WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I was reminded recently of the 1975 classic movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," starring Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a rebellious convict who gets himself transferred from prison to a mental hospital hoping that his incarceration will be easier under the authority of medics in white coats than prison guards with billy clubs. McMurphy soon realizes that life in the institution is a great deal more destructive than any prison could be.
The hospital is run by the evil and uncaring Nurse Mildred Ratched, who takes sadistic pleasure in stripping McMurphy and the other patients of their freedoms and self-reliance. Many of them have voluntarily checked themselves into the hospital and can ask to be discharged at any time. But they wind up staying for years because they believe this is an Institution of Healing -- if only they stay longer, their condition will improve. But they don't. There is just something about the institution -- the atmosphere, the conditions and the supervision of Nurse Ratched -- that guarantees that the patients' mental health will only deteriorate, but never improve.
In McMurphy's case, the institution forces him to undergo a lobotomy to "cure" him of the mental problems that were caused by the institution itself. It's a sad and depressing film whose commentary on the care in mental hospitals sparked some much-needed reform in that industry at that time in America's history.
I was reminded of the film after reading Jed Babbin's latest book, "Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think."
In it, Babbin, a former deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, describes how so many political leaders -- like the patients in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- continue to put their faith and trust in the United Nations, even after it fails them again and again. Babbin outlines the problems America faces when we attempt to conform U.S. national security policy to the dictates of the United Nations -- an asylum that is increasingly run by the inmates.
When Colin Powell went to the U.N. Security Council and presented a bill of particulars on Iraq's destructiveness, deceit and duplicity, he asked, "How much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's noncompliance before we as a council -- as the United Nations -- say, 'Enough is enough'?" French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin responded by demanding that the United Nations triple the number of weapons inspectors and open more regional offices. In other words: postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.
Such delays, Babbin argues, allowed insurgents in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Sudan to amass weapons and make plans for further terrorism. "The cost of the U.N. delay," Babbin writes, "is the time it gave Saddam and the terrorist neighbors of Iraq to plan the postwar insurgency and to move or hide weapons of mass destruction." Or as Ronald Reagan used to say of the federal government, "the U.N. is the problem, not the solution."
Yet that didn't stop congressional Democrats at the time from casting their lot with the United Nations. "I would hope (Bush) would get a Security Council vote of approval," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden warned Bush to watch it because the "very legitimacy of (the United Nations) is at stake."
It is that kind of blind faith in the United Nations which resulted in the U.N. headquarters being built in New York. Thousands of diplomats running wild in our largest city can cause numerous problems. Babbin explains: "The U.N.'s tolerance of espionage and terrorism is old and systemic, and includes granting 'observer status' to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, which is encouraged, in the words of the U.N. to maintain 'permanent' offices at U.N. headquarters."
The U.N. Security Council's obstructionism was the first time the American people really got a good look at the corruption of this institution. The allegations of bribery and malfeasance that are surfacing day after day in the Oil-for-Food program should convince anybody who wasn't convinced the first time that the U.N. is an institution in which the United States should no longer be heavily invested.
Instead, Babbin argues that America's "destination should be a new global organization of the free and democratic nations with which we share values and goals." It should be established independent and outside the influence of the United Nations and open "to nations which allow their people the basic freedoms of religion, press and assembly."