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Oooh, Are You Sure That's Good Idea?

If there's one writer I wouldn't want to piss off, it's Mark Steyn. And yet, displaying that keen sensitivity the UN is so known for, that's exactly what some UN representative to West Africa has decided to do. Apparently, there's not enough AIDS, corruption, death, disease, and famine nearby to keep him busy. And evidently, there's not much going on outside the UN compound, either. This "diplomat" has decided that he's got nothing better to do than pick a fight with a journalistic Vegematic.

The Spectator published a piece (go there, now, before it disappears into the archives) by one "Andrew Gilmour is senior advisor in the United Nations Office for West Africa, based in Senegal. These views are his own, rather than the UN’s." Mr. Gilmour's feelings are wounded by Mr. Steyn's insistence on calling attention to his employer's, ah, shortcomings. The fact that Mr. Gilmour can't actually tag the UN with opinions offered in its own defense should tell you all you need to know about the UN's spine.

I suppose I should actually wait for the Great Canadian-Belgian Himself to stoop to conquer. But what's the point of blogging if you don't blog?

So let's start at the top:

Question: what do the Taleban, Serb war criminals, al-Qa’eda, Rwandan genocidaires, the Ku Klux Klan, the Kach movement, the Japanese Red Army and the Janjaweed of Darfur have in common? Answer: two things actually. The obvious one, plus the fact that — like the Spectator columnist Mark Steyn — they all passionately abhor the United Nations, see it as an obstacle to their particular agenda and call for its abolition.

Question: what does this question tell us about the UN? The obvious, plus the fact that it always has to bring some Jews into the mix just to prove how evenhanded an honest broker they are. Just for the record, perhaps Mr. Gilmour could answer what the old Soviets, the Chinese communists, the Arab League, Robert Mugabe, and Fidel Castro have in common? Aside from the obvious.

The UN has always evoked violent passions, especially among its detractors. Its defenders tend to be rather calmer.

Yes, I remember the calm, civilized anti-war demonstrations invoking the UN's name leading up to the Iraq War, and the calm civilized way in which the demonstrators alternately hanged and burned Bushitler in effigy. Perhaps Mr. Gilmour has in mind the calm disdain that the bureaucrat always has for those whose money he's living off of. I suspect that if his beloved institution were ever threatened with anything worse than being ignored (although that's quite bad enough, thank you very much), you'd see a little less calm in the ranks.

Then, this:

In the West, the common criticism is that the UN is a slow, excessively bureaucratic talking-shop urgently in need of reform since, as it is now set up, it doesn’t have the capacity to confront the great challenges of the coming decades. For those opposed to the war in Iraq, the UN’s fault is that it couldn’t stop the invasion; for those in favour that it didn’t support it.

Along with time, Senegal must have a straw surplus, because Mr. Gilmour's been very busy making men out of it. Certainly one criticism in the West has been that the UN is inefficient. But that's hardly Steyn's problem with it. It's not that it doesn't have the "capacity to confront challenges." If that sentence means anything - an open proposition, to be sure - it's that the UN can't confront evil. But here's a UN defender openly demonstrating his disdain for the sort of moral clarity that could make the UN something worthwhile.

Look at the list Gilmour starts out with. Of those groups, there's not a single one that the UN has had a role in subduing. Not one. Aside from some no-doubt-very-calm tsk-tsking, the UN was either late to the party or never got around to RSVPing in a single case. Gilmour may take pride in the UN's list of enemies, but its complete impotence in deaing with them shame one capable of it. The UN didn't support the invasion becuase it doesn't really think Saddam was all that bad. In that sense, its position on the war was a symptom, not the disease.

Gilmour defends the regional voting bloc system as the moral equivalent of Samuel Gompers and the 10-hour day. It's the only way that the poor countries of the world can stand up to the rich and powerful. I suppose the analogy works if you equate governments with countries. But the problem with the regional blocs isn't just that they don't vote with the US. It's that they allow the governments as good at stealing elections as stealing cash to claim moral equivalence. In what possible sense can these governments be said to represent the interests, much less the wills, of their populations?

You think this really bothers the UN's supporters? A substitute b-school professor of mine really couldn't have cared less that the Human Rights Commission boated Libya, Sudan, and Cuba among its members. And all of Gilmour's protests that the replacement will be better can't hide the fact that he ignores the little inconvenience that agreement was achieved at the price of actual change. The new body, the Human Rights Council, doesn't have anything in its charter that keeps creeps like Castro off the board.

Most importantly, in one of the most radical restatements of international law of the past century, the entire UN membership went along with a declaration accepting the right of the world community to take military action in the case of governments failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. Prime Minister Tony Blair was right when he said, ‘For the first time at this summit we are agreed that states do not have the right to do what they will within their own borders’. No longer will governments who carry out mass butchery be able to hide behind the mantra of national sovereignty to prevent the UN interfering in their crimes. This is a reform as profound as it gets.

What? Oh, I'm sorry, I couldn't hear while I was yawning. Does Gilmour really believe that any government thinks this applies to them? The only clear loser here is - surprise, surprise - Israel, because it's the only country that a UN subjected to the whim of the Arab League can consistently get a consensus to condemn. Why not a consensus to invade? Aside from the humiliation of getting its butt kicked all the way back to Turtle Bay.

In the end, Gilmour can only make his points by charicaturing Steyn's, allowing him to dismiss or ignore the moral bankruptcy of his employer.

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