Now, it would be one thing if the U.N. actually, you know, worked. But the problem is that the history of the U.N. is a history of unrelenting failure. Oh, not in immunizing kids and feeding starving people. The U.N. gets a passing grade there, though certainly not an A.
No, the failure comes in precisely the arena that supposedly justifies the U.N.'s existence: global peace and security. And that's where the delusion comes in. The folks at United Nations Plaza have proved themselves to be either well-intentioned incompetents or cagey, crapulent kleptocrats. The list of their biggest failures is spelled out in blood: Somalia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo (where peacekeepers reportedly raped the local girls), Iraq (where the U.N. bugged out after a bombing in 2003), Darfur and, in what was supposed to be the model for U.N. peacekeeping, East Timor, which, after seven years of exemplary U.N. stewardship, recently became the ideal location to film a reality-show version of "Mad Max."
Second only to keeping the peace, the U.N. was founded to protect human rights. So what does it say that groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch long considered the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, or UNCHR, to be a protective shield for torturers and tyrants? In "The Future of the United Nations," an elegant sledgehammer of a book, Joshua Muravchik offers some useful tables showing that the world's worst offenders on human rights were more likely to be members of the UNCHR than to be condemned by it. Last March, after years of such embarrassment, the U.N. finally moved to abolish the commission, creating instead the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is supposed to do a better job at keeping the worst abusers at bay. Fingers crossed, everybody.
In fact, finger crossing seems to be the plan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others want the U.N. to impose a cease-fire on Hezbollah and Israel and have peacekeepers guard the Israel-Lebanon border. Of course, a U.N. "interim force" has been "monitoring" the border since 1978. (The Hezbollah and U.N. flags fly side by side there). In 2000, blue helmets videotaped Hezbollah kidnapping three Israeli soldiers (one of them an Israeli Arab). The video could have been useful in rescuing the soldiers. But, for eight months, the U.N. troops angrily denied even having the tape. When forced to admit they did, they refused to release it because that might compromise their "neutrality."
That neutrality was compromised long ago. As Muravchik notes, the U.N. is chockablock with agencies and bureaucrats dedicated to undermining Israel. Even known terrorists, including members of Hamas, are on the payroll. And in 2002, the UNCHR endorsed the "legitimacy" of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Indeed, it says something that democratic Israel is - by leaps and bounds - the most condemned nation in the history of the U.N. Not China, the Soviet Union or North Korea. Israel.
Still, despite this rich tapestry of failure and hypocrisy, the international community is once again behaving like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, pushing for the U.N. to impose order, peace and tranquility. In the long term, such efforts have to fail - in a contest of wills between blue-helmeted Belgians and turbaned jihadists, don't bet on the boys in blue.
A premature U.N.-imposed cease-fire would be a disaster if it allows Hezbollah to escape annihilation. But the more interesting question is why people always think the U.N. is the answer before they hear the question.