Whatever you think of the U.N., it's worth looking at Belmont Club's revealing analyses. He touches on many subjects: UNSCAM, Kofi Annan, legitimacy, the roots of U.N. failure, recent reform proposals; even the nature of the U.N.'s most prominent paradox. In that paradox, he says, lies the answer to the riddle of the U.N. itself.
We'll start with the U.N.'s essential failures in UNSCAM. These include corruption, but were not limited to it.
- Money For Blood (Dec. 01/04). Senator Norm Coleman (R-MIN) is not happy:
"Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr. Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the public."
As Coleman notes, this wouldn't do for Enron. It doesn't cut it for Annnan, either:
- Some Are More Equal Than Others (Dec 03/04)
"The fundamental problem with Traub's argument is that Oil-For-Food existed for the purpose of enforcing sanctions imposed by the Security Council as a whole. It was not a program whose goals could be chosen according to taste, "with the U.S. and Britain determined to prevent Iraq from importing items that could be used for military purposes and the French, Russians and Chinese equally determined to give the Iraqis the benefit of every doubt." It had one purpose only. Oil-For-Food either existed expressly to prevent Saddam's rearmament or it was nothing at all. For that reason, the Secretary General's failure "to sound the alarm over Iraqi swindling and for a slow and grudging reaction when the allegations first surfaced earlier this year" is not primarily about thievery and corruption, although it is about that: it was mainly about flouting international law; it was about subverting the will of the Security Council. It was about Kofi Annan becoming a law unto himself."
Next, Belmont Club offers an analysis of a recent U.N. panel's proposed "reforms":
- All Your Base Belong To Us (Dec. 02, 2004). So, why strike a reform panel?
"The BBC summarizes the background to the panel's work: The UN's "relevance has been brought into question not only by the Iraq war, when it was in the final analysis ignored by the United States. Before that, we had Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia and others where it failed to act in time, and now we have Darfur."
Yes, we certainly do. The solution? Why, more power given to the U.N., of course! Belmont Club does an excellent job parsing much of the realpolitik involved, as well as the U.N.'s ambition.
He followed that up with:
- Problem Number Four (Dec. 4/04). Ah, the Congo. But let's start with Belmont Club's 3-paragraph summary of the U.N.'s position regarding its crisis of legitimacy:
"Evans delivered an address called Shifting Security Parameters in the 21st Century which contains nearly all of the elements now being proposed to reform the UN. In this model the currrent threats to world peace are:
But to address the first three, the first step is to solve problem number four."
- international terrorist organizations
- WMD proliferation
- failed states
- an out-of-control United States
In that same piece, we move on to the Congo, where the U.N. actually has the responsibilities it wishes to usurp:
"Morale among the blue helmets is not high. Many regard their posting to Congo as the height of misfortune. Some are ashamed to be part of such an indolent force. During massacres in Ituri's main town of Bunia last year, some Uruguayan peacekeepers suffered nervous breakdowns after watching atrocities they had been ordered not to prevent. One reportedly told his psychiatrist that goats were talking to him. When asked what they were saying, he replied, “They're shouting: ‘Help me! Help me!' "
As Congo - The Roots, and the Trap argued in June 2003, this failure is not an accident. Just as Rwanda and Srebrenica were no accident. They are an inevitable consequence of the U.N. and transnational progressivist mindsets, hard-wired for failure in the face of any real evil or threat.
One would think this sort of thing might lead to self-examination, either among the U.N. itself or among its backers. The simplisme of such notions amuses....
- Throwing Kofi to the Dogs (Dec. 8/04)
"Why? Because it's the UN, a place where the normal laws of gravity are inverted, everyone is immune from everything, where nothing works yet everything is beyond reproach. That's why. Having grasped that one essential fact it is necessary to accept the corollary. Neither the departure of Kofi Annan nor his replacement will alter the strange physics of the place which arises from the first-class funding of third-rate causes of the worst possible sort. If that is the definition of Oil-for-Food it is also the definition of the United Nations.
One of the shadow costs of an obsession with the United Nations is the preemptive dismissal of diplomatic structures which have historically worked...."
Which may explain the stance the U.N. and its backers habitually take. Explain - but not justify:
- The Absence of Evidence (Dec. 9/04)
"Any objections that these answers are unsatisfactory are met by the claim that the questions themselves are illegitimate. "There has been no hint of impropriety on the part of the Secretary-General, who on numerous occasions has proven his honesty and integrity." It is impertinent to observe that Annan has proven nothing. Any further argumentation is met with the assertion that 'it is your fault anyway'. In Congressman Kuchinich's words "we want to highlight the shared responsibility by the United States for the alleged fraud and abuse that occurred in the Oil-for-Food Program." Any suspcion that the Jihad may exist is put down to "intolerance and hatred among some Americans" and "condescension".
The implicit assumption underlying this discourse is that "we" -- and not you -- ask the questions. The United Nations and no one else sits in judgement. That's final: it is International Law. As Robert Kaplan pointed out in The Media and Medievalism, the most powerful tool of totalitarianism is to don the guise of righteousness and assume "the right to question and to demand answers, the right to judge and condemn, and the right to pardon and show mercy." It is in the end an attempt to usurp the wellsprings of legitimacy. Do you hold it to be self-evident that you have the right "to assume among the Powers of the Earth" a separate and equal station? That's being a rogue nation. Do you presume that "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". That is not in the Koran. It is illegitimate and utterly intolerant to impose such a view upon anyone, even upon yourselves."
The U.N. has been a haven of the corrupt and a tool of the hostile for most of its history - dominated by Third-World kleptocrats who demand for themselves what they will not grant their own suffering peoples, bought as required by the Arab League, and played largely for the benefit of the Soviet Bloc. So long as it remained irrelevant to serious politics, it status as a low-cost diplomatic nexus made it worth the triviality of its monetary fees. Belmont Club, who noted that "corruption at the United Nations was only tolerable for so long as it did nothing of consequence," had it exactly right.
Ah, but the U.N. has far grander ambitions now. Lofty ambitions of power untrammeled by its performance, and demonstrably unencumbered by notions of liberty, accountability, or humanitarian concern. Like Marxism before it, however, the U.N.'s dismal record of blood and failure is no mistake, and no accident. Despite apologists' untiring claims to the contrary, its record exist precisely because of its underlying concepts, not in spite of them.
What was once tolerable, is tolerable no more. What was once a simple waste is becoming something rather different: an active threat.
The U.N.'s weapons are theft and paralysis. Against it are arrayed the weapons of accountability and will. As Belmont Club notes above, the hostility is obvious, and the terms of the game crystal clear. Will the U.S. surrender, or prevail? The two sides cannot be bridged; the circle cannot be squared.
In the end, one side or the other must lose, and be changed thereby. For a while, anyway.
"He crouched down there, covering his eyes and cowering, for the fear had taken his mind. When he raised his head and looked again, the world re-existed. It was not in good condition, but it was there."
-- Ursula LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven