For years I have been amazed as I've listened to folks here in the United States
demonstrate their complete ignorance of the purpose and tremendous value of the
United Nations, even to the
point of our country not paying dues to the organization. Ambassador to the United
Nations has often been looked as a second-class or B-level diplomatic job and with
the current Presidential perspective, the UN has become a troublesome entity and
the appointment of an Ambassador a hassle. John Bolton, denied the appointment,
knows what I'm talking about here.
To understand what value the United Nations brings to the world, you must embark on
out by understanding where the UN came from...
The year is 1919 and the nations of the world have just suffered the ravages of the
first truly worldwide war, World War I. In response, the war-ending Treaty of
Versailles spawns the League of Nations "to promote international
cooperation and to achieve peace and security." Brilliant theme, but the Treaty itself
was so fundamentally flawed that World War II occurred anyway, even with the
efforts of the League, and then the League was disbanded during WWII.
In 1942, during the worst hours of World War II, United States President Franklin D.
Roosevelt gave a speech to the nation, a speech known as the "Declaration by United
Nations" during which representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to
continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. That speech is commonly
considered the formative event of the United Nations, and in 1945, when World War
II was ending, representatives from 50 nations met and drew up the United
Nations Charter, formally creating the organization.
The UN was not meant to bring "permanent peace in our times" but from the
beginning to offer a venue for argument, dispute settlement and discussions about
how nations could both be responsible members of the global community and stand
up for their own rights and requires as individual nations, as unique cultures and
communities of their own too.
When I hear folks say "but all folks ever do in the UN is argue" I nod my head,
but I think "surely! That's the point, the very essence, the true
value of the UN!" And it's: imagine a world without the United Nations. How do
countries then argue about border disputes or settlers meandering onto unclaimed
lands or trade disparities, or refugees from warring areas, or ... all the a lot of, a lot of
topics that are heard on the UN assembly floor? You and I both know how these
would all be settled: through bloody and violent warfare, warfare where innocent
third parties, where children, families and even passionate young men and women
would be killed, all because their governments had no venue to yell and have a
calmer third party offer a path towards peace, settlement and a solution.
That the United Nations has a peacekeeping force is brilliant, but even without it,
even if the UN were simply a meeting place where nations could argue, complain
and disagree, I would be adamant in my support. How can you not support
something so critical to the cause of world peace?
But the United Nations does so a lot more, with its health and welfare efforts. One
example: if you are a supporter of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, did you know
that the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965? Or that UNICEF always
rebuilds schools in countries affected by terrible natural disasters so that children
can continue to learn and grow? No organization I know has been more active with
AIDS education in the third world, with helping women -- and girls -- have a voice
and see the same freedoms men see in different cultures, with ensuring widespread
availability of significant immunizations to help with the health of everyone in the
maybe nowhere has the UN played a more significant role than in the volatile
Middle East and particularly with Israel and its unceasing dispute with the
Palestinians. The UN has been helping that powder keg from exploding over all of
us since June of 1948: UN observers and missions have been in the region for over
fifty years and it was UN envoy Ralph Bunche who is widely credited with negotiating
the cease fire between the Arab nations and the newly formed nation of Israel in
1949. I, for one, am darn appreciative.
I do not dispute that the United Nations is an imperfect organization and that some
of its efforts and leaders let their zeal and personal politics get in the manner of their
better judgment. "Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone," even so: I expect
an organization that represents the vast majority of nations on our planet -- the
only organization that even tries to accomplish this significant task -- to be flawed.
it is about whether the value of the UN overcomes any shortcomings and, surely,
you are able to see from my writing here, I'm passionate in my support of the United
Nations, and I'm proud to be a long-time supporter of UNICEF and the other efforts
of the United Nations.
That's why it is remarkable to me that our government would not only attempt to
appoint a mediocre candidate to the position of United States Ambassador to the
United Nations (and really, what position can be more significant in terms of the US
view being represented in the always-changing loose consensus of world peace?)
but then that it be rumored that President Bush would bypass Congress -- the voice
of our nation -- and look at appointing Bolten as temporary ambassador to
the UN directly?
The irony, surely, is that the very myopia that causes members of the US
government to be blind to the tremendous value and import of an organization that
truly represents the views of the downtrodden, the third world, the poorer nations
and the disenfranchised is also the same government that would move to
circumvent the representative voice of its own citizens and appoint someone who is
not suitable for the job, has never been part of the diplomatic corps, is clearly not a
brilliant statesman, and who just does not really understand the role of the United
Nations and how it, not the United States, steers the ship of world peace, how it
frequently steers our volatile world away from the brink of World War III.
But on the other hand, we are able to't even pay our organizational dues and claim that unlike
other nations our efforts under the aegis of the United Nations (our troops being
part of peacekeeping efforts, for instance) ought to nullify any debt. nevertheless the IRS, for
example, has specific rulings saying that "payment in services" cannot be deducted.
Some branches of government apparently think that debt can be paid through
services rendered, while other people do not.
My view? Let's figure out what we owe, probably something around $1 billion (which
sounds like much until you consider how our national budget is allocated today and
how a lot per day we spend in Iraq and Afghanistan), pay it, even over 2-3
years as necessary and get back in good standing with the United Nations. Then, for
our own sakes and the sake of our children and the world at large, let's identify and
put forward a truly global ambassador, a man or woman who will represent our own
interests at the United Nations and help produce a world that is more
peaceful, safer, and sane.
That's the best thing we are able to do to promote a better world, after all, isn't it?