03/24/2003: In response to feedback on this article, I have added some supporting details and conclusions.
If this war has done anything, it has brought the nature of the United Nations to the forefront. The anti-war protesters seem to believe that the U.N. is some sort of perfect institution designed to bring peace and justice to the world. This despite a track record of allowing atrocities that is second to none. Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Somalia spring to mind as their most recent horrible failures (and I’m being generous by leaving Iraq off the list). With this in mind I decided to look into the purpose of the U.N. and to ask the question, why this “noble” institution fails so very often and if so, why is it worthy of U.S. attention?
The first reason is the very structure of the U.N. In 1960, Richard Harkness described a committee as “A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary.” The U.N. takes this model to a new level of insanity. Comprised of dozens of committees, sub-committees, funds and councils, the U.N. chief purpose seems to be to publish bureaucratic reports and statements read by nobody and serving no purpose. How many of you are familiar with the work Social Dialog department of the International Labour Organization or were enthralled by the United Nations Forum on Forests’ “Private Non-Industrial Forest Owners Discussion Paper”? Fascinating stuff, I assure you and certainly worthy of our tax dollars. The basic chart of the U.N. shows some 84 organizations, committees, etc. and this doesn’t even begin to list the more than 1000 sub organizations of sub organizations and committees and offices. If the U.N. wants to serve any purpose at all, it must trim its organization down to a clear list of purposes.
Even more absurd than the structure of the U.N.; the make up of these councils seems borders on sheer stupidity. Guinea, whose population is 7.7 million (only 450,000 more than New York City), is the President on the Security Council. Libya serves on the Commission on Human Rights. Nothing about the U.N structure is designed to serve a purpose. The notion that any state should have an equal standing as the more powerful nations on the various committees of the U.N. is ridiculous. Why should obscure nations, who should have equal footing only as a member of the body at large, be able to represent a 15th of the committee on world wide security. The purpose of a republic is to represent its citizens in an equitable manner. That means that to be fair, you must have some notion of the size and scope of its various constituencies. A country like the United States or any other populous and powerful nation should not have to be subservient to a country a tiny fraction of its size. If I were running the show, which I’m sure will be very soon, the committee structure would have a provision that the worth of any one vote would be determined both by the population of the member country and the amount of monetary and personnel support given by the member country.
Finally and the most important reason for failure begins with the U.N. charter whose preamble reads:
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS”
While this reads, for the most part, like the charter of a organization in defense of liberty, this institution does not seem to exclude any nation state whose stated purpose is to thwart these very purposes. For example, China, North Korea, Iran, and Viet Nam are all members on the U.N. These brutal regimes that have violated every point of the U.N. charter and yet are allowed to participate on equal footing with countries that not only affirm but believe in these stated principles. How can a congress consist of members who are opposed to the very principles of the congress? It cannot.
The United States was formed on the notion that the various states agreed on the founding principles of the Constitution. While there have been some failures on these principles, most notably the disastrous and immoral practice of slavery (which was ended not through diplomacy but through bloody conflict), at no time would a state have been admitted who did not believe in the principles of the Constitution. If the U.N. wants to be an effective institution it must expel all members opposed to its principles and only admit those nations that agree to uphold its values in their own nation. As Abraham Lincoln most eloquently put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.
I am not opposed to the U.N. as a concept. But as it stands, it represents nothing but a black hole of corruption, waste and absurdity. The U.S. should only listen to bodies of thought worthy of listening to and the U.N. certainly is not one of them.