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The United Nations is not in Foggy Bottom. On balance, that’s a good thing.

23 August 2012

11:40 PM

23 August 2012

11:40 PM

For an Englishman, Nile Gardner is an unusually reliable mouthpiece for the more reactionary elements of reactionary American conservative foreign policy preferences. His latest epistle to the Daily Telegraph demonstrates this quite nicely.

There is, you see, a meeting of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement next week and this meeting will be held in Tehran. Worse still, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations will attend this conference.

I am not at all convinced that this is a useful use of the Secretary-General’s time. I suspect this meeting is bound to be little more than a festival of anti-American and anti-Israeli prejudice. I would want no part of it myself. Any number of awful people from awful regimes are likely to be present.

On this Mr Gardner and I agree. We agree too, I think, that the United Nations’ credibility is unlikely to be enhanced by any of this. But consider what he writes and means when he says this:

Ban Ki-moon’s reckless move will further reinforce the image of a declining world body that actively undercuts American interests on several fronts and grovels to human rights abusers and state sponsors of terrorism.

I agree that the UN is too often much too tolerant of human rights abusers and state sponsors of terrorism. But I am not sure the UN is actually a “declining world body”. On the contrary, in as much as it is considered a kind of global quasi-court its influence and importance is greater now than it was fifteen years ago. And the chief reason for that, I’m afraid (and I say this as someone who supported the Iraq War and was at the UN when some of the debates about it were happening) is, well, the Iraq War itself.

Moreover, the notion that the thing which ails the UN is that it “undercuts American interests” – or, to put it clearly, does not advance American interests or presume they are necessarily the interests of everyone on earth – is all but self-evidently fatuous.

The UN is not an American satrap and while this may often be annoying and inconvenient it is what it is and it only requires one to imagine how appalling and how discredited the UN would be- by its own lights – if it were perceived to be a child of Russia or China or any other country.

Gardiner is right to suppose that the UN is awful in many ways but it would not be any better, or function any more efficiently or worthily, if it were perceived as just an extension or ward of American foreign policy.

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