Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why the United States just doesn't get the United Nations

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,

it does.

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?

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