Now that we’ve suffered, yet again, through the annual United Nations circus, has it occurred to anyone (other than New York City police officers) to question why we continue to tolerate the hypocrisy and waste of it all?
By anyone, I mean especially the officials and policy makers residing in the White House, State Department and elsewhere (including private institutions) who work the terrain of international affairs.
Few of us who learned of the United Nations as schoolchildren in the 1950’s can forget the hopeful vision with which its purpose and structure were set out. Unlike the League of Nations, it would not fail to maintain peace and improve the world. That’s because (a) we knew what had gone wrong with the League; (b) freedom had finally prevailed over tyranny; and (c) Eleanor Roosevelt was the UN’s stout supporter. Quick proof of its merit could be found in Korea and UNICEF.
The UN headquarters complex (thank you, Mr. Rockefeller) became an icon of the new age. Tourists marveled at its architecture, designed to project peace and progress with a confidence unimaginable only a decade or so before.
So, what became of its promise? For this piece, a review of six decades of U.N. achievements and disappointments would be, respectively, too short and too long. Suffice it to say that the corruption of the institution and its parasitic players resembles the imperial machinations of Hapsburg Europe on a stage with neither grace nor shame.
Partly this followed from the addition of a hundred or so more members as each became an independent and equal nation among nations. Excepting the veto privilege held by the five permanent Security Council members, the democratic ideal was pushed beyond usefulness: everyone is otherwise deemed equal regardless of size or supporting contribution. Consequently, only the politics of the place matters.
For too many members of its bloated bureaucracy, together with the swell ambassadors and diplomats they serve, the New York life sure beats Djibouti. Remember, not everyone takes indoor plumbing for granted. I would have said potable tap water but that’s inconsequential to the Perrier set. What it represents, I suspect, is no small inducement for rewarding more Syrians with jobs on, say, the staff of the UN Human Rights Commission.
And what does the U.S. receive in exchange for paying about 25 percent of the bill? A forum for hateful propaganda and connivance undreamed of by tyrants past. Why party in Potsdam when New York beckons – and welcomes? It’s also so much more convenient for spying.
Enough, then, should be enough. Our acceptance of dishonesty, disrespect and worse from the UN’s mendicant members has bought us little but justification for withdrawal. Since past efforts at UN reform have failed miserably, there’s hardly a prospect that another round of promises would work. Moreover, “reform” cannot deal with the structural defects of equality and faith in good will.
If we think it’s in our interest to have an institution such as initially contemplated for the UN, so be it. The time has come, however, to re-create it – just as the League had been refashioned rather than revived. America should not be timid about this: incorporate the worthwhile agencies that have proved able to serve legitimate world needs and create a forum for problem resolution by those nations capable of achieving something.
It’s not all that complicated. If something is broken and can’t be fixed, try something new. How about broadening NATO? Whatever, it’s plainly foolish to continue with what we have. If Libya, Venezuela and others object, let them pack and enjoy their UN in Mozambique or wherever else they relocate. We don’t need and should not want them.
Arnold Mazur is an attorney and business executive who retired in order, in his words, “to do nothing.” Occasionally, he writes.