You may be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the “holiday” established by the U.N. General Assembly to honor the founding of the organization, but for U.N. devotees it is a celebration of the ideals and principles set forth in the 1945 U.N. Charter.
Regrettably, the organization has fallen far short of its founding principles and vision, although it can claim credit for some good work.
In the lead up to Monday’s presidential debate, the Better World Campaign (BWC) asked people to sign a petition to get moderator Bob Schieffer to ask the candidates, “Since our most pressing global challenges require international cooperation, how should we partner with international organizations like the U.N.?”
Anyone tuning in will tell you that the question was never asked and that the U.N. got fewer references than Mali. Even teachers and Detroit got more discussion — in a foreign policy debate!
Regardless, BWC didn’t let the actual record prevent it from declaring success and listing Governor Mitt Romney’s casual reference to a U.N.-organized study by Arab scholars and brief mentions of U.N. sanctions as examples of the candidate’s responses.
Desperate to extend the list, it even included Romney’s assertion, “We need to have strong allies. Our association and connection with our allies is essential to America’s strength.” Although this statement is broad, it is doubtful the Governor had the U.N. foremost in his mind.
It would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic.
All of this self-delusion ends with a request to e-mail recipients and reminds them to celebrate United Nations Day on October 24.
This effort to venerate the U.N. is misplaced.
As explained in “How Should Americans Think About International Organizations?” organizations like the U.N. are a tool to attain a goal, not an end in themselves. The United States should not participate in an international organization simply because it exists, nor seek to work through it simply because it claims jurisdiction over a particular issue.
The U.N. is one way for the U.S. to defend its interests and to seek to address problems in concert with other nations. But it is not the only option, and its strengths and weaknesses should be taken into account.
If an international organization is effectively addressing a problem and unmistakably advancing American interests, the U.S. should support it. But if the organization is irrelevant, deeply flawed, or opposed to U.S. interests, then the U.S. should not reward that organization with financial support or participation, which would lend it prestige and credibility it does not deserve.
U.N. Day is a public relations effort to conjure broader popular recognition and respect for the world body, which sadly it has not garnered through its own actions. Today we should not be celebrating, but looking at the organization with clear eyes, with awareness of its limitations, and considering what can be done to overcome its obvious deficiencies.