Indulge me. This is the second time this year I’ve been called upon to invoke my postgraduate degree in International Relations. I do so to provide pedigree for an opinion that, although well-reasoned, might be deemed by some to be extreme.
It’s time for the United States to leave the United Nations and spearhead the formation of a new, more workable international consortium.
Wow. I said it. Had I done so in my days back at Cambridge, England, I probably would have been tossed out the back door of some of its world-famous colleges and into the River Cam.
For those of you who would help toss me and who believe I’m a right-wing quack, hold your horses. There’s plenty of red meat here for those frustrated with Bush foreign policy. But if that’s your take, you won’t like the way this column starts or ends.
On Wednesday, our president — and "our" includes Americans who do and don’t like him — was verbally assaulted before the United Nations General Assembly in a manner more befitting a wrestling match than what is supposed to be a solemn gathering of the world’s nation-states.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez insulted President Bush by saying "the Devil was here yesterday," and "it smells of sulfur still today."
That’s right. This dictatorial brute came to our own New York City and spat in the face of our president.
And the attacks didn’t stop with Bush. Chavez declared that "the United States’ empire is on its way down, and it will be finished soon."
How did those in the audience react? Many roundly applauded when he was done.
Here is where I could fall into the trap of uttering simply, "Get out, and good riddance to the whole lot of you." That would reflect my raw sentiments. It would also be what’s deserved by the ungrateful collection of diplomats who prance around New York City as if they are entitled to the very best that life in such a city can provide.
Instead, allow me to cite the post-speech interview of Chavez, plus a little-known 1949 memo by a revered American diplomat. Together, they provide my strongest evidence in support of dismantling the unwieldy and apparently corrupt coddler of rogues and semi-legitimate nations that is the modern-day United Nations.
Railing to media after the speech, President Chavez bit the hand that feeds him. He said the United Nations was created primarily to deal with post-World War II issues between the United States and the Soviet Union. He said the UN should now be replaced by a new international organization.
Oh, Hugo! If only you knew how many Americans agree with you. There’s just one catch. They want a new world body that doesn’t operate as a self-perpetuating money pit, and doesn’t have rogues and bullies like you as members.
Chavez’s comments are symptomatic of something predicted by the late diplomat and international policy expert George Kennan in his 1949 memo to the State Department about the UN and its relationship to the world of foreign policy. The 1980’s British book "The Rise of the International Organisation" notes Kennan’s "doubts about the role of the Assembly as a new ‘theater of diplomatic operations.’"
Kennan’s concerns were rooted in his belief that the interests and influence of smaller nations, including the dubious validity of some states’ claims to equal sovereign status, would create a fragile foundation for the United Nations as a viable international organization.
Understand that Kennan, in his later years, became a strong opponent of U.S. intervention in many international conflicts, including, before he died, our involvement in Iraq.
I share his belief that the United States cannot, neither fiscally nor emotionally, continue to "see itself as the center of political enlightenment and as teacher to a great part of the world…"
Yes, we’re stuck in Iraq and we can’t abandon our troops. But when we’ve finally reached the point that a room full of international freeloaders are applauding wildly as our president is called the Devil and our demise is predicted, then it’s time to seriously reassess whom we want to deal with, in what manner and in what international forum.
Be assured that after this week’s antics in New York, more and more Americans will come to believe that expensive, do-nothing diplomatic assemblies such as the United Nations are something we can live without.