"The UN is protected by a very high wall of political correctness," writes Dore Gold, "that makes criticism of it tantamount to an attack on all of mankind. But it is high time to recognize that it has utterly failed to achieve its founders' goals: to halt aggression and assure world order." This is the conclusion that Mr. Gold, author of "Hatred's Kingdom" and Israeli Ambassador the UN from 1997 to 1999, reaches after examining the UN's record.
Mr. Gold's grand narrative of failure begins in the beginning and ends in the end. His indictment of the United Nations comes even before the Cold War supposedly paralyzed it (the initial tests, writes Mr. Gold, were the first Arab-Israeli War and the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir) and lasts until the UN's failure to deal with Saddam Hussein, terrorism and WMD. In between are failures to deal with aggression, either across states or within them.
What is refreshing is that Mr. Gold has refrained from simply barraging the UN with its failures. Rather, he has identified certain trends that explain why the UN fails either when expressing the collective will of its members or when acting with its own mind. For Mr. Gold, the primary failure of the UN is its lost moral clarity; the UN founding fathers set up a system where evil existed and ought to be resisted. From the beginning, however, this clarity subsided-there are no aggressors and victims for the UN, writes Mr. Gold, just "warring parties"; and there is no cause and effect, just a "cycles of violence." This happens to avoid compromising the UN's most cherished ideal: impartiality. Even if it means standing idle to aggression, standing by evil.
In extremis, this lost moral clarity leads to moral equivalence-refusing to acknowledge that some party to a war might be more at fault than others, refraining from condemning outright violence, and seeking nonsensical explanations to justify armed struggle and even terrorism. This is tied to the proliferation of UN states that do not share the Western respect for democracy and human rights. As long as the UN reflects the aggregate of so many dictatorships, it is inevitable that it will lack either the political will or the political clout to punish those states with deviant behavior; "ultimately," writes Mr. Gold, "the UN's biggest problem is that it no longer establishes any firm standards of behavior for UN member states." The result, to name the most extreme example, is countries like Libya and Sudan being on the Human Rights Commission.
If this is the failure of the UN as a collective body, then unaccountability is the failure of the UN as an organization. That Kofi Annan, head of UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations during Rwanda and Srebrenica, was promoted to Secretary-General is only the most obvious evidence of an organization unwilling to punish its staff. This evidence, Mr. Gold continues, runs off to the accusations made against UN peacekeepers in Cambodia, East Timor, Mozambique, Bosnia, Ethiopia and Eritrea for their unethical and often egregious behavior, to say nothing of the oil-for-food program that the UN administered in Iraq. Mr. Gold's summation is reflected in Sweden's Per Ahlmark remark that the UN has become "an institution in which no shortcoming, it seems, goes unrewarded."
In all, Mr. Gold's unequivocal condemnation is a welcome break from the constant adulation and non-critical glorification that the UN receives in many countries across the world. At the same time, it not clear how and whether Mr. Gold's alternative, a community of democracies that is united by values and purpose, would operate. His coalition to fight terrorism, for example, would include Turkey, a notorious human rights abuser. And it is not clear for how long this democratic alliance would sustain converging views on who is the aggressor and who is the victim without resorting to the instinctive reaction of trying to mend fences rather than point fingers of blame. All the same, if there is a case to be made against the United Nations as it exists today, then that case is well contained in the "Tower of Babble."