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That useless U.N.

By W. James Antle III
web posted February 10, 2003

Back in 1991, during the first Persian Gulf War, I was convinced that the United Nations served an important purpose that was consistent with American interests and values. Rather than a burgeoning world government, as the Cold War came to a close the U.N. seemed to be the best forum for the exercise of U.S. world leadership. President George H.W. Bush demonstrated how it could be done.

Colin Powell makes America's case at the United Nations on February 5More than a decade later, I have come to agree with what has almost uniformly been the more farsighted conservatives' assessment of the U.N. since its inception: At best, it is a colossal waste of time; at worst, if the wishes of globalist ideologues were ever fulfilled, it is a concrete threat to the sovereignty of nations. Whatever your view of war with Iraq – I have previously laid out my own increasingly muddled position – some of the responses to Secretary of State Colin Powell's compelling presentation on Saddam's malfeasance from our so-called U.N. partners in peace have bordered on the absurd.

Witness the naïve faith placed in an apparently failed inspections regime. Why wasn't Hans Blix's team able to unearth the evidence Powell marshaled last week? Yet a majority of the U.N. Security Council believes the appropriate response is for that charade to continue. Syria's representative argued that the evidence must have been made up, because "the Iraqis stated many times that they don't have mass destruction weapons." France's solution is to triple the number of inspectors. Powell's report persuaded liberal columnist Mary McGrory, but the only thing the French and the Germans are convinced of is that fruitless inspections should continue.

Maybe the U.N. will be embarrassed into coming up with another answer. President George W. Bush may yet cajole the Security Council into war as his father did. But the reality is that far from being an institution for leading the free world, the U.N. is a reactive bureaucratic behemoth. This leads some critics to warn that it is at risk of becoming as irrelevant as its predecessor, the League of Nations. Unfortunately, given the permeating ideology, the U.N. would probably be even worse if it became more competent.

One obvious problem with the U.N. acting as a force for liberty is that a high percentage of its membership is comprised of autocracies and dictatorships. The votes of tyrannies and free societies are equally weighted. This occasionally produces some interesting results. Libya is slated to run the human rights commission, Iraq the disarmament commission. In neither case was an actual commitment to human rights or disarmament considered a real prerequisite for these positions; in the latter case, the position was assigned by alphabetical order. Last year, the U.S. was kicked off the human rights commission while Sudan became a member. This isn't statesmanship; it is a sick joke.

Of course, the U.N.'s problems begin at a fundamentally deeper level. Its founding documents do not conceive of liberty as something that stems from negative rights, like the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Instead, Deweyesque talk of positive rights leads to calls for massive wealth redistribution and sovereignty surrenders on the part of major industrial democracies in the name of freedom. The bureaucrats and non-governmental organizations that drive these policy pronouncements are believers in what Hudson Institute senior fellow John Fonte has called "transnational progressivism."

This is why we wouldn't be any better off if the U.N. became less like the League of Nations. The best example of transnational progressivism in practice, with coercive powers behind it, is the European Union. A high-tax socialistic transnational superstate, the EU is hardly what most conservatives would aspire to as a model of governance. The EU also has put into practice a vision where disproportionate power resides in undemocratic bureaucracies insulated from public accountability. It is also no coincidence that the EU is at times hostile to American interests and that its growth is in part motivated by the desire to compete with American world power.

As John O'Sullivan has written about Fonte's thesis, transnational progressives take every democratic concept and invert it. Democracy and individualism are to be replaced with power-sharing among ethnic and other groups. Identity politics and group separatism are encouraged over a common national identity. International law is remade into transnational law, overriding national sovereignty. Even many neoconservatives, citing concern with democracy and human rights in places like Iraq, might like that last part. But they won't like the interests such a centralizing power seeks to enforce. After all, the transnational progressive won't want to intervene to disarm dictators – they, like the World Court, will be more interested in staying U.S. executions.

When it comes to protecting our nation's interests and values, all too often the U.N. is either impotent or on the other side. Perhaps a better solution than relying on it would be to support Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Tex.) periodic legislation requiring a U.S. withdrawal. Let the globalists try to convince the American people that membership has its privileges.

W. James Antle III is a senior editor for Enter Stage Right.

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