UNLESS you’re a news junkie, probably you didn’t notice the United Nation’s General Assembly was in session last month, with world leaders piling into New York as if it were Blue Cross Day in Macy’s sales.
A sombre Barack Obama chaired the fatuous waffling show and so much extraneous CO2 was expended, it probably blew a chasm the size of Alaska in the ozone layer.
As was his privilege, the keynote speech was made by the US President – greyer, gaunter now and a far cry from the jaunty, upbeat figure of global optimism he cut when first addressing the gathering in 2009.
Way back then, he promised ‘a new era of engagement with the world’. And – lo and behold! – we have it…just not quite the one he envisaged.
By ‘engagement’ Obama meant peace and conciliation, not the vicious, internecine, barbaric collision of religious credos, clashing cultures and political dogmas blighting almost the entire Middle East and swathes of Africa, not to mention Ukraine or the existential threat to the West from jihadis returning home from DIY decapitation courses, courtesy of Islamic State (IS).
Though not entirely all down to his inertia, no-drama Obama bears huge culpability for ignoring how the layer cake of conflicts was rising, not that such an egotistical poseur would have the humility to fess up.
After all, only a year ago he bragged to the General Assembly (GA), ‘The world is more stable than it was five years ago.’
That was either self-delusion or purblindness at its worst.
Because, as some of his once closest advisers have testified – none more so than former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – Obama’s been hands-off when he should have been full-on, a telegenic prop not a globo cop, a dithery camp follower rather than a trailblazer.
Now, after six years of comparatively moribund inactivity, even the peacenik president has finally accepted that actions speaks louder than platitudes and he’s taken on IS in its own backyard.
‘There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil,’ he told the Assembly, showing real fire in his gut for once. ‘The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.’
Quite where what some describe as the Third Iraq War leads to is anyone’s guess, though at least a smattering of Arab nations have overcome their timidity to share the US-led coalition’s heavy lifting.
However, this isn’t about Obama’s flaws, IS carnage, sneaky Iran’s march to the nuclear weapon threshold or even the intractable Israel-Palestinian brouhaha.
It’s about the ineptitudes and blatant, anti-Western bias of the UN, bar some of its useful spin-offs, such as the World Health Organisation and UNESCO.
As the disorganisation celebrates its 69th birthday this month, how the founding fathers – notably President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – must be whirling in their graves in disgust at how their vision of a body intended to bring peace to a devastated, post-war world has begotten a corpse of grubby self-interest and accusatory spite.
Of the 51 original members, only the Soviet Bloc, China and the former Yugoslavia – all WW2 allies – weren’t democracies, even if the probity of some others at that time (e.g. Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and South Africa) was contestable.
Nonetheless, all were signatories to the UN Charter and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which ‘reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights and dignity, and worth of the human person’, while committing all member states to promote ‘universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.’
Fine words, noble aims; but fast-forward nearly seven decades and what have we…193 states, a disreputable number of whom couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss for the club rules apropos human rights, gender equality or inter-faith tolerance.
So, only at the UN can indictable tyrannies, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Sudan – with their penchants for headbanging religious extremism, financing terror and judicial codes beyond the barbaric – share the civilised world’s lustre.
Meanwhile, whatever is the allure of IS’s Islamo-fascist paradise is beyond me. But I fully endorse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overview, as he told to the GA last week, ‘The Nazis believed in a master race; the militant Islamists believe in a master faith.’
Led by a succession of UN Secretaries General unfit to be short-order chefs, the liberal democracies now find themselves victims of a naïve misbelief their tools of egalitarian governance were beckoning to be adopted by states where people power was zilch or, if it dares show itself, got brutally crushed.
The so-called Arab Spring finally laid waste that fantasy.
Yet now, once again, the altruistic West is expected to intervene in a Middle East bloodbath, albeit at the behest of a slumbering American leader only just awoken to reality.
Strikingly, Obama didn’t bother asking UN permission, before sending his fighter jets to pulverise IS.
And maybe former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, explains why, noting, ‘No organisation embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations [as the UN]. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power manoeuvring; the General Assembly a theatre of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.’
Now many sage voices believe there is a critical need for a serious appraisal of the UN’s purpose and cost – a thwacking US$30-bn per annum, the tab mainly picked up by American and European taxpayers.
Because, after nearly 70 years, it has degenerated into a shambling old buffer with exorbitant tastes, its ‘halo effect’ dimmed by age, scandal, nepotism and corruption.
Hence, an idea being touted is for the UN to be evicted from its palatial tower overlooking New York’s East River and pack it off somewhere more in kilter with its skewered ethos – Doha and Khartoum have been mentioned.
Then, maybe, a Western-leaning Organisation of Democratic Nations – even if it accommodates China and Russia on the basis they are political and economic powerhouses – can emerge, thus checkmating the preposterousness of a Third World tail wagging the First World dog.
Only then might it dawn on the post-medieval despots that the West has had a bellyful of their inanity and insanity, and they should dump their self-inflicted woes in their own lap, not ours.