic, its dictatorial, wouldn't you say?




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