Saturday, December 11, 2004

In college days, I was aware of them. They were the fringe, and beyond, who believed fluoridation of the public water supply was a communist plot to poison us; Dwight Eisenhower was a closet communist; the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations were part of the drive for “one world government”; Jewish bankers ran the world economy and the United States should get out of the United Nations.

Without buying into the paranoia and conspiracy theories, I am now a convert to the last one. The United Nations does not serve the interests of the United States or the objectives of democracies. The oil-for-food scandal, in which billions of dollars were misappropriated in Iraq, exposed a corrupt bureaucracy, rotting from the head. In the United Nations, the United States is opposed by dictatorial regimes that are treated as our equals.

Paul Weyrich, who heads the conservative Free Congress Foundation, writes in his Web commentary, “The U.N. now is dominated by nations of the Third World whose values are so distant from our own that they won’t even object to the genocide occurring in the Sudan.”

Mr. Weyrich says he opposes any form of “world government” because, “It would only mean that a cabal who hates our religions and our way of life could gang up on the U.S.A. No good could possibly come from such an institution.”

Mr. Weyrich is not an isolationist. He believes some sort of association of nations can be useful but should consist only of democracies. Democracies don’t start wars against each other and are likelier to care for the poor and needy than nations that create most of the poor and needy.

What does the United States get for its money? We pay 22 percent of the U.N. budget, but get 100 percent of the grief from nations who hate us and what we stand for. The League of Nations failed for many of the same reasons the U.N. is failing. The League and the U.N. are based on a flawed philosophy that believes humans are basically good. There is ample contemporary and historical evidence to the contrary.

John Danforth, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced he is leaving after just five months in the job. This kind and decent man saw firsthand the futility of trying to persuade the U.N. to stop the genocide in Sudan. Mr. Danforth spoke with Jon Sawyer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about the ambassador’s success in getting the Security Council to meet in Nairobi to discuss Sudan. Representatives of the Sudanese government and the main rebel group signed a memorandum promising to conclude peace talks by Dec. 31.

Yet, as Mr. Danforth thought about his recent diplomatic trip to Nairobi to negotiate a deal between rebels and the Sudanese government, he seemed more aware than ever of the U.N.’s shortcomings. “What’s the Security Council?” he said to Mr. Sawyer. “It is the only real power within the United Nations, and it’s a very weak power.” The council’s strength, he said, is “the ability to put real problems front and center,” but the body’s weakness — its system of vetoes and supermajorities — prevents it from using its power to “actually act.”

Modern diplomats too often prefer the dithering process to the successful outcome. The process allows them to baptize their failures beneath the soothing water of “caring.” Caring and a willingness to address “complex problems” are more highly valued than actually resolving something for the common good.

The U.S. presence in the U.N. gives credence to dictators and prevents accountability by most nations. Consider the worthless resolutions passed by the United Nations to control Saddam Hussein before the United States took them seriously and did what the U.N. was afraid to do: act.

Too many U.N. members hate us because our decisiveness exposes their vacillation. The world would be better off without this body and with an association of democracies in its place. It is unlikely to happen, because false hope is preferred by too many diplomats and politicians over actual results. Still, the slogan “U.S. out of U.N. — Now” never sounded timelier or represented an act more beneficial to the United States.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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