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Old 04-20-2003, 09:44 PM   #1
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JFK: ''disappointed and somewhat betrayed''

United Nations a potential casualty of latest war
BY DICK POLMAN
Knight Ridder News Service




EMPTY CHAMBER: The U.S.-led war is widely seen as a challenge to the United Nations Security Council's influence. RICHARD DREW/AP


The United Nations, created ''to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,'' is a potential casualty of the latest war.

It will continue to run its humanitarian programs and ruminate on the great issues. But the Bush administration and its supporters, still smarting over the U.N. refusal to officially bless the war in Iraq, have essentially declared that in a new world policed by American power, the United Nations won't be a player and should be consigned to the ash heap of history.

In the words of ex-Republican Party official Clifford May, now president of a Washington think tank, there are ``five things grown-ups should no longer believe in: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Tinker Bell, the United Nations and the `international community.'''

The U.N. bashers aren't disturbed in the least by President Bush's declaration the other day that the United Nations should play a ''vital'' role in postwar Iraq because they know that Bush's definition of ''vital'' (humanitarian aid) is far narrower than the internationalist definition (the United Nations as chief administrator). And because they agree with Bush that the victor in war should write the rules.

But opponents of a Pax Americana contend that if Bush allows the Pentagon to marginalize the United Nations and run postwar Iraq by itself -- the blueprint, at least for the next six months -- it will confirm the widely held suspicion (outside the U.S., anyway) that the goal all along has been to make the world safe for U.S. interests.

France, Germany and Russia -- all of whom opposed the U.S. war -- are making that case, and they're not alone. Tony Judt, who runs the internationalist Remarque Institute at New York University, said the United States can't win peace without international partners and that the United Nations must be a crucial player in that effort.

'Maybe we've leveraged down the United Nations' image so badly in this country that we can't ever bring it back up,'' he said. 'But without the U.N., America cuts itself off from the rest of the world. Sure, the `international community' is something of a myth, but some myths are necessary. It's a way to aspire to something. If we didn't have the myth of the United Nations, we'd probably have to create it.''

The national polls indicate that, while most Americans generally support the United Nations in principle, they're increasingly swayed by Bush's view that the United States should call the shots in postwar Iraq -- especially in light of the military victory.

May said that Bush ``isn't going to go back to the United Nations for anything, except maybe to ask them to get him sandwiches from the corner deli. The United Nations can't be a managing partner in Iraq. It can come and hand out cookies and bandages.

'This isn't about payback. This is simply about the United Nations' bad track record. It has failed at peacekeeping in Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia and East Timor. It has never been effective in combating terrorism or enforcing human rights. How could it? The country that chairs its human rights committee is Libya.''

Bush is hardly the first president to attack the United Nations. During the '90s, President Clinton's people upbraided it for its massive, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. During its peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, nearly $4 million vanished from the U.N. office in Mogadishu; investigators called it an inside job.

Clinton's U.N. delegate, Madeleine Albright, complained in 1995 that the United Nations was like ''a business with 185 members of board . . . each with a brother-in-law who is unemployed.'' (And while Bush's critics fault him for bypassing the Security Council, Clinton did it, too, when he bombed Iraq in 1998 and put troops in Kosovo in 1999.) Even U.N. defender Judt said, ``There is a huge amount of waste. . . . These difficulties have to be addressed.''

Critics also argue that the U.N.'s recent performance -- failing to enforce 17 resolutions calling for Iraq's disarmament -- typifies its historically risk-averse behavior. A young journalist named John F. Kennedy, writing in 1945 and feeling ''disappointed and somewhat betrayed'' by the United Nations' first session, even predicted that it would be undercut by ''the timidity and selfishness'' of its members.

By the time it bought land on the East River in 1946, with money from John D. Rockefeller Jr., it was already hamstrung by Cold War tensions, and in the ensuing decades, it has sanctioned only two inter-state conflicts (Korea, because the Soviets were absent at the time of a crucial vote, and the first Gulf War).

Yet despite this track record, and the long-standing GOP hostility to the United Nations, Bush gave it prime responsibility for postwar Afghanistan in 2001, saying, ''I believe that the United Nations could provide the framework'' and ``take over the so-called nation-building.''

Why was he willing to do that?

Gary Schmitt, a former Reagan administration intelligence expert and current U.N. foe, said: ``To be ugly about it, the Bush people didn't want to deal with that tribal situation -- and they knew that Iraq was coming down the road. They wanted to save on manpower. They knew that doing [postwar] Afghanistan ``and Iraq was going to stretch them too much.''

But Marina Ottaway, a pro-U.N. foreign policy analyst in Washington, said that Bush, by tapping the Pentagon as the initial architect of postwar Iraq, risks alienating the neighboring countries that still view the United Nations, and not America, as a legitimizing moral authority.

''You can't build a new Iraq at gunpoint,'' she said. ``The U.S. wants to keep control, but, at the same time, it will be under enormous pressure to show it is not an occupying force. . . The only way out is to turn to the United Nations.''

Schmitt rejects that: 'The priority is to transform Iraq and push democratic reforms at ground level. The United Nations, with its `moral authority,' would screw that up. It's inevitable that we [Americans] will rile the other countries, no question about it. But if the president is to be believed, this is just something we've all got to face.''

Said May: 'The idea that the U.S. should apologize to the Arabs for liberating Iraq, or that we need to make the Arab `street' feel better about itself by rebuilding the grandeur of the United Nations -- that isn't sensible.

``Republicans have intuitively felt that the United Nations was increasingly trying to rein in American power, looking for ways to tie down Gulliver, and this was borne out by the [Iraq] episode. . . All the more reason that, if we're really going to help the Iraqi people, the United Nations needs to play a secondary role.''

Is that the United Nations' future, to do America's bidding? The organization itself is unclear how to proceed; U.N. sources said privately the other day that while they want to aid the suffering Iraqi citizens, they don't want to give their implicit blessing to a U.S.-backed government that might be viewed by other nations as illegitimate.

Said Judt: 'The United Nations has to find a way to establish itself as a necessary nuisance, and hope that the Bush administration is smart enough not to say, `Go to hell.' That may be a Promethean task.''
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Old 04-20-2003, 09:55 PM   #2
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In an attempt to reserve judgment of Bush for one moment...

The UN is a relic of a modernist fantasy long gone by. Hoping for a peaceful future is what the UN was created to be, hoping that it could send the world into advanced democracy, where all conflicts were solved without bloodshed. If WWI wasn't the "war to end all wars," WWII certainly was supposed to change that. As we can see, that ended almost immediately with Cold War tensions, and the world is a far more violent and boorish place.

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Old 04-21-2003, 06:44 AM   #3
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A young journalist named John F. Kennedy, writing in 1945 and feeling ''disappointed and somewhat betrayed'' by the United Nations' first session, even predicted that it would be undercut by ''the timidity and selfishness'' of its members.

I love this quote! It sums it all up for me.



And while Bush's critics fault him for bypassing the Security Council, Clinton did it, too, when he bombed Iraq in 1998 and put troops in Kosovo in 1999.

ANd this one.
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Old 04-22-2003, 01:08 PM   #4
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This is interesting and I do agree with many of the criticisms made of the United Nations. As long as it is basically a talking shop in which the most powerful countries are able to exercise almost absolute control, it can't be an effective institution.

That said, although the UN is an idealistic idea, it's also a vital idea in many ways. The idea of the UN is that the world shouldn't be based purely on power relationships: it shouldn't be a 'survival of the fittest' environment, the powerful countries shouldn't be able to bully the weaker countries.

Sadly I think those who hope for the demise of the United Nations often wish to see a return to a world where dealings between countries were based purely on the relative strength of those two countries and not on any kind of standard of human rights or justice. In my opinion that's not the kind of world that so-called 'civilised' people should be aiming for. But that's just my opinion.
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Old 04-22-2003, 01:12 PM   #5
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Just as a random addition...I remember doing a project about JFK in school and thinking he was just the greatest president America ever had. Then I got to about fourteen or fifteen and read some of the less favourable things which were written about him...and I was so disappointed!

I hate it when childhood illusions are shattered.
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Old 04-22-2003, 01:53 PM   #6
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Camolot....it was not.

He was 1st and foremost a politician. I did my thesis on the transition from candidate Kennedy to President Kennedy. Specifically, I followed the transformation of campaign speeches into the program called Alliance for Progress.

He was a interesting politician. His death caused him to be romanticized.

I wish Bobby had become President. He was the brains of the family.

Peace
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Old 04-22-2003, 11:34 PM   #7
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Everything that has happened to the UN has happened because the UN was ineffective and chose not to act, it only has itself to blame. The UN proved time and time again that it was becoming more and more like the 'DISunited nations' than anything else, and therefore ineffective.

The UN immasculated itself. It clearly couldn't make the big decisions, I'm glad our President could and did.

Peace to all
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Old 04-22-2003, 11:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
I wish Bobby had become President. He was the brains of the family.
The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long...

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