How Corrupt Is the U.N.?

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That's the question Claudia Rosset asks in Commentary. The short answer: pretty damn corrupt. After running through various scandals and such, she gets to a more-general point about the group:

The founding purpose of the UN was to bring peace and prosperity to the globe. As to the former, the UN in the age of terror has been in most ways useless and in some ways positively dangerous. The lesson that Saddam Hussein quickly grasped was that the UN lends itself to money-laundering. With its big flows of funds across borders, its many contractors and public-private partnerships, its gigantic bureaucracy and lax controls, its diplomatic immunity, and its culture of impunity, the UN operation is a prime candidate not only for graft but, as Charles Duelfer discovered, for arms deals masked as medicine and soap. Further protecting those arms deals, and the rogues and tyrants making them, is the fact that in its capacity as a deliberative body, the UN has repeatedly urged appeasement in the face of real threats to world peace and just as repeatedly tried to constrain those (like the U.S. and its allies) willing to act to remove them.

More here.

A decade ago, Reason's Brian Doherty took a long look at the "Unimportant Nations" before channeling the Amityville Horror and whispering insistently, "Get out!" Brian's case is online here.

In the U.N.'s favor–and this is no small point–you'll recall that last year the group (via Unicef) produced an anti-war cartoon in which the Smurfs are literally bombed back to Belgium or whatever Fourth World hellhole from which they sprout like so much fungus. More on that delightful scenario here. Here's looking forward to a U.N.-approved "Tin-Tin in Abu Ghraib" cartoon next.

NEXT: Iran's Enlightened Prohibitionists

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  1. Uh, yeah, could somebody remind me of the threat to world peace that the US and its allies were constrained from removing?

  2. joe,

    The US and it’s allies were constrained to wage an “illegal war” in the Balkans coz of UN court byzantinism. I do remember you claiming that Milosevic et all were a threat to “World Peace” of WW1 proportions. Did you change your mind ? Or is it now OK for the US to flout international rule of law while the UN fiddles ?

  3. Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Rwanda…want a few more or should I stop?

  4. Here’s something interesting (not exactly “fun”): go read some of the UN’s internal publications. The stories fall into two categories.

    1. This project is a great success, so give us more money for it
    2. This project is a terrible failure, so give us more money for it

    Seriously, if you wanted a test case for why bureaucracies are bad, I can hardly think of a better one than the UN. It’s huge, it has no real principles, directives, or purpose, it’s not answerable to anybody. And this body was supposed to solve the world’s problems?

  5. “Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Rwanda…want a few more or should I stop?”

    And the U.N. “repeatedly tried to constrain those (like the U.S. and its allies) willing to act to remove them” how again? (Setting aside the point that some of these, like Zimbabwe are in no fucking conceivable way “real threats to world peace”.)

  6. SM,

    Russia sitting on the UNSC isn’t Byzantinism.

    rafuzo,

    Rawanda? The U.S. was a primary mover and shaker in keeping an international forced out of that country.

    When has the U.S. seriously contemplated invading Syria or Zimbabwe?

    I’m no defender of the U.N., but please, the examples that you give undermine your case, especially Rawanda.

  7. When has the U.S. seriously contemplated invading Syria

    Hak, you should check the thread below recounting all the dire threats the US has made against Syria, and how this justifies Syria locking up political dissidents.

  8. SR,

    Basically two countries kept an international force out of Rawanda – the U.S. and France. Indeed, the lack of initiative for any particular conflict is generally blocked by one or more countries on the UNSC.

    Nick Gillespie,

    I really wish people would stop thinking of the U.N. as a sovereign entity with a military, power to tax, etc. The UN does what its masters tell it to do.

    With its big flows of funds across borders…

    The amount of money that the UN gets its hands on is miniscule.

  9. R.C. Dean,

    Then, pray reveal, how did the U.N. keep these hordes of invaders out of Syria?

  10. “Basically two countries kept an international force out of Rawanda – the U.S. and France.”

    Yes, I know. That was kind of my point.

  11. SR,

    Which, kind sir and friend, I was merely trying to bolster.

  12. SM,

    See, I was looking for an example of the US being, you know, constrained. The term “constrained” generally refers to having your freedom to act limited, and I don’t see much evidence of that.

    rafuzo,

    Care to enlightening us about what actions the US would have carried out in any of those countries, that the UN prevented?

    RC,

    The American policy towards Syria has been to rattle its saber, cosponsor a UN resolution (which passed) with France, and use the bully pulpit to laud Lebanese indepedence and Syrian reform. Would you care to point out where UN tried to constrain us?

  13. “Which, kind sir and friend, I was merely trying to bolster.”

    Oh, sorry for being defensive.

  14. “It’s huge, it has no real principles, directives, or purpose, it’s not answerable to anybody.”

    And I’m sending them my resum? this afternoon.

  15. The UN is simply a reflection of it’s parts. We’re the biggest part, and so if the UN “has no real principles, directives, or purpose, (and) it’s not answerable to anybody,” then is just a reflection on us – and a pretty accurate one, too.

    JMJ

  16. SR,

    No biggie.

  17. I never said the UN tried to restrain us.

    Hak was questioning whether we had ever threatened to invade Syria, and a thread down below had some posts recounting all the supposed dire threats we have made against Syria.

    I report, you decide.

  18. R.C. Dean,

    Fine.

  19. JMJ – “The UN is simply a reflection of it’s parts.” Arguably. Congress is made up of its parts too, but while many individual Congressmen may be decent enough human beings, Congress is still a mess as a whole. It is hardly a radical idea to suggest that groups may have characteristics that aren’t evident in any of their constituent parts.

    “We’re the biggest part” Who is “we”? The US? We’re 1/180th of the general membership, 1/15th of the Security Council, and 1/5th of the Permanent Security Council. We pay more money than anyone else, for some inexplicable reason (about 22% of the regular budget and slightly more of the peacekeeping budget) but that doesn’t give us any more say in the operations of the UN.

  20. Hak: I wasn’t aware that the U.S. had blocked intervention in Rwanda. Since Rwanda was in the same neighborhood as Chad, I just figured that it must naturally have been within France’s sphere of influence (and responsibility). Why did France stay out?

  21. Maybe this answers my own question: http://www.libcom.org/history/articles/rwanda-war-genocide-1994/index.php
    If true, it means that the French government actively aided and abetted genocide.

  22. Hak: I wasn’t aware that the U.S. had blocked intervention in Rwanda. Since Rwanda was in the same neighborhood as Chad, I just figured that it must naturally have been within France’s sphere of influence (and responsibility). Why did France stay out?

    Because France was planning and orchestrating the genocide.

  23. JD,

    We are the elephant in the room at the UN. Always have been. We are not 1/180th by a long stretch. That’s an oversimplification.

    We ought to pay 25% of the bills as that’s roughly what we consume and produce in waste as a percentage of the whole world. Also, our economic (and now military as well) empire covers at least 25% of the world as well.

    All you UN haters out there – you hate yourselves.

    JMJ

  24. Yeah my hoplophobic friend,

    Next you’ll be telling us that anyone who is opposed to the policies of the federal Government hates themselves too… Right? 🙂

  25. ron,

    The Clinton Administration used its influence in the to U.N. to discourage any sort of response to the events in Rwanda.

    See: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB53/

    Ron,

    The allegations against the Mitterand regime are difficult to tease out, but its clear that it didn’t have clean hands.

  26. joe,
    “See, I was looking for an example of the US being, you know, constrained. The term “constrained” generally refers to having your freedom to act limited, and I don’t see much evidence of that.”

    I see what you are saying. It doesn’t count unless UN troops are at the gates of Washington, preferably with severed heads posted on pikes and rings of impaled bodies.
    Whatever happened to all those complaints about the Bush administration ignoring “international laws” and the like ? Oh well …

  27. All you UN haters out there – you hate yourselves.

    Get a grip JMJ.

  28. yeah here is an actual link to the smurftown bombing

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9222396217817160344&q=bomb+smurftown&pl=true

    My views on the surftown bombing are similar to the ones i have of wrestleing sensation turned actor “The Rock”

    The Rock should be in every movie ever made and the smurftown bombing should be referanced in every Reason article ever written.

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