Many Americans disagree with the notion that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations, perhaps moved by Rodney King’s plaintive plea, “Why can’t we all just get along?” and believing we must continue talking to solve the world’s problems.
Unfortunately, we can’t always get along. Some people refuse to compromise and insist on having their own way, no matter what. “Just getting along” implies there is always some middle ground where parties can resolve their differences. That’s just not always the case.
There are times when people are simply not willing to “get along” unless, of course, it’s strictly on their own terms. And, that may be harmful to the other side, as exemplified by Israel’s standing against Iran, Syria and the Palestinian people, which have the common goal of wiping Israel off the map and driving the Jews into the sea. There is no way to “just get along” with such a position, when the other side is unwilling to settle for anything less than your destruction.
One of the more notable examples of the failure of trying to resolve problems with talk took place in 1939, just prior to Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia and invasion of Poland at the start of World War II. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain left Munich with a peace declaration signed by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, he declared, “I believe it is peace in our time.” Obviously, it wasn’t.
Throughout history, there have been plenty of other occasions when agreements have been reached without one side having any intention of honoring them. North Korea’s now well-known lie to the Clinton administration regarding its nuclear ambitions is one of the more recent acts of duplicity that resulted from “talk.”
Following are some of the comments I’ve heard about my conclusion that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations, along with my responses:
COMMENT: “It might be useful to try to write about the virtues of the United Nations? Who else would be sent now to Lebanon-Israel border zone?”
HRS: It would probably be possible to put together another military force for this assignment, perhaps using some of the same troops that have been volunteered to the U.N. force, just as NATO troops have been used in Afghanistan. The difference is that in Afghanistan, NATO troops are fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In Lebanon, the real issue is U.N. troops will disarm Hezbollah, or at least try. They were told they are not authorized to use force, which has allowed Hezbollah to rearm and prepare for the next assault on Israel, at that point under the auspices of the United Nations. So, what good are they?
COMMENT: “What other forum is there for nations to talk to each other?”
HRS: Perhaps none at the moment, but there’s nothing to prevent us from organizing a more constructive forum of like-minded nations.
COMMENT: “Look into its history? Did they do some good somewhere?”
HRS: Sure, the United Nations has done some good. Past performance can be important, but the United Nations is no longer the institution it was in its early years. And, organizations that are no longer effective or are, worse yet, corrupt, should be dissolved, in favor of something new that works.
As historian Victor Davis Hanson has said, “First, the U.N. is not the idealistic postwar organization of our collective Unicef and Unesco nostalgia, the old perpetual force for good that we once associated with hunger relief and peacekeeping. Its membership is instead rife with tyrannies, theocracies and Stalinist regimes. Many of them — like Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam and Zimbabwe — have served on the U.N.‘s 53-member Commission on Human Rights. The Libyan lunocracy — infamous for its dirty war with Chad and cash bounties to mass murderers — chaired the 2003 session. For (President) Bush to talk to such folk about the need to spread liberty means removing from power, or indeed jailing, many of the oppressors sitting in his audience.”
COMMENT: “Do the participants really have to be friendly to each other? (Polite, yes!)”
HRS: No, they don’t have to be friendly, but there’s a big difference between not being friendly or having opposing strategic interests and outright hostility. As for being polite, I don’t see anything polite about the behavior of Venezuela, Iran and Sudan at the U.N. General Assembly. Antagonistic would be a better word. And, having to listen to insults and threats is not “talking” in the sense that is intended to solve problems.
COMMENT: “USA does pay way too much, and look at the value of the HQ there in NYC! But, where else should be the HQ? How about Albania? Or Mogadishu? Or Russia?”
HRS: My gut reaction is: Who cares where they go? Let someone else pick up the tab. They will be just as biased against the U.S. in any venue, but at least we don’t have to listen to their insults on our turf and pay for it.
According to Hanson, “there is no intrinsic reason why the U.N. should be based in New York rather than in its more logical utopian home in Brussels or Geneva.”
COMMENT: “Yes, it is flawed, but maybe somehow the participants are the ones to pull up their socks and improve it. This guy (former U.N. Ambassador John) Bolton was actually terrific! Mending is better than ending?”
HRS: I agree, Bolton was terrific. As for the “participants” improving the United Nations themselves, I don’t think so. The institution has reached the point where it is far too corrupt and out of control to be reformed from within. The only way that might be accomplished would be to use the power of the purse strings, and that doesn’t seem likely, because it’s doubtful the other members who provide the bulk of its funding would be willing to do that.
I also don’t think we should stop talking, I just don’t think anything is accomplished in the United Nations that cannot be done better in another forum. Sometimes it’s necessary to scrap something and simply start over.
Again, quoting Hanson, “There is no law chiseled in stone that says any fascist or dictatorial state deserves authorized membership by virtue of its hijacking of a government. There is no logic to why a France is on the Security Council, but a Japan or India is not. And there is no reason why a group of democratic nations, unapologetic about their values and resolute to protect freedom, cannot act collectively for the common good, entirely indifferent to Syria’s censure or a Chinese veto.”
Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog, Opinionfest.com.