Friday, December 17, 2004

UN Critics -- Back Off!

I happened to catch former Ambassador Dore Gold on The Daily Show a couple of nights ago and he made a comment that got me to thinking. He was out plugging his new book Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos which is, as the title suggests, rather critical of the UN. Since I haven't read the book, I can't speak to the arguments therein. That said, Gold did lay out the Reader's Digest version on the show and I can only assume that it fairly represents his thesis. If so, I've got to say that I have a little problem with Mr. Gold.

I don't have access to transcripts, so everything that follows is a paraphrase. If it turns out that I've unfairly reproduced what was said, I'll make an appropriate retraction in a future post.

With that out of the way, here's the thrust of the interview. The UN is problematic because it lacks "standards." To bolster this claim, Gold pointed to the promotion of Syria to the Security Council. His question was: how can the UN effectively combat global terrorism when a member of the Security Council is a supporter of terrorist activity?

Well, as I recall, when the Bush administration went to the UN in late 2002 to get a resolution compelling the reintroduction of weapons inspectors to Iraq, they unanimously succeeded. Yes, including Syria. A major rationale for that resolution was, of course, the threatened collaboration of Saddam Hussein with global terrorists.

But, successes that completely contradict the point aside, is that what the UN is all about anyway?

Every time somebody criticizes the UN, the issue seems to be that the UN is failing to endorse US policy. Given the influence that the United States structurally wields within the UN, I can understand why it is frustrating when it does not bend to our will. But, like it or not, the UN does not exist to legitimize US actions, regardless of how noble we perceive them to be. In fact, the more of a rubber stamp it is for us, the less legitimate it is in the eyes of the world.

Given the disparity of interests across the globe, it shouldn't surprise anyone that consensus is difficult to achieve. That's the nature of the beast. And the UN is not without inherent bureaucratic inefficiencies (and, frankly, corruption). Many things could be done to increase its effectiveness when it finally takes action. However, imposing "standards" that would allow the US to dictate UN policy even more than it already does is the last thing that it needs. If competing interests aren't allowed to have voice then membership incentive evaporates. Nonallied nations will drop out. You might then have more consensus, but will it mean anything?

Mr. Gold, what you want is a body of allies, not a deliberative organization. And you can have one. But not at the UN.
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