I was going to write about Congressman Dennis Kucinich, but I see that today is United Nations Day. I could rant against the UN at another time, but I try to make my posts as time-appropriate as possible. I’m sure Kucinich won’t mind me writing about the UN instead of him, considering that he loves the organization so much (seriously).
In my reading of right-wing literature, I’ve encountered two views on the UN. One sees it as a sinister body that wants to create a one-world socialistic dictatorship, subjugating the United States and all other nations. The other perceives the UN as a joke, a paper tiger, and a model of inefficiency and corruption. The latter view was summed up quite well by an acquaintance who worked at the UN: “The UN can’t even start a meeting on time. I don’t think it can take over the world!”
In terms of the left, I don’t entirely know how every liberal feels about the organization. I’ve seen Nation of Islam books that claim the UN is out to create a one-world fascistic dictatorship, but I’m not sure where the Nation of Islam belongs on the political spectrum. I’ve heard some liberals express a wish that the UN were more influential or powerful. For them, it is not right for the United States to have its way all the time. The less powerful nations need a voice, and the UN is the forum where they can have it. In addition, they argue that there are global problems that require global solutions. For them, world government probably doesn’t sound like a bad idea!
On some level, I can understand concerns about world government, for the sovereignty of the United States can be undermined by certain treaties. President Bush has done a good job protecting our national sovereignty, and he has also done a bad job. He has opposed the Kyoto Protocol, which imposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. He has also stood against the International Criminal Court, which many liberals believe should try American soldiers. At the same time, Bush supports the Law of the Sea, which would give the UN control over the world’s oceans. America is a nation where people elect Americans to set national policy. Do we want to surrender our sovereignty to a world body with people who hate us?
Could the UN take down the United States? Suppose we sign the Kyoto Protocol and choose not to follow it. What could the UN do to us? At the moment, probably nothing. Interestingly, in the Left Behind series, the nations of the world surrender their weapons to the UN, which is then able to nuke the United States once it gets out of line. Tim Lahaye wasn’t pulling this idea out of his own imagination, either. In 1961, there was a State Department document entitled Freedom from War (1961), which proposed a program of worldwide nuclear disarmament that would significantly strengthen the UN. That idea may look far-fetched at the present time, but what would happen if the United States got so sick of war that nuclear disarmament began to look appealing? Could we ever arrive at the place where we did not want environmental or economic policy to be set by elected institutions (which can change like the wind), but chose instead to surrender such decisions to an “impartial” world body, with the power to enforce the “common good”?
The funny thing is that the UN doesn’t always help the vulnerable of the world. It has been slow to help the victims of Darfur, and John Bolton said on Sepember 6 that this is because “in the Security Council, China, Russia, and other members are protecting the government in Khartoum” (see Does the United Nations Advance the Cause of Freedom?). During the Cold War, the UN was not exactly tough on Communism. The big reason was probably that Communists had a lot of influence in it, to the point that American forces during the Korean War had to report to the Under-Secretary for Political and Security Council Affairs, Constantine Zinchenko, a Communist. At the same time, the UN really got rough when it forced anti-Communist Katanga to become part of Communist Congo in the 1960’s. I guess it picks its battles.
There are people who act like everything would be okay if the UN had more power. I say be careful what you wish for. Things are not always rosy when the UN has the upper hand!
James writes: There are people who act like everything would be okay if the UN had more power.
I know that you are bright enough to realize that this is an over generalization. No one is naive enough to think such a thought. Most of us liberals who advocate a stronger UN, do so with reservations. After all, no one really expects that an origination run by governments, each with their own levels of corruption, can function without any problems. Of course, there will be problems, and corruption, just as the US and every other nation has problems, and faces internal corruption. But I don’t believe that “might” makes “right.” Just because the US has the strongest military power on the planet, that does not necessarily make all it foreign policies correct.
Thanks for your response, Steven. What I was trying to show was that the UN’s policies are not always correct.
I’ve heard liberals talk about a stronger UN, but I wonder what they mean by that. What do you mean when you use the phrase? Is it similar to the State Department document, where the UN is militarily stronger than other nations? Or does it simply imply the U.S. submitting voluntarily to UN treaties?
James writes: the UN’s policies are not always correct.
And the policies of the US are not always correct.
James asks: I’ve heard liberals talk about a stronger UN, but I wonder what they mean by that. What do you mean when you use the phrase?
I don’t think it is reasonable to expect an UN military force to go around the world playing super-cop. But I don’t think participation should be merely voluntary either. Economic sanctions would work, if the will of the rest of the world was behind the UN.
I wonder to what extent economic sanctions would work against us, though. Who knows? We rely a lot on Chinese goods these days. But, at the same time, China relies on us buying them.
What about oil?
Yes, that would work. OPEC has embargoed us before.