This is a time for big ideas and I've got one: Let's scrap the United Nations. Wait, don't go away. I'm not dusting off the standard "U.S. out of the U.N.; U.N. out of the U.S." right-wing screed. But I am serious.
Let's start from the top. Whether you agree with President Bush or not, it's hard to dispute that in terms of foreign policy he is the most radically pro-democracy president of the 20th century.
Through both his walk and his talk, he's made it clear that spreading democracy is the central strategic imperative of U.S. foreign policy. In a series of speeches - in England, at the National Endowment for Democracy and the American Enterprise Institute - he has made it clear that courting corrupt and tyrannical regimes, a staple of Cold War thinking, is in the long run counterproductive because such regimes end up fostering the very threat - terrorism - America is now dedicated to thwarting.
This is less idealistic than it sounds. Sure, it's nice that other nations be free and prosperous. But the strategic imperative here isn't altruism, it's self-defense. Democratic, developed nations do not declare war on other democracies, and they do not churn out murderous terrorists.
This isn't a new idea nor a new argument, but for a president to take it to heart is a huge turning point in American history. Unfortunately, because so many in the media watch President Bush's speeches for the same reason they watch car races - just to see a crash - the enormity of this change has gone underreported.
Well, here's an idea that will get everyone's attention: Let's create a League of Democracies.
The strongest argument in favor of the United Nations is that, much like the Department of Motor Vehicles, there's no alternative to it. The U.N. has been declared "irrelevant" or "obsolete" more times than Betamax or eight-track tapes, and yet, like herpes, it just won't go away.
People want a goody-goody multinational organization that does nice things and solves bad problems. So, since the U.N. is the only outfit in that business, we keep dusting it off and patting it on the back after each of its innumerable and monumental failures.
One of the reasons it fails is that it's pretty much designed to. There is no vision, no set of shared values that truly unites the United Nations. You can't have a civil rights organization where Klansmen are welcomed as members; you can't have a softball team where half the players want to play basketball, and you can't have a global organization dedicated to the spread of human rights and democracy with nearly half the members representing barbaric, corrupt regimes.
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