Thursday, September 21, 2006

U.N. Days

In the aftermath of Hugo Chavez's "Bush is the devil" speech at the U.N., it may be instructive to look back at an earlier era of the international body's history, when similar comedy acts were performed, not by the head of a relatively insignificant Latin American country but by the leader of approximately one half of the "bipolar world" which then existed. From the Wikipedia entry on Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev:
Khrushchev repeatedly disrupted the proceedings in the United Nations General Assembly in September-October 1960 by pounding his fists on the desk and shouting in Russian. On September 29, 1960, Khrushchev twice interrupted a speech by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan by shouting out and pounding his desk. The unflappable Macmillan famously commented over his shoulder to Frederick Boland, the Assembly President (Ireland), that if Mr. Khrushchev wished to continue, he would like a translation.

At the United Nations two weeks later, in one of the most surreal moments in Cold War history, the premier waved his shoe and banged it on his desk, adding to the lengthening list of antics with which he had been nettling the General Assembly. During a debate over a Russian resolution decrying colonialism, he was infuriated by a statement, expressed from the rostrum by Lorenzo Sumulong. The Filipino delegate had charged the Soviets with employing a double standard, pointing to their domination of Eastern Europe as an example of the very type of colonialism their resolution criticized. Mr. Khrushchev thereupon pulled off his right shoe, stood up, brandishing it at the Philippine delegate on the other side of the hall. The enraged Khrushchev accused Mr. Sumulong of being "Холуй и ставленник империализма" (kholuj i stavlennik imperializma), which was translated as "a jerk, a stooge and a lackey of imperialism". The chaotic scene finally ended when General Assembly President Frederick Boland broke his gavel calling the meeting to order, but not before the image of Khrushchev as a hotheaded buffoon was indelibly etched into America’s collective memory. At another occasion, Khrushchev said in reference to capitalism, "Мы вас похороним!", translated to "We will bury you". This phrase, ambiguous both in the English language and in the Russian language, was interpreted in several ways.
But the world was a different place back then. Voices suggesting the withdrawal of the United States from the U.N. were rather few, and tended to come only from the very far reaches of extreme opinion and sentiment, such as the John Birch Society. There was a rationale for this. It was thought - and the perception was spread over a large spectrum of opinion in the West - that because of the nuclear standoff between the two Great Powers, the United States had no option but to fight its corner in an international body that was heavily biased towards the Soviet Union and its field of influence. Otherwise, it was thought, the world might just go up in flames one day, when someone "pressed the button". Nowadays, with the United States as the world's only "superpower" (the term is dated, and belongs to that earlier era), the thought of the possibility of a U.S. secession from the United Nations is no longer such a far-fetched or recondite one. Indeed, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the U.N. as it has now developed has all the vices, defects and weaknesses of its older self without the saving graces of a "world security guarantee", and continues to be dominated by the kind of states that were promoted by the former Soviet Union, from which they have inherited its anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-democratic animus and ideology, it's now coming to the point where Western nations will have to make a decision on where their best interests lie.

Perhaps it really would make more sense for the free nations of the world to form an alternative organization. In the words of Anne Bayevsky:
We can make speeches spinning wins out of losses and claiming success for Western policies at the UN. We can announce that we are working hard for reform that lies just over the horizon. We can proclaim that yet another subject will serve as the final, real test of the UN's credibility. And Americans can claim that the attempt to thread US foreign policy through the eye of a UN needle is an end in itself.

Or we can say: No more. We gave this organization 60 years of our best efforts - Americans gave $5 billion last year alone. But our reform efforts have failed.

And in return for our willingness to look first to the UN for solutions, we emboldened Iran, its proxy Hizbullah and fellow terrorists around the world. We handed our enemies the mantle of human rights and left more Sudanese to die.

There is an antidote to the self-doubt and moral relativism planted in our midst by Turtle Bay. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls it a "council of democracies outside of the UN system…[that would] truly monitor, examine and expose human rights abuses around the globe." Such a gathering is an idea whose time has come: the United Democratic Nations - an international organization of democracies, by democracies and for democracies.

A world war is being waged, and the UN is not on our side. It is a tragedy in view of its beginnings and its promise, but the tragedy will be far greater if we refuse to say: Enough.
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