"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Monday, January 17, 2005

UN Bashing

Squalid inertia of UN thrown into relief on Asia's battered shores
Mark Steyn

OPINION: Enda Kilroy wrote to our letters page the other day to complain that "some of the most unsavoury journalism I've read in recent days has come from two columnists in your paper" - yours truly and Kevin Myers, both of us having written about the United Nations.

I thought "unsavoury" was a rather good choice of word. For many people, it's just poor taste to criticise the UN, no matter how many genocides they fail to prevent or how much oil-for-food dough they siphon off or how many Congolese children they rape.

The genocide and the fraud and the child sex isn't unsavoury, but using it to besmirch the grand ideals of the UN is. A couple of years ago, I got an irate e-mail from a Canadian reader announcing he was cancelling his subscription to the paper because "criticising the UN is going too far". And I was a lot softer on the UN back then.

This isn't ideological on my part. If I'm standing at the water's edge, whether on the beach at Phuket or the docks at DĂșn Laoghaire, and a huge wave destroys my home, my family and my livelihood, I'm not going to be picky about who shows up to help out.

But, invariably, the first folks to show up are the Americans, the Australians and the British. The others will get there eventually.




Perhaps the critisim of Mark Steyn's focus on the UN is more a reflection of the cognitive content of his arguments than their relevancy. When he says "Would you let these guys run anything closer to home?" and "Kofi and co" the ability to miss the obvious is baffling. Whichever way you look at it, the UN can be nothing but a sum of its recognized parts. It's ability to act relies on the concern of its members, without their support it is limbless. The US, the UK and Austrailia have indeed given much support, however it was Spain who donated the sum of US and UK donations in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, without the need for public outcry. Indeed "UN sentimentalists" have been around since its conception. Why bother damning an organisation with no power. Have you forgotten, the US reaction to being "asked" to adhere to international law after the World Court's ruling of aggression in the case of funding the Contra in Nicaragua? It is also necessary to qualify the "fledlgling" nature of the new democracies he refers to. Does it include Haiti for instance? and what are the standards necessary for a democracy to be considered fledgling?