THE PROBLEM WITH THE UN….Matt Yglesias is right: this article by David Gelernter in the Weekly Standard is so dimwitted that it’s hard to know where to start with it. How can someone pack so many bad ideas into a mere 1600 words?
Basically Gelernter is mad at the United Nations, and for the usual reason: it opposes our invasion of Iraq. No organization that disagrees with the United States can be allowed to live, and Gelernter has some ideas for putting the UN out of its misery and replacing it with something a bit more pliable. These kinds of things can be good academic fun, a slightly more erudite version of renaming french fries as freedom fries, but check out a few excerpts from his piece:
….The United States has repeatedly proved that it follows the rules and fights fair.
….The U.N. made no sense, [E.B.White concluded in 1956], if members were allowed to do whatever they felt like behind the locked doors of their own “internal domestic affairs,” no matter what kind of shrieking and hollering the neighbors reported.
….Now is the time to start thinking post-U.N., not merely because the Security Council has made such a mess of Iraq but because we have remarkable opportunities. And if the experiment fails, the U.N. simply carries on, chastened. The core of the new organization–call it the Big Three–would be a Britain-Russia-America triumvirate. The underlying principle: No credible world organization could include only countries we like. But Russia’s fluid condition gives us an unusual opening. Russia is a big country with a vivid history. No organization that includes Russia could possibly be America’s cat’s-paw. Yet Russia is uncertain of what she wants; she is open to persuasion. Yes, that means money; but international prestige is worth even more, especially to a humbled former champion. Including Russia (but not China or France) in the ruling committee might impart just the right soup?on of anti-Americanism to the new organization, which must be credible yet not intractable.
….”Of course,” we will say, “we are solidly behind United Europe!” But why should we be?
….Once its brain has been replaced, the former-U.N.’s body (the police forces, aid organizations, bureaucracies) could easily be reconstituted within the Big Three. A B3 resolution won’t pack quite the multilateral punch of the Security Council, but it will pack plenty.
The United States always fights fair? Like in Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama? The problem with the UN is that it doesn’t interfere with other countries’ internal affairs? Does Gelernter seriously want a world organization with the power to interfere in U.S. internal affairs? Jim Crow might have died a little faster in the South if that had been the case in 1956, but somehow I don’t think that’s what he has in mind.
And his post-UN world is just as bizarre. Admit Russia because they can be bought off when necessary? That should add credibility, and I’m sure Putin will be delighted with the invitation. And secretly plot against the interests of a united Europe? In exactly what way does that serve our interests?
The UN haters just never seem to get it. There are lots and lots of other multilateral organizations in the world in which membership is based on economic clout, commitment to democracy, collective regional security, etc. We really don’t need another one. What’s more, the idea that we can pick and choose countries and be assured that these countries will always be on our side is childishly naive.
The UN is far from perfect, but the fundamental reason we’re having trouble there is because of too much democracy, not too little. Chile, Mexico, and France, for example, are opposed to us largely because their own populations are opposed to us by huge margins. If the people of the world supported our position, the only no vote in the Security Council would probably be from Syria and the only threat of a veto would be from China. And who cares about that?
The Bush administration has done a horrible job of making its case with anyone except its core supporters in the U.S. That’s the problem. The UN is only a symptom.