Sunday, January 02, 2005

Kofi Annan's UN...and Jacques Maritain's

The UN continues its nosedive. The latest is from the IHT:

Sad, tragic, and ugly. One doesn't know where to begin. Twentieth century American foreign policy was committed to international law and the building of international community--hence the near theological commitment first to the League of Nations, then to the UN. For an Aristotelian there is a special connection: Jacques Maritain, the brilliant French Thomistic philosopher, played a key role in the drafting of the UN Charter.

Meanwhile the US Congress has just begun to stick a shovel into the Augean stables of Kofi Annan's UN:

1. There is every reason at present to believe that Kofi and his son Kojo are simple thieves, profiteering off the Oil-for-Food program.
2. There is every reason to believe that key officials at the UN worked to interfere in the American election and defeat President Bush.
3. After attacking the US for stinginess in response to the tsunami, it now turns out that the UN has done almost nothing to get aid to the victims: what aid gets in is heavily dependent on the US military and USAID. (Hat tip to the team blogging at Diplomad).

We are dealing an institution discredited at every level and the first step toward change is cashiering Kofi Annan.

But the problems are deeper. Despite the loathing that the UN incites in some political circles in the US and elsewhere, the original vision of the UN was fundamentally sound: in a globally connected world, global cooperation is simply rational. The question is whether the UN still has a constructive role to play in that global cooperation.

Here the key issue was identified by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1970s: the UN is all too often a collection of jackals, a motley group of dictatorial regimes whose policies stand in total contempt for the universal human rights that Maritain hoped ultimately to see prevail.

A good place to start reform would be to extend the democracy agenda to the UN, to stop treating dictatorships as the moral equivalent of democracies, to give dictatorships second-class status at the UN until they democratize. That would set off much howling among the jackals--but that wouldn't be a bad place to begin.


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