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When the UN Simply Means – The United Nothing

Posted by intellisg on May 10, 2007

un1.jpgMENTION the United Nations in every major city in the world (especially in the US) and you will likely be greeted with an unending litany of woes – Anti Semitic, hobbling the United States, justifying tyranny, bribery, fat salaries, squander, unproductive meetings, lousy aid programs, waste of mythical proportions, failures which make the science of transmuting lead to gold look like the roaring success of the millennia. In these circles, the UN along with its various agencies, FAO, UNCITRAL, WHO, UNESCO, WIPO, and yes, even the WTO is frequently not spared the whip or the occasional burst of bird shot.

Even the paperbacks have joined the UN bashing wagon, notably a series of dooms day books that are starting to proliferate the shelves of Borders these days with catchy headliners like the “Lost Dream” or “The Blues.”

They sell amazingly well and they all have one thing in common. They all hate the UN often equating it with the devil or Satan – describing the actual power of the UN as exaggerated – an aging bureaucracy in need of an overhaul – a tool against freedom and democracy.

I mean, please you don’t expect me to believe all these do you? I know and you know the UN may not be Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Florence Nightingale or Britney Speers rolled up into one. But surely the idea of asserting that it’s satanic or even devilish is preposterous isn’t it? Besides name me one large institution that’s perfect? The UN agencies may not be entirely trouble-free, but I am sure somewhere in the heart of darkness in Central Africa some poor kid is getting his daily quota of dysentery tablets. Or in some far off refugee camp somewhere in Darfur a few UN blue helmeted troops are battling to keep planet and people safe by disarming gun totting militia bent on mayhem.

So what’s really wrong with the UN? How did it maneuver itself into this position where it’s like a fish in the bucket?

That the UN should be so controversial today might have surprised even its founders – especially the many Americans amongst them.

Back in 1945 there was great enthusiasm for conceptualizing the UN, whose justification and purposes were nothing short of idealistically noble – was born out of the cinder just after WW2. The very scale of the carnage, destruction and catastrophe suggested: both governments and people would surely know better than to let it all happen again. The lid of Pandora’s box had to be closed forever and the UN, its charter, and its agencies would be the chosen ones to get the job done. The age of wars and conflicts was over from now onwards man would work his differences out in a quorum through the UN rather than around or against it.

Fast forward six decades later and it would seem the dream has more or less melted into a puddle. The UN certainly has problems,

“That’s like saying that the Hindenburg has a minor technical problem 2 minutes before it blew up!”

According Eric Shawn, a self styled “newsman.” Shawn, like many implacable critics of the UN, purports to wish the place well, though it still seems uncertain how he would ever accomplish it when you actually peruse his website,

“I join countless others in profound disillusionment that a noble ideal has morphed into a bastion of arrogance and, too often inaction.”

But this emollient humbug is soon displaced whenever he riffles through his tome of criticism concerning the UN. Everything is there in Shawn’s black book, “peacekeepers…raping and having sex with 12 year old girls.” – “UN bureaucrats living the live of the rich and famous.” Again the same image of excrescence filters through, only this time it’s laced with innuendos of a breeding ground for inertia, sinecure and free loaders who seem to do nothing except draw fat salaries, attend meetings all day contributing to the already Byzantine mountain of waste and failure that suggest surely the UN is doomed. Joining a the band wagon of UN bashers a plethora of online vigilante UN watchers as they are called such as Eye on the UN continue to insist that the UN is not only doomed, but should be dismantled and the rectangular building overlooking New York City’s East River should be turned into a five star hotel to cater for the needs of Japanese tourist.

Is the UN doomed? Are these doom’s day adherents just spouting the truth or are they simply sensationalizing a pack of lies designed to titillate and sell books, because it’s all about the capitalist manifesto isn’t it? Or is it really just an exercise in character assassination and chauvinist bile dressed up as journalism and why should it be important? The truth that is – well its important to me, because I once volunteered three months of my summer holidays during my undergraduate days to build an irrigation dam for farmers in Bihar in India under a UNESCO aid relief program. So I need to know that it wasn’t all in vain. I don’t for one moment discount the UN like all big oligarchies suffer from some degree of malfeasance and systematic flaws, but which juggernaut of an institution doesn’t? Neither do I believe all these accusations leveled at the UN captures accurately the truth or even encapsulates successfully what we often term the larger truth which makes up the whole impression of the real world.

That there are actually many UN’s within the UN remains a palpable truth. To name a few, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, UNRWA, ICTY form the core phalanx of the much of the world’s relief effort to continually alleviate poverty and the standard of living of most humans on this planet. Much of the work done by these units is routine. And the soft tasks of the UN – addressing health and environmental degradation, assisting women and children in crisis, educating farmers, training teachers, providing small scale loans, monitoring and cataloguing abuse – are sometimes indispensable assets to poorer countries where their governments may lack both the economic or technological know how to mount such a concerted long term exercise.

The press being the press would typically brush all these and focus exclusively on the proceedings of the security council, suggesting that this forms the mainstay of what the UN is all about, but this view though it sells newspapers and serves to bolster ratings remains inaccurate and serves only to deny the larger truth of what the UN is all about.

The UN works best when everyone acknowledges the legitimacy of its role. Whether it is peace keeping operations or overseeing elections, the UN today remains the only external interlocutor whose bona fide status are acknowledged by all including those in the Arab world, who still remain suspicious and mistrustful of the US and its allies.

Paradoxically, in an age when the US is supposed to race forward and gather the loose threads of the world to bring great peace and harmony to both planet and people, the US sadly remains the greatest impediment to the UN. Much attention in the past and present has been paid to the belligerent personality of the American ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Who demand “massive and collective management reform” in one hand, yet block a compromise that might actually achieve it by forestalling its share of contribution to the running and operation of the UN.

Instead of working within the collective framework of the UN, Bolton formed a de facto coalition with states like Zimbabwe, Belarus, and others who have their own reason for keeping the UN ineffective and out of their domestic affairs. And because the US refuses to concede on the reform of the Human Rights Council, the world has for the last 6 years hardly made any progress in protecting the rights of combatants and terror suspects. Instead their ill treatment remains a sore point of contention amongst even the most moderate Islamic states, thus bolstering terrorist recruitment.

Bolton’s description of the UN as a “twilight zone,” his predilection to denigrate no end treatise referring to them as “political obligations,” rather than what they actually are: legal agreements, may seem like just media fodder showmanship rhetoric, but it belies a far more disturbing trend. One that shifts the role of the US as being a facilitator of peace to one that simply sabotages the UN at every turn and stretch just to gain the barest yard of political mileage. It doesn’t help that the international media can’t be impartial enough to see through the charade either, but what do you really expect from a bunch of pirates who are just out to sell newspapers and nothing else.

It’s a disturbing shift because in US history stretching all the way back to Harry Truman and Bill Clinton have always acknowledge, as the latter said,

“She may not be a perfect doll house, but the UN is the only thing we really have to get things done.”

un2.jpgBack in the cold war days of lightning and thunder in the roaring 60’s, it was Mr. Khrushchev who banged his shoe on the table in the UN and symbolized the face of belligerence against the collective will of the international community; it was Moscow that hobbled the UN at every turn and vehemently opposed its reach into the domain of international affairs. Today, the US through John Bolton performs this dangerous role of senseless brinkmanship, and one really ponders –is it such a wonder that the UN is in the mess that it is today? And is it so surprising that in certain quarters of the world where the UN continues to remain ineffective and inconsequential, it’s often derisively referred too as the “United Nothing?”

In the book the Parliament of Man, Paul Kennedy perhaps summed up the larger truth of the UN despite all its floundering faults. In his closing sentences, he writes: the UN,

“has brought great benefits to our generation and, with civic resolution and generosity by all of us who can contribute further to its work, will bring benefits to our children’s and grandchildren’s generations as well.”

That to me remains a promising notion, and everyone who ever pondered the role of the UN as a method of progressing in this day and age has to simply come to grips with it – the truth that it’s the only means, perhaps the only vestige that we have, to make the world a better and saner place.

[ In June 2004, the author returned back to the village in Bihar, India where a three stage irrigation dam was once erected by an Engineering volunteer corp sent by UNESCO, surveying the emerald green padi fields. He spotted a group of fresh faced students of various nationalities, sporting light blue caps of the United Nations. Looking at the fields he smiled and nodded to himself and said, “there may be hope after all.]

(By Harphoon & Pumpman / Politics / Strategic Studies EP 993273 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)

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7 Responses to “When the UN Simply Means – The United Nothing”

  1. anongal said

    Harphy boy,

    Hits the spot. I like this run on foreign policy, its a good move bc everything is getting rather stale in Sg. The whole of blogosphere seems to be just going around in big and small circles. As for the MSM. I really dont know why they even bother. They seem to be recycling their old hats and trying to dress up as the new collection this season.

    Sorry for going off point. I knew something was wrong with the UN but I just couldnt put my finger on it. I guess alot of the media is pro Republican so they will not tell it the way it actually is. But the whole idea of the US being an agent of disrupting the UN is certainly very new and even quite shocking to me. However I am glad that you have included plenty of references, so this will go some way to lend an air of credibility to your assertion. Attribution I believe is very important. Only pls dont go overboard otherwise it would really read like card board chicken. And dear boy who would ever want to bore themselves to death? So I really don’t think any of you should change yr style. Thats one of the most beautiful things abt the b’hood press. Everyone even if they write as a group has a distinct way of writing, expressing and analyzing. Thats the difference between a human and a machine.

    This is a very good start Harphy.

    Do keep it up IS and the b’hood.

    As for Astros and Scholarboys. They have done quite a good job, but I am a bit sad they didnt offer any suggestions or solutions. Perhaps their second parter would go some way to shed some light as to what the US should do or what it really requires to effect the turn around. Just a suggestion.

    Many thanks again and have a very nice day. Anongal.

  2. LWL said

    What an expose! I cant believe the brotherhood dares to take on a journalist from FOX! A blast of a read that had me and everyone sitting on the edge of my seat. I think this will be talk in the office for days. Brilliant eye opener! I really wasn’t aware of this at all! Sorry. Its not that I dont read bc I do. Its just that our ST doesn’t regularly produce this sort of investigative reports.

    What I like abt this article you actually provided the links to establish your points. There r actually folks who hate the UN and they r making $ out of hatred.

    I found the last line in the article heart wrenching, but filled with hope. Well done.

  3. lenovo said

    Like dropping a bomb. And the brotherhood even dares to take on an ang moh journalist! Good on u all! Many of the ppl in my office r discussing this. A fight nearly broke in the pantry hahahahaha I wonder why no one told us abt all this. Maybe it pays dividends to keep us all stupid? Stupid ppl r always like sheep. They never seem to ask questions. Even if they are led to this place called the slaughter house.

    Or Maybe I am just paranoid hahahaha! I need to go and join the fight in the pantry. We have a mini UN here ahahahahaha a United Nothing that is. hahahahahaha. Cheers

  4. jumanji said

    Very well done Sir. You tackled a very difficult topic and came through quite nicely. I like the ending, it leaves one not knowing whether there is actually hope for the future. Or whether you are just reminiscing abt the remembrance of things past. Cheers!

  5. Oscar said

    I’d just like to echo Anongal and say that this was better than the GHDs, guys. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you fellas keep improving.

  6. Lassie said

    I enjoyed this very much. Just a few points. I feel that there are elements to what you wrote that applies to both scholarboy and astroboys article e.g whatever happens in Iraq, the US will still need to work alongside the UN peacekeeping force etc.

    Currently as it is. I personally feel Bush has absolutely no EQ. He has more or less alienated the key powers in S.America headed by Chavez. In Europe both France and Germany think he is a loose canon in greater Asia the chinese think he is a scare monger with his silly support of Taiwan.

    Talk about a bull in a China shop.

  7. Sama sama said

    A collective, umbrella organisation is useless if no one wants to cooperate anyway.

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