Friday, August 30, 2002

Are We Abandoning the United Nations?

Maybe the UN will have to find another home outside of New York City, beyond our shores. Possibly Paris, London, Beijing or Moscow. One of the others who sit on the Security Council, in almost any country except the birthplace of individual freedom in which it now resides.

It's becoming more and more apparent that the United States supported the United Nations more as a buffer and Bully Pulpit between Cold War adversaries than as a long term vehicle for international mediation.

Mediation is for others, now that the Wall and the Curtain have fallen.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have become absolutely powerful. Our defense budget outpaces the next fourteen largest defense budgets worldwide, combined. We go where we please, do what we want, brush aside all criticisms, abrogate treaties at will and support rights of others only as it suits us.

The United Nations, much like the US Congress, moves slowly and ponderously, not perhaps accomplishing a great deal and yet allowing aggressions to bleed off in mutual discussion. It's not a bad system. It doesn't often suit us as a nation, but it wasn't organized in order to serve the interests of a single nation. It provides the blessed sanction of consensus.

It makes our presidents crazy because our presidents are short-term guys.

It annoys our legislative bodies because it's a mirror to our sins and, yes we have sins, just as all nations have sins. But the mirroring of sins is an embarrassment to the single surviving world power. What use to us is power, if we're questioned in its application?

I hope that we will not abandon our commitment to this Unity of Nations just because we can. Being able isn't a good enough excuse. We claim to be an open society at home, warts and all, full of argument and yet pulling together when occasion demands.

Occasion is demanding at this moment in the only parliamentary organization the planet as ever been able to put together. It will continue to exist without the United States, but only as a shell and (dangerously perhaps) as an increasingly hostile collector of anti-American sentiment. If we take our marbles and go home, a new Iron Curtain will circle the globe, a new Cold War will begin and we will as a nation find ourselves increasingly isolated.

It takes great patience and skill and moral presence to negotiate when you are not in physical need of negotiation. Yet the need is upon us for other reasons and those reasons underpin our claim as the repository of free thought in a world less free. Disagreement is a cherished American heritage.

It remains to be seen if we, as a Charter Member of the UN, are patient enough to extend that heritage worldwide during times when it ill suits our short term goals.