Iraq

U.S. Out of U.N.! Or Is It U.N. Out of U.S.?

|

Via Arts & Letters Daily comes a Nation review of two book about Kofi Annan and the U.N. and how both are/were/always will be tools of the U.S.

Snippet which seems to undermine that very point:

The invasion of Iraq, however, would pose a severer test. Annan had presided over the sanctions regime without a qualm and not demurred at Operation Desert Fox, the four-day bombing campaign Clinton oversaw in 1998. When the Bush Administration began its push for war with Resolution 1441, which declared Iraq in material breach of all past resolutions on its disarmament, Annan swung into action to pressure all members of the Security Council to vote for it, personally phoning Syria's President Bashar Assad to insure that there would not be a single abstention. Unanimity was secured, but a hitch arose at the next stage. The French told the White House that while they could not accept a second Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing an attack on Iraq, which would implicate them, they had no objection to a US invasion based on an American interpretation of 1441–the course that Cheney was urging within the Administration. But Blair, who wanted to join in the attack, insisted that a second resolution was necessary to protect him from criticisms at home, and got Powell's support for a futile attempt to circumvent a French veto in the Security Council. Such mutual hypocrisies put Annan in an awkward spot. Blessing the Balkan War was one thing: In 1999, the West was united in the attack on Yugoslavia. But now the West, to all appearances, was divided. What should he do? If only the French had come round, we learn, all might have been well. "He would have accepted, and perhaps even embraced," Traub tells us, "a resolution authorizing war so long as the council was firmly united behind it." But unity was not forthcoming, and an embrace remained out of reach. Operation Iraqi Freedom rolled ahead. In March 2003, "shock and awe" hit Baghdad….

The future of the United Nations is safe. It will continue to be, as it was intended to be, a serviceable auxiliary mechanism of the Pax Americana.

Which is not to say there's anything good about Annan or the U.N.–once dubbed the "unimportant nations" by Reason's Brian Doherty. But I find the above somewhat confusing.

Check for yourself here.

NEXT: Schnozzola Does His Part

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It is beyond confusing.

    Did you guys miss the latest ‘Bush march to war’ against Iran? Another Security COuncil resolution against them!

    How close to 14 are we now? Or is the magic number 17?

  2. Do we have to go over this again, Guy?

    It’s 17…5-7-5…

    sigh…

  3. jimmy,

    Sorry, I did not get a poetry degree nor did I call successful football plays. My skills are somewhere inbetween 🙂

  4. Gee, we sure could have used an exit strategy before we went into Iraq. As a general rule, before I get involved in anything, just in case things go badly, I make sure I know the way out.

    The UN seems like it’s good for that. If it was good for that and nothing else, that would redeem it in my eyes.

    I can’t think of much else nice to say about the UN… Some of their programs do help some terribly poor people.

    …but if any UN bashers out there would kindly take the time to educate me about what constitutes a better exit strategy–before going into a place like Iraq–I’d really appreciate it.

    …and by way of forewarning, I don’t think expecting Democracy to bloom in the aftermath of a bombing and occupation is a more reasonable assumption, say, compared to garnering support in the UN.

    P.S. Not having a way out isn’t necessarily a good enough reason not to go to war–but that’s only because some wars are wars of self-defense.

  5. I’m confused by your confusion.

    Annan worked to do what the US wanted. What’s the confusion?

    Ken,

    Someone is going to respond to your question by typing “Victory,” and spend the rest of the day with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

  6. As a sort of left-libertarian, I would observe that all governments tend to ratify the desires and worldview of the powerful. When they stop doing that, we have a revolution, and a new elite takes power and uses the government as a tool to protect and advance its interests; what Jacques Barzun called “a transfer of wealth and power from one group to another,” and what the Who called, “the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Since the UN promotes itself as a half-assed world government, can it really be surprising that it has, despite rhetoric and pretensions to the contrary, uniformly fallen into line behind the interests of the wealthy and the powerful? Spare me any gibberish about their alleged criticisms of the West, and supposed socialism, and rampant spending to help the poor. Their criticisms amount to hot air and their spending does little more than put UN bureaucrats to work. When have they ever seriously obstructed something a really powerful nation wanted?

    Precisely once, in Korea, and the UN never made that mistake again.

  7. I clicked over to the “Unimportant Nations” article and John McCain has an ad there! WTF, does he really think he is going to get many votes from Reason readers? Maybe he is just trying to damage control after the cover story.

  8. Penguin,

    The ads aren’t that specific. That is to say there is a different ad almost everytime you click through. I assume they have themselves set up to something like GoggleAds (maybe it even is that) that is giving context sensitive ads.

    I mean I don’t have any AdBlocker extensions, so I notice the Reasons ads tend to cover a wide range of thing, everything from ‘Why Mommy Is a Democrat’, ‘John McCain ads’, to ‘Libertarian Graphic Novels’.

  9. Yeah, I just rechecked. They are google ads, last time I clicked through I got a businss school ad and now I’m getting one for ‘how to find lists of government grants’.

    The great part about this is all the incidental humor that arises from the very ‘unlibertarian’ style ads often getting linked to this site because of all the nice little political keywords and what not (or whatever context sensitive mechanism they use for GoogleAds, I’m not THAT familiar with the algoritms behind it).

  10. Anyone who has any respect for the United Nations should watch the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” If you have the slightest shred of morality you will loose all respect for the United Nations (if you had any respect for it to begin with) after seeing “Hotel Rwanda.”

  11. Bzial,

    Thank’s, I didn’t know McCain was set up with them. It still is Ironic. Not quite as Ironic as an ad for “government grants” on a libertarian site though.

  12. Annan worked to do what the US wanted. What’s the confusion?

    Pffft. Annan worked to do what Annan wanted: maintain the oil-for-bribes system. I don’t believe Traub; I think Annan just wanted an excuse: Gosh, George, I’d really like to help you out, but those darn Frenchies won’t agree. Guess we’ll just have to maintain sanctions….

  13. …John McCain has an ad there!

    Hello, brother. Hope it’s cold enough for you.

    To add to the irony, when I went to the page, the “authoritarian McCain” Reason cover ad was right next to it. I had google ads on my short-lived website, and my experience was much the same. “Contextual” ads that missed the point entirely.

    Shelby – re: Annan, shouldn’t that be “he did just what his son wanted…?

    As for the UN, they seem to be good at providing “peacekeepers” who sexually exploit / enslave their “protectees”.

  14. U.S. Out of U.N.! Or Is It U.N. Out of U.S.?

    One of each, please.

  15. No haikus here yet
    I must rectify with these
    Meaningless verses

  16. “Annan worked to do what Annan wanted: maintain the oil-for-bribes system.”

    Huh?

    “Annan swung into action to pressure all members of the Security Council to vote for it, personally phoning Syria’s President Bashar Assad to insure that there would not be a single abstention.”

    Prejudice, meet Evidence. Evidence, Prejudice. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about.

  17. Gee, we sure could have used an exit strategy before we went into Iraq. As a general rule, before I get involved in anything, just in case things go badly, I make sure I know the way out.

    That’s generally a good rule, Ken.

    During the run up to the Iraq war, a friend of mine (an antiwar.com lover) asked me how long I thought the US would need to be in Iraq to stabilize the place after Saddam was removed. My answer: 50 years. So, not having an exit strategy doesn’t bother me at all. (That is not to say that BushCo hasn’t made a hash of things.)

  18. Not sure I get what is it that people expect the UN should be able to do? I mean considering the decision-making structure it is saddled with and the various veto powers and other blocking measures used by virtually all involved nations to game the system at every point, why is it that so much scorn is aimed at the UN as though it was an individual animal that happens to be spineless etc etc?

  19. The United Nations
    An Organic Entity
    That clubs baby seals

  20. “Not sure I get what is it that people expect the UN should be able to do?”

    Take taxpayer dollars in order to hold meetings and issue strongly worded resolutions that warn of future strongly worded resolutions that warn of even more strongly worded resolutions. Then if you don’t comply they might get really, really mad.

  21. “Gee, we sure could have used an exit strategy before we went into Iraq. As a general rule, before I get involved in anything, just in case things go badly, I make sure I know the way out.

    The UN seems like it’s good for that. If it was good for that and nothing else, that would redeem it in my eyes.”

    I think the UN’s exit strategy consists of never actually entering or running away. That is by far the absolute best way to ensure that you never get bogged down in anything, eh, uncomfortable.

    Yay! The UN has once again avoided a guagmire! This time Sudan. I can’t wait to see the next genocidal event that the UN will avoid.

  22. “Anyone who has any respect for the United Nations should watch the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” If you have the slightest shred of morality you will loose all respect for the United Nations (if you had any respect for it to begin with) after seeing “Hotel Rwanda.”

    I’m not sure I understand the logic here.

    So the UN wasn’t willing to do anything the U.S. wasn’t willing to do. While hundreds of thousands of people were getting hacked to death, we didn’t want to do anything, the Soviets didn’t want to do anything, the EU didn’t want to do anything–and in fact may have been complicit to some extent…

    And we’re supposed to blame the U.N. for not having a backbone?

    From the standpoint of American interests, it’s one thing to criticize the U.N. for not doing something we want it to do, but I don’t know how, from the standpoint of American interests, we can blame the U.N. for not doing something the U.S. didn’t want it to do.

    I suppose the U.N. can serve as a whipping boy to cover our own morally questionable inaction. …so there’s another use. “How dare you do nothing about Rwanda! Bad UN! Bad, Bad, Bad UN!”

    Reports I’ve heard suggest that if we’d just pretended to care, more than half the genocide victims might have been spared. …but we didn’t, and that’s the UN’s fault?!

  23. “I think the UN’s exit strategy consists of never actually entering or running away. That is by far the absolute best way to ensure that you never get bogged down in anything, eh, uncomfortable.”

    Just for the record, I wasn’t suggesting that the UN needed an exit strategy for its own missions; I was suggesting that the UN is an excellent exit strategy for our missions.

    …Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could have handed the whole Iraqi mess over…oh, let me see–years ago!?

  24. “…Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could have handed the whole Iraqi mess over…oh, let me see–years ago!?”

    I think the UN implemented their exit strategy in Iraq years ago. There they go preplanning again.

  25. U.S. Out of U.N.! Or Is It U.N. Out of U.S.?

    One of each, please.

    And while we’re at it, let’s take Wavy Gravy’s advice and get the U.S. out of North America…

  26. North America is a continent, not an organization that takes tax dollars for the purpose of making tin pot dictators feel like they are part of some grand organization.

  27. Exactly right, Cartman. The UN is a forum, not an entity. The UN doesn’t do anything – countries do something, and operate through and within the UN.

    In case “eb” hasn’t noticed, the United States hasn’t done anything about Sudan, either. As a matter of fact, it is because the United States hasn’t done anything about Sudan that the UN hasn’t done anything, either.

    The UN is an effective, useful, meaningful organization to the extent that the United States wields it in the furtherance of our foreign policy.

  28. Joe, Why is it that when the United States gets active in foreign policy people complain but when the United States doe NOT get active in foreign policy people complain.

  29. U.S. Out of U.N.! Or Is It U.N. Out of U.S.?

    Either. Both.

  30. It’s funny, but come the end of a thread, I often find myself agreeing with joe. …not because I want to, but because the people on the side I should be arguing are on my side for all the wrong reasons.

    …I can’t believe I’ve been reduced to arguing on the UN’s behalf–it’s freakin’ ridiculous!

    And this isn’t the first time I’ve come across the Rwanda/UN fantasy. You know the fantasy–it’s the one where the United States was trying to do something about Rwanda, but the big, bad UN stymied our efforts at every turn.

    It’s such a ridiculous fantasy. I’d call the people who espouse it propaganda victims, but I’ve never heard anyone in a position of authority tell the story that way. It seems to have just grown organically in people’s heads–it’s a freakin’ urban legend, people!

  31. “In case “eb” hasn’t noticed, the United States hasn’t done anything about Sudan, either. As a matter of fact, it is because the United States hasn’t done anything about Sudan that the UN hasn’t done anything, either.

    The UN is an effective, useful, meaningful organization to the extent that the United States wields it in the furtherance of our foreign policy.”

    This is simply nonsensical. It doesn’t even warrant any more than…repeat what I just said.

    Ken, I don’t know about what anybody else here believes but the fact that the UN did nothing in Rawanda, which it did, nothing except pull out troops and let a million people die, does not mean the US did anything either. The US bears a great deal of responsibility.

    And in years to come perhaps Bush will travel to Sudan and apologize to the dead Sudanese just like Clinton did in Rwanda. Meanwhile everybody can feel assured that we didn’t get our hands dirty. That seems to be everybody’s preferred position.

    In the mean time there is this organization that claims to have a role, no THE moral authority, to arbitrate these situations. And millions and millions continue to die because the organization that supposedely represents the moral conscious of the world prefers to sit things out.

  32. “So the UN wasn’t willing to do anything the U.S. wasn’t willing to do. While hundreds of thousands of people were getting hacked to death, we didn’t want to do anything, the Soviets didn’t want to do anything, the EU didn’t want to do anything–and in fact may have been complicit to some extent…”

    Ken, there were UN troops there . . . unarmed UN Troops who had so much bureaucracy to go through they really could not do anything. That IS the UN’s fault.

    “From the standpoint of American interests, it’s one thing to criticize the U.N. for not doing something we want it to do, but I don’t know how, from the standpoint of American interests, we can blame the U.N. for not doing something the U.S. didn’t want it to do.”

    Gee, I thought it was supposed to be the United Nations, not an arm of the U.S. State Department. If it is an arm of the U.S. State Department why do they criticize Israel for defending herself? That is not consistent with being a puppet of the United States. Isn’t Rwanda a member? What about from the standpoint of African Interests?

  33. And this isn’t the first time I’ve come across the Rwanda/UN fantasy. You know the fantasy–it’s the one where the United States was trying to do something about Rwanda, but the big, bad UN stymied our efforts at every turn.

    Ken, I was not arguing that the United States WAS trying to do anything, merely that the UN (if it is worth anything at all) should have been doing more. Your falacy here is the classic Tu Quoque falacy. Here is a link to help you brush up on your logic skills:
    http://www.cuyamaca.edu/bruce.thompson/fallacies/tuquoque.asp

  34. “Antarctic Penguin | March 16, 2007, 10:36pm |

    Joe, Why is it that when the United States gets active in foreign policy people complain but when the United States doe NOT get active in foreign policy people complain.”

    Maybe it has something to do with the phrase “gets active in foreign policy” being utterly meaningless. Remember when those riots broke out when we bailed out the peso? Good times, good times.

  35. Wow, eb, that was so snarky, I almost missed the fact that you have no answer.

  36. Joe, let me be more specific then. When the United States sends in troops to protect lives people complain but when the Unites States does NOT send in troops to save lives people complain. I wish the world would make up its mind. Do they want the United States to intervene or not?

  37. It seems all the comments (unless I overlooked one) have gone off on tangents and are ignoring Mr. Gillespie’s original point. Here is a case where Annan did not do what the U.S. wanted. He might have done what a united West wanted, but he would not (in this case) support a unilateral U.S. action. That undermines the idea that he always did what the U.S. wanted. Like Mr. Gillespie, I am confused.

  38. No, Penguin. Very few people complain when the US sends troops to protect people’s lives, except a few extremists on the “anti-imperialist” left and “anti-nation building” right. There is absolutely no way you are going to get away with describing the Iraq War as “the US sending troops to protect people’s lives.”

    If you’re interesting in an honest, accurate discussion, you’ll stop deliberately muddling the question.

    “Do they want the United States to intervene or not?” It depends on the situation. When we’re talking about the United States actually intervening to save people’s lives, there is often a great deal of support for American intervention. When we’re talking about intervening in order to expand our military and political power, and the “saving people’s lives” bit is just so much rhetorical window dressing, people around the world demonstrate a much higher capacity for seeing through that rhetoric than, say, your typical Iraq War supporter.

    I know, I know, between having to think about the actual facts on the ground in various situations, and believing that the morality of an action depends on those facts, this subject is probably beyond the capacities of an American conservative.

  39. “Your falacy here is the classic Tu Quoque falacy.”

    I’m not saying that America is also to blame; I’m saying that you seem to be putting the cart before the horse. …blaming the UN in this case is like blaming a bullet for shooting somebody.

    Yes, in the case of Iraq, I wish the UN had done what we wanted, but in the case of Rwanda, neither the United States nor any of the other member states in the Security Council wanted to intervene. …but why would we want a UN that does what we don’t want it to do?

    …are you criticizing the UN’s inaction or not?

  40. An American complaing that “the UN” didn’t stop the Rwandan genocide is like a guy looking a cigarette butt on his street day after day after day, and complaining the “the City” didn’t clean it up.

    Pick it up yourself, you lazy sack of sh*t! Or pick up the phone and call the DPW.

    Ken,

    He’s criticizing some theoretical group of people who think the UN is a powerful, self-directed force for eternal good in the world.

  41. “…this subject is probably beyond the capacities of an American conservative.”

    If we’d only done when asked what we eventually did anyway, we might have saved the lives of 500,000 people. …by simply supporting the deployment of 5,000 non-American troops.

    I think there are very few, even among conservative ideologues, who can’t see any wisdom in that.

  42. Ken, and many other American conservatives,

    I apologize for that snark.

    Here’s a question: for all of the self-congratulations we hear from neoconservatives for being humanitarians rather than realists, can anyone think of an example of their supporting a humanitarian mission that didn’t advance American power?

    Can anyone think of an example of neoconservatives supporting something on priciple – on humanitarian or democratic grounds – when doing so would set back American power?

    I sure can’t.

  43. Response to Joe:

    “There is absolutely no way you are going to get away with describing the Iraq War as “the US sending troops to protect people’s lives.””

    I judge an action, not by its motivation but by its result. What the ultimate result will be is still very much up in the air and it depends on how long the US and other collation troops keep boots on the ground. To the Kurds, the Marsh Arabs and other oppressed minorities it does not matter the reason we went in so much as it matters that we did.

    “It depends on the situation.”

    It depends on what is convenient for the people doing the complaining or supporting. When it comes to support for US Foreign policy (with a few exceptions) the question is generally not one of principle but convenience.

    Are you calling me an “American conservative” I am not, I am an Antarctican libertarian.

  44. Response to Ken:

    “. …but why would we want a UN that does what we don’t want it to do?

    …are you criticizing the UN’s inaction or not?”

    Antarctica is not a member of the United Nations but the United States is and it pays quite a lot of money to that organization. What is it paying money for exactly? For countries to come together and just talk? Talk about what? Why should anyone listen if the United Nations is toothless? I do not know of any nation that actively supported the genocide there and said “Raw, Raw, Genocide, We love Genocide!” I do not think the United States, Antarctica or any other country would have actually complained if something actually had been done to stop the killing.

    Yes, I am criticizing the UN’s inaction.

  45. “He’s criticizing some theoretical group of people who think the UN is a powerful, self-directed force for eternal good in the world.”

    Joe, That group of people is not merely theoretical, it exists. What I am actually criticizing is the huge waste of tax money that is spent of this glorified debating society. If it is worth spending dinero on it should actually produce something for that money.

  46. I’d argue that one of the things they’re good for, one of the things our tax money may be well spent on, is an exit strategy.

    If you look at the bit up top, we essentially had Security Council approval for invading Iraq–it’s just that France wouldn’t support the second resolution explicitly.

    “What if” exercises are always dicey, but if we’d invaded under the auspices of the UN, I can’t help but think that things might have gone differently. …that it might be blue helmets in Iraq right now rather than our troops. That we might have officially handed the whole mess over to the UN. If we could have done that and exited Iraq gracefully (comparatively speaking), that might have been worth our tax money.

    If only the French had come round, we learn, all might have been well.”

    I’m no authority on the subject, but I read those events differently. It seems to me that if Blair hadn’t insisted on a second resolution, that we might have had UN support.

    …which is to say that if the Bush Administration hadn’t caved to Blair, if they’d bet that Blair would back them after all rather than that France wasn’t serious about opposing a second resolution, then “all might have been well”.

  47. “I’d argue that one of the things they’re good for, one of the things our tax money may be well spent on, is an exit strategy.”

    The United States has an exit strategy – victory.

    “. …that it might be blue helmets in Iraq right now rather than our troops.”

    And, as was the case in Rwanda, they would probably not be permitted to shoot.

  48. “Someone is going to respond to your question by typing “Victory,” and spend the rest of the day with a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

    —-joe | March 16, 2007, 2:23pm | #

    “The United States has an exit strategy – victory.”

    —-Antarctic Penguin | March 17, 2007, 2:46pm | #

    So the set’s over and the point goes to joe?

  49. Ken, that was an attempt on his part to poison the well. But “warm fuzzy feeling” or not that is the strategy. And why would it not be? What is the point in going to war if not to win it?

  50. “Wow, eb, that was so snarky, I almost missed the fact that you have no answer.”

    If your definition of “snarky” is: An answer that only joe can’t understand. Well, glad to be of help…to somebody.

    In the tradition of Godwin’s law, shouldn’t using the phrase “sack of sh*t!” in a political debate indicate the end of debate. If for no other reason than using the “*” to disguise the use the “s” word?

  51. “I judge an action, not by its motivation but by its result.”

    That’s nice, but this discussion is about philosophy, the thinking that goes into deciding whether to undertake a mission. You specifically asked about mission undertaken FOR THE PURPOSE of saving lives. Please don’t change the subject, because it’s an important and worthwhile one to discuss.

    “If it is worth spending dinero on it should actually produce something for that money.” As I wrote, the UN produces to the extent that the United States wields it to advance our foreign policy goals. See First Gulf War, or the resolution we co-sponsored with our French allies that resulted in Syria leaving Lebanon. You might have noticed, Penguin, that the soldiers serving in the UN coalition back in 1992 most certainly were allowed to shoot, as were their successors throughout the 1990s.

    BTW, “victory” is not a strategy, it’s a goal. A strategy is a set of policies and actions you plan to undertake in order to achieve that goal.

  52. “This is simply nonsensical. It doesn’t even warrant any more than…repeat what I just said.”

    Uh, yeah, the reason I accused you of having no response is because the above statment is so incomprehensible to me. Good call.

  53. “If only the French had come round, we learn, all might have been well.”

    Uh huh. The removal of Saddam Hussein was such an essential, immediate need, both for humanitarian reasons and to protect American security, that George Bush would have gladly not gone to war, except that the French forced his hand?

    I. Don’t. Think. So.

  54. It looks like the UN will be packing their bags again.

    http://www.menewsline.com/stories/2007/march/03_19_3.html

    Joe, I know this is the fault of the US but of course have not made the link yet. Let me thank you in advance for your explanation.

  55. eb,

    Your need to make up bullshit arguments to attribute to me just draws attention to your incapacity to address any of the arguments I’ve actually made.

  56. joe,
    Just a few questions…

    1. How many people do you insult on HNR each day?

    2. What about all your claims that you have honest, non-acrimonious discussions on HNR every day?

    3. When was the last time you posted on a thread that didn’t devolve into you insulting people?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.