Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What hath the UN wrought?

I used to like the UN.

As a child growing up in New York City, I would visit there with my class and gaze at the snazzy modern architecture, and watch the General Assembly talk while listening to simultaneous translations on the seemingly-magical headsets.

My admiration wasn't just for the esthetics, either. I knew about UNICEF, and the goal of eradicating smallpox--and of course, the UN was working towards peace. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that one of my very early childhood fantasies involved an image of myself as successful worldwide peacemaker, addressing the UN after some sort of diplomatic triumph I'd engineered that had averted a war.

That fantasy ended long ago. But my admiration for the UN lingered. Yet, over the decades, my disillusionment with the UN has grown. The Oil for Food scandal didn't help; that was in the nature of a final straw in the breakdown of any admiration I ever had for the UN. And journalist Claudia Rosett was instrumental in covering that terrible instance of destructive UN corruption.

Now Rosett has written another article about the UN, this time about its role in fostering the conditions leading up to the current Lebanese crisis. I've linked to her article in an addendum to this previous post of mine, but I've decided it needed to be spotlighted even more.

The article describes how the UN has failed in its mission in Lebanon, allowing the conditions to develop that led directly to this war. Rosett makes the point that, for the six years since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah has been arming itself with weaponry that it is not supposed to possess, all under the auspices of the UN "peacekeepers":

Over the past six years, Israel honored its commitment to peace. The U.N. — disproportionately — required in practice no such compliance on the Lebanese side of the border. The “peacekeepers” of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, called UNIFIL, sat passively looking on, costing about $100 million a year and doing nothing to stop Hezbollah from trucking in weapons, digging tunnels, and running the armed protection rackets with which it has kept a grip on swathes of Lebanon, including the southern border with Israel, parts of the Bekaa, and southern Beirut.

Rosett goes on to list the biases UN officials have expressed since this war began (the article seems to have been written prior to the death of the UN obervers and Anna's remarks on that, since it makes no mention of them). It makes sobering reading.

The other day I got into an argument with a friend about the UN. He agreed that it was flawed, but said that it's our only hope for peace in the world. My answer to him at the time was that the institution has shown such corruption and bias that it cannot act as a force for peace at all, and that it's a pipedream to think otherwise at this point.

A pipedream, and a dangerous one at that. I have become convinced that the UN and its officials are not just powerless to solve the problem, but that they are contributing to it. How? By their rather large pockets of corruption, by holding themselves out to be equal to tasks they are utterly incompetent to deal with, by their biased prononuncements, and by giving false hope to those who want to believe that problems are being dealt with when they are not. And, while all this happens, the conditions that contribute to wars are allowed to grow and to fester, all under the auspices of the UN, supposed force for peace.

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