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Time To Ditch The UN By: Stanley K. Ridgley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 21, 2003


United Nations impotence provides ample imperative for the United States to form a new international organization relevant to the security challenges of a new and dangerous era.

The U.N.’s handling of the Iraq crisis demonstrates that the organization has become an excuse for the timid, a forum where dictators and despots outnumber democrats, and a means for blocking international justice rather than serving as its instrument.  The U.N.’s cumbersome procedures have blocked effective international action on Iraq, and it has shown itself incapable of acting to enforce a raft of Security Council resolutions, Resolution 1441 only the latest.

In fact, in virtually every aspect of its political role in this affair, the U.N. has ignored its own mandate, principles, and founding documents--from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which among other things, declares that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” through a series of Security Council Resolutions in the 1990s leading up to last November’s UNSCR 1441.  The evidence continues to mount that Iraq has been found undeniably in material breach of 1441, but no evidence appears strong enough to force the U.N. to actually do what it says it will do.

The U.N. is simply not a serious organization and is incapable of handling 21st Century challenges.  It just doesn’t work.  As a result, the United States faces near-paralysis as it addresses its most important foreign policy challenge of the new century.  This is not a border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea; the decisions taken on this single issue will shape the world order for the rest of the century.

Indeed, this is one of those rare crossroads of history that many of us will see only a few times in our lives.  Choosing wisely now will mean the difference between freedom and oppression for millions of people in the Middle East, in Iraq and beyond.  It will determine the future status and influence of the United States in world affairs.  And it will signal to our allies and enemies alike whether we are a serious nation able to act on its interests and principles or a nation corrupted by compromise.  It would be a criminal abdication of responsibility for the United States to allow itself to be handcuffed by a debating society at this critical juncture because of a misplaced deference to the U.N.’s ersatz legalistic processes.

This is reason enough to extricate ourselves from an organization and a process that is clearly under the sway of forces inimical to U.S. national security interests.  Dictatorships do not dictate to democracies their foreign policies.  The U.S. has an array of foreign policy options open to it as well as the backing of a majority of European nations.  Those options should be pursued.

As for the U.N., its decline evidences nothing more than the natural stresses on an organization created to serve other purposes at an earlier time.  The U.N. demise is part of the natural evolution of the international system.  Organizations arise to address the needs of those who create them.  When those needs are no longer met, organizations either die or they cling to life, floundering. 

The reason for poor U.N. performance is clear.  The United Nations is rooted in the old European Order and traces its lineage back to the old, powerless League of Nations.  The United Nations was founded with the best of intentions by nations with more or less shared ideals, those of the victors of World War II, Soviet Union excepted.  The United Nations was to be a convocation and forum of democratic nations. 

Over time, however, the UN changed gradually, retaining its form but losing all substance of its original values and intent.  It has become a gathering of con men, cowards, and crooks, an arrondissement of the brutish where idiots hold court and terrorists preen before the general assembly.  The spectacle of Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Communist China demanding a “democratic” say in the actions of the United States when they themselves deny basic democratic freedoms to their own people has become routine.  The U.N. is no longer, and has not been for some time, a convocation and forum of democratic nations acting in concert according to shared values.  It cannot perform the function for which it was created. 

The ready answer is for the United States to ally itself with states that share its values and its goals.  The United States should extend its “Coalition of the Willing” into a new, formal organization that recognizes both the common interests and the sovereignty of its democratic member nations, an organization useful to the international circumstances of our time and not simply a habit of nostalgia.

Serious thinkers recognize that it is the tough international issues that separate the weak from the willing, the moral from the expedient.  The problem of Iraq has done us that great favor in distinguishing for us our true friends, and these nations will form the charter members of the new organization.

Call this new alliance the Free Nations, and its membership will begin with the United States, England, and the 17 continental European states that have taken a clear and powerful stand with the US on the issue of Iraq.  It will include Mexico and India and Australia.  It will most certainly include Israel, the only Middle Eastern country to qualify for membership.  Russia will want to join, and its behavior will change appropriately once its economic umbilical to problematic nations is severed.  Membership in the Free Nations is open to all who embrace the qualifying values, both in word and deed.

Moral clarity will crystallize in the Free Nations as will clarity of purpose.  Sovereign states, acting with the majority consent of their peoples, will conduct the business of world affairs as it should be conducted, on a free and consensual basis.  And when action is called for, it will be forthcoming and swift, based on a shared identity of interests of morality, realism, and democracy.  Resolution of the Iraq situation will be its first order of business.

This does not mean the United States will abandon completely the old order.  Let’s by all means continue placeholder membership in the United Nations.  It provides a forum for discussion, and it is there that the United States will continue to listen patiently to the posturing and propaganda of America’s enemies.  Its humanitarian branches, such as the World Health Organization, provide a wonderful service.  Let them continue.

But on its present fraudulent course with regard to international security, the United Nations must become a second-fiddle affair appropriate to its irrelevance.  Serious international business will go on in the organization of Free Nations, and U.S. attentions must be redirected accordingly—the center of diplomatic gravity must shift, high-level multilateral meetings must be held, FN General Assembly meetings must be frequent and consequential.  The U.S. will of course shift its diplomacy and the bulk of its aid and attention to its fellow democracies.  That includes economic and military aid, trade concessions, and a wealth of cultural exchanges.

The United States will pay a penalty if it does not form a new, post-Cold War organization capable of grappling with the new reality of creeping totalitarianism abroad.  If we do not act to distance ourselves from a United Nations that is increasingly falling under the spell of dark, almost medieval, forces in the world, then we will surely deserve the fate that befalls us for our complicity.

The United Nations is an anachronism on its deathbed.  There is nothing sacrosanct about it, and we ought not to shed tears at its passing.  In the meantime, let’s give a new idea a chance.


Dr. Stanley K. Ridgley is president of the Russian-American Institute and a former military intelligence officer.


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