May 10, 2007

UNIFIL, Unfulfilled

By Noah Pollak

I have a piece up today over at National Review Online that folks might be interested in reading.

UNIFIL Unfulfilled
The U.N. organization is ineffective and unaccountable.

By Noah Pollak

Jerusalem — Israel is abuzz with the talk of incompetence and failure. The interim report of the Winograd Commission was released last week, and it lays out, in excruciating detail, the multifaceted catastrophe that was last summer’s war against Hezbollah: the ignorance of the prime minister and defense minister concerning military matters; the appalling ineptitude of Dan Halutz, the chief of staff of the IDF, in commanding the military and advising the country’s political leadership; the absence of a preexisting plan to deal with an entirely predictable crisis; the declaration of strategic goals that were entirely divorced from the means required to achieve them; the ill-conceived, ineffective air war and the last-second, impulsive ground campaign; and the six-year history of passivity and retreat on the northern border that emboldened Hezbollah and telegraphed Israel’s lack of military readiness.

The Winograd report is sobering reading, but the fact of its existence is certainly not unusual in the Jewish state’s history. Israel’s culture of self-criticism and its ingrained lack of deference toward authority figures are some of the foundational reasons why this small country, constantly under attack, has been able to flourish in the Middle East. There is no doubt that Israel’s political landscape — and its military priorities — will be significantly altered by the fallout from the Winograd report.

But there is one institution that has quite remarkably escaped any opprobrium for its own important contribution to the outbreak of war last summer. And that is the United Nations and its edifice of Security Council resolutions, some dating back decades, that have sought to remedy the problem of Lebanon’s lawless southern region and its hospitality to terrorist organizations. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was encamped there from 1968 until it was pushed out by Israel’s 1982 invasion, and Hezbollah remains there to this day. Since it is the season for assessing failure and assigning blame, why should the U.N. escape scrutiny?

It was back in March 1978 that the first Security Council resolution was passed attempting to address the power vacuum in southern Lebanon. A week earlier, PLO terrorists had crossed into Israel and murdered 37 people in a gruesome bus attack near Tel Aviv. Israel responded with Operation Litani, an IDF incursion that pushed the PLO off Israel’s northern border. Resolutions 425 and 426 created a U.N. force that was supposed to take the IDF’s place in southern Lebanon, create a buffer zone along the border with Israel, and, in the somewhat ludicrous text of the resolution, “restore international peace and security and assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.” UNIFIL was born.

Since then a concatenation of nearly identical UNIFIL-related resolutions has been issued by the Security Council, always with one thing in common: Events on the ground are never permitted to affect UNIFIL’s mandate. Through a combination of diplomatic foolishness and bureaucratic inertia, UNIFIL has remained impervious to any evaluation of its actual utility in bringing peace and security to southern Lebanon.

By my count, the Security Council has passed some 38 resolutions pertaining to UNIFIL, every one of which seamlessly ignores UNIFIL’s inability to accomplish its mission. If Israel last summer declared goals for itself that it didn’t have the means to accomplish, the U.N. has been doing so for thirty years. In renewing UNIFIL’s mandate in 1978, the council noted “the progress already achieved by the Force towards the establishment of peace and security in Southern Lebanon” and called “for strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.” In 1982 it demanded “the strict respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Lebanese Government.” In 2000, after Israel withdrew completely from southern Lebanon, the Security Council announced that it “calls on the Government of Lebanon to ensure the return of its effective authority and presence in the south.” When that didn’t happen, the council announced its “strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.” And so on, plagiarizing itself repeatedly, farcically declaring the same impossible goals, decade after decade. Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, is considered a watershed for Lebanon because it used stronger, more precise language to demand exactly the same things that the Security Council started demanding in 1978. But, alas, even stronger words didn’t deter Syria and Hezbollah. Five months after 1559 was approved, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, was murdered in a massive explosion in Beirut, almost certainly by Syria.

Fine, a person might say — UNIFIL is ineffective. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that UNIFIL is more than an innocuous presence. It contributes to instability along the Israeli border and to the ability of Syria and Iran to co-opt Lebanon by allowing the international community to embrace the comforting delusion that it is doing something. In reality, UNIFIL gives diplomats an excuse to do nothing about Hezbollah’s re-armament, and thus enhances the militia’s ability to thrust Lebanon and Israel into war at a time of its choosing — such as during a U.S. military strike on Iran. Moreover, UNIFIL stands as a disincentive for the Lebanese army to attempt to deploy in the area, it observes Hezbollah daily but does not collect or share intelligence on its activities, and its presence on the ground complicates Israel’s ability to engage the terrorist army in battle. (Hezbollah shrewdly built much of its military infrastructure in close proximity to UNIFIL stations.) The presence of UNIFIL certainly hasn’t prevented violence in the past: Since Operation Litani in 1978, Israel has had to strike at the PLO and then Hezbollah on numerous occasions, including air strikes in 1981, the 1982 invasion and subsequent occupation, the week-long Operation Accountability in 1993, the sixteen-day Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996, and dozens of smaller incidents scattered in between. And over the course of this long history of terrorist provocation in southern Lebanon, the world’s diplomatic corps has maintained the self-congratulatory fantasy that more extensions of UNIFIL’s mandate will help the region.

At the conclusion of the war last summer, an enlarged UNIFIL was given the mission of ensuring the tranquility of southern Lebanon. But, nine months later, it has only enlarged the problems created by its less ambitious predecessors. The new force is feckless: afraid to confront Hezbollah, unwilling to interrupt the easy flow of arms across Lebanon, prohibited from patrolling the border with Syria, unable to make a difference. No serious observer of southern Lebanon today believes that the new, “robust” UNIFIL is doing anything that will prevent another round of warfare.

And when hostilities break out again, the world’s diplomats will have one predictable solution in mind: a cease fire, and more UNIFIL. Israel’s willingness to criticize itself sets an admirable example in how to publicly evaluate failure. It is unrealistic to think that the United Nations would follow suit with an examination of its own failures in Lebanon, but that should not stop us from asking: How much longer will this region have to suffer the Security Council’s benevolence?

Posted by Noah Pollak at May 10, 2007 07:54 AM
Comments

Noah, if the United States Army with 200,000 angry, uninhibited troops can't keep weapons from coming into the Iraqi insurgency, then how exactly does a peacekeeping force prevent Hizballah from rearming?
Note that getting all those resolutions passed in the first place requires the UN force to be structured as peacekeeping and not Hizballah-a**-kicking, if you don't like it, you might want to rewrite the Security Council staffing.

A better question is: when will conservapundits stop gunning for the UN? When they came in, both sides were killing each other, and right now they aren't. That's already success. If you want more, than I've read consensus reports that Hizballah is being significantly impeded by the UN presence in re-fortifying the South Lebanon belt, which seems to question your premise:
No serious observer of southern Lebanon today believes that the new, “robust” UNIFIL is doing anything that will prevent another round of warfare.

I think this is an "assertion", pulled out of your ... rhetorical needs.. not a fact.

Let's get real. Occupying Lebanon was a losing hand for Israel. They were lucky to have the UN to come in and avoid the U.S.'s choice between pullout and collapse, and being permanently bled.
What this column is asking is "why can't the UN make take care of this whole situation for us?". Answer: not the UN's job, anymore than it's the job of the Red Cross to topple Saddamn Hussein. No matter how much you'd like it to be, the morality of the larger situation is not globally percieved as the sort of slam-dunk that constitutes the only time the UN can move from neutral, everyone-wins agreements to punitive work.

Or from a more cynical perspective, if Israel wants better results from a five-veto forum, perhaps it needs to work harder on bribing Russia and China. Either way, the rules of the game are clear. They're just not as you want them to be. Nevertheless, the case for Israel's "suffering" from the Security Council's benevolence is weak. If Israel had its own answers, they were free to politely tell UNFIL to go climb a tree. They did not. What's that mean?

Posted by: glasnost at May 10, 2007 09:10 AM

glasnost, a very brief respectful critique: Even if the mandate of UNIFIL (II) is not "Hizbollah-a**-kicking" this force is potentially in a much better position than the American Military in Iraq to deny Hezb'allah access to arms and operational space. Not only is Lebanon significantly smaller with much shorter borders to patrol, but unlike most of the insurgent groups in Iraq, Hezb'allah is a much more clearly identifiable target.
Contrary to your claim, UNIFIL has not prevented their rearming (they have replenished their missile stocks to their pre-war level in 6 months). This is in large part because they have not been given the operational mandate to police the Lebanese Syrian border. UNIFIL does not need to go in guns blazing to significantly impede Hezb'allah's operational strength; they need to be present where it counts.
Simply because missiles are not flying over the border does not mean that this UN operation has already been a success. In fact, one of the main criticisms of the Israeli government put forward by the Winograd committee was that after withdrawing from Lebanon, they ignored the Hezb'allah build-up. That the current UNIFIL mandate seems to be instrumental in again legitimating this approach points to real failures, both in the UN PKO and the International Community at large.
***
on another note, Noah, what's the best way to get in touch with you?

Posted by: zellmad at May 10, 2007 09:50 AM

UNIFIL's job is to assist operations carried out by the government of Lebanon.

What kind of effort has the government of Lebanon made to assert its authority over southern Lebanon?

Posted by: alphie at May 10, 2007 12:47 PM

A committee, NOT-ELECTED, trying to un-do an election. Will they?

The Likudniks are FURIOUS. As all groups who lose power get furious! And, they've gone so far as to accuse an old man of rape. Katsav is no rapist. And, they took out a middle-aged, single fella, for "kissing a girl." And, then they accused him of having no heart, and no soul, for his point of view. (She was there. She sought him out. And, she "entrapped him" in a "nothing.") Yeah, politics like this should have a name. I'd call it "Monica."

Olmert, when he set up his government, did something odd. He went to Labor, even though they were tossed on the electoral ropes;

And, Olmert built his parliamentary majority from the dreck. Rather than choosing the more popular Likud fellas. Who saw the disaster coming to Likud. So they did last-minute leaps into Kadima.

What's really at stake in Israel, now?

How people get elected. Because Arik Sharon wanted to create a "third" way. Away from Likud (where he detested the ruling "committee of 100.") And, Labor? Was dying on its own. Shinui, if you remember, was also defeated.

And, it's in this environment that the politicians are hoping they can fool the majority of the people.

While, so far, Olmert sits. (He picked a team, and enriched them with such good portfolios, they'd have to be crazy and politically suicidal, to give this up.)

While Last Summer, the real fiasco for Israel has been Bush's manueverings to get real estate handed to the House of Saud. Not Bush, alone. Dubya's really stupid. Never developed a good grasp of business. Got to where he is on Bush Family contacts.

And, the future? It's always up in the air. Because randomness of probabilities hides most outcomes from easy guesses. Call it the "complexity of the system."

For a good read, I am now understanding so much more. HOUSE OF BUSH /HOUSE OF SAUD. Details what's been going on, since Jimmy Carter exited the White House. And, Reagan bought into the covert work recommended by Z'Big'new. To bankrupt the russians. Forcing them to fight in Afghanistan.

Again, on the short term scale, a lot of that stuff made sense.

Removing Saddam from Iraq, however, has exposed what was once a SECULAR state; and turned it into a free-for-all. Since the Saud's are getting competition from Iran.

Proxies in the Mideast are nothing new.

Solutions? Fewer are further between.

But Bush has lagged behind in being popular. And, what can he point to? Tommy Franks won the "trip to Baghdad" award in 3 weeks. For ten months, things were going well, enough. And, the CIA trained goon, Chalabi, wasn't making headway with the Iraqi people. To ALLAWI? The same fate.

In proxy wars there are always fodder for the mill.

James Baker is the most EVIL man on earth! And, has no business being in the American White House! Still, we have to wait for 2008. When the public votes.

Hopefully, this will remain as true in Israel, as here. I really do hope people read HOUSE OF BUSH / HOUSE OF SAUD. Their eyes will open.

Posted by: Carol Herman at May 10, 2007 01:33 PM

glasnost:
> What this column is asking is "why can't
> the UN make take care of this whole situation
> for us?"

no. What this article is saying is that UNIFIL is a fig leaf and a gaping moral hazard. Its involvement makes war inevitable. They only thing worse than people who can't see that is people who see it clearly and like it, or at best don't care.

But yes it would certainly be interesting if the world at large would let Israel and Hezbollah fight it out.

Posted by: adam D at May 10, 2007 02:02 PM

Get your own blog, Carol. I mean it.

I got more than 20 complaints last time you hijacked my comments, and we are not going to go through that again.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2007 02:21 PM

The Vinograd interim report released last week is supposed to only cover the first five days of the war plus the six preceding years. As far as I know it had little to say about the UN role. Carolyn Glick did report last week that the Commission for some reason [it could not have been a good one] praised Sec. Council res. 1701 which was a bad resolution and a betrayal of the brave soldiers who fought in Lebanon.

Noah points out that UNIFIL does not have a mandate to stop weapons transports from Syria into Lebanon. For this we might blame Condi Rice and Tsipi Livni for not insisting that such a condition be part of the new UNIFIL mandate based on 1701. I am sure that I am not the only one to have seen at the time that 1701 was approved that that missing term in the mandate would be a delayed disaster.

Livni is a certified birdbrain [her name, Tsipora, means bird]. One of Olmert's many crimes is that he appointed Livni to be foreign minister. Another crime is that he appointed Perets as defense minister. A prime minister is indeed responsible for the ministers that he appoints. To digress from the contemptible farce called UNIFIL, for a moment, Olmert's health minister is another jackass. Although a member of the Pensioners' Party, he hid the news about how the flu vaccine was killing older people.

What I find harder to understand is why Fuad Siniora, whose very life is on the line in the conflict with Hizbullah & Syria, did not quietly encourage his French & American friends to insert such a clause into 1701. Didn't Siniora see a conflict coming with Hizbullah, especially if had not been sufficiently destroyed or hobbled??

Posted by: Eliyahu at May 10, 2007 02:52 PM

The UN is an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel cesspool. Of course 1701 is a fraud. It was written the way it was written because there is no way to get anything through the Security Council that would actually be to Israel's benefit and the Arabs' detriment. It's a farce, nothing but a big Kabuki play.

Another war is coming. With UNIFIL there, there is a big danger that Israel will be fighting the Europeans as well as Hizb'allah, since UNIFIL will inevitably take casualties when Israel strikes at Hizb'allah.

Hizb'allah played this pretty damn well, it seems to me. They have all their weapons stocks replenished, and next time around Hizb'allah will be hiding behind white European UN soldiers instead of brown Lebanese civilians, who no one gives a damn about. What do you think the Frogs are going to do if some damn Jew kills Pierre instead of Achmed? (Of course, with Sarkozy's election, maybe things will be different. It's a hope, at least.)

And everyone thinks the Jews are so smart. We have been totally taken to the cleaners on this one.

Posted by: Ephraim at May 10, 2007 03:09 PM

Warfare out of Lebanon? Well, I think all you're gonna get is HOT AIR.

Yes, there's a "movement" of missiles; coming off the same roads that bring in the drugs. And, that's where the money IS.

Trade in Beirut was put at a standstill by Nasrallah's thugs.

And, people have to make a living.

If people would read HOUSE OF BUSH / HOUSE OF SAUD, they'd see the setup, better. Because in Afghanistan; where we were funding both sides (to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan); what got built up from the "arms traffic-ateers, were the very roads where heroin travels on. And, again, it's Afghanistan's export commodity.

As a matter of fact, during the 1980's, the Afghan's were getting so many TOW missiles, they began selling them (like drugs), to 3rd parties.

Perhaps America's Pentagon never learns.

But not every mouse trap sold catches a mouse.

And, not all the hot air in the world is gonna make Nasrallah popular, by shooting over the heads; and thru, UNIFIL.

I know the WINOGRAD report is getting lots of attention, now. But that's just a committee, enranged with Likudniks who want to get back in power. WHILE DESTROYING ANOTHER OUTSIDE PARTY, that I just shrug at most of the tea-leaf readers and their predictions.

Nobody knows what's ahead. Because for things to evolve in the future; coming off how complex these systems are, is to develop a healthier respect for randomness and their probabilities. You just can't guess it. Because the roulette wheel, or the gun's chamber, with its single bullet, could come flying out. It's unexpected only if you think you're very lucky.

What does Nasrallah have except propaganda? How else would he hold onto power?

The same is true all over the Mideast. Power is a desirable commodity. And, even democracies aren't free of dirty motivations passing as politics.

Anyway, every given day that passes, where Olmert's butt is still in the prime minister's chair; is another day he is working as the official elected to sit there.

Can there be speed bumps?

There can be anything and everything.

While Bush is basically in trouble, now, in DC. Because he's getting pressured from GOP members who sit in America's HOUSE.

Pelosi's rag has nothing to do with the current fears that are occurring in politics. Where fewer and fewer people even want the "union label" sewn into their clothes. Or want to belong to either party.

Politics, perhaps, can really be a minor affair? Since most people think most politicians are the lowest form of humanity; anyway.

It pays to take reports that the sky is falling with at least a bit of skeptism. Why? Because Olmert may still be prime minister next month. And, Ehud Barak is still even more intensely disliked than Olmert. Should you be thinking of confrontations in future elections.

Someday? And, probably because of the Internet. Ordinary citizens won't be taken for granted. And, the propaganda that passes for news will be considered as wasteful as advertising your products in newspaper?

No. I don't know.

It's the future. And, the rules of chaos would explain to you that no one knows what unfolds. But don't go betting your ranch on your favorite number.

Posted by: Carol Herman at May 10, 2007 04:35 PM

Contrary to your claim, UNIFIL has not prevented their rearming (they have replenished their missile stocks to their pre-war level in 6 months).

Didn't say prevented from rearming. Said prevented from re-fortifying far South Lebanon.

Until the broader Arab community and Israel work things out, Hizballah's root-and-branch disarmnament is an unrealistic goal, and a counterproductive one to pursue at that. This is regardless of the fact that it might be a good thing in abstract. It would rapidly degenerate into a hot war between UNFIL and Hizballah, and the Western World, TM, was totally uninterested in pursuing that, thus the actual troops for UNFIL would not have existed.

If the premise is that a "soft" disarmnament of Hizballah could have occurred, call me a skeptic.

A military balance of some sort between Israel and Hizballah doesn't equate to war, anymore than the military balance between Egypt and Israel has meant war. The focus should be on keeping Lebanese politics liberal enough to make sure that Hizballah doesn't profit from its misadventures.

Posted by: glasnost at May 10, 2007 04:37 PM

Carol, I banned you from commenting here a long time ago, last year, because I got so many complaints from so many people. You will not publish any more commnets on this Web site. Period. All future comments will be deleted, and that's final.

(For those of you who can't figure out why I banned her and why she got so many complaints earlier is because she hogs other people comment sections with huge numbers of irrelevant "essays" of her own. She goes on and on and on and on and absolutely will not stop unless she is evicted.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 10, 2007 04:41 PM

You make some great points, Noah.

The UN imposing UNIFIL is like a doctor prescribing bleeding as a treatment for fever. The treatment doesn't work, and in fact every time it is done it weakens the patient (Lebanon).

Posted by: Zvi at May 10, 2007 05:26 PM

Thanks for the housekeeping, MJT -- could have been done after frothing rant #1 since you have history.

Glasnost, I see Noah asking "why can't UNIFIL be effective, ever, or at least do more good than harm?" and since that is a question that has been asked about UN 'peace-keepers' in a lot of places other than Lebanon, not sure why you or anyone would blame Israel for it being this way. Israel knew exactly what would happen at the time, but having kneecapped itself, winced and accepted the offer. Btw, I understood at the time it was the French who held out for a gutless 1701, and Condi caved -- what a shocker.

The oddity to me is anyone as sophisticated as Noah would be at all surprised or even waste the energy on being outraged by the UN's feckless blundering in Lebanon.

I heard a great interview awhile back about how the UN is one of the largest, richest multinational corporations in the world, yet it has the administrative sophistication of a lemonade stand, and selection and hiring practices that would guarantee the immediate collapse of any mid-sized corporation in a modestly competitive environment. The fact that it is a complete monopoly of a really singular sort (with a 'Board of Directors' picked for narcissism) is the only thing that lets it keep grinding along in circles.

Posted by: Pam at May 10, 2007 08:16 PM

Get your own blog, Carol. I mean it.

Ban her Totten. That's what you do when you don't agree with posters.

Posted by: Graham at May 10, 2007 08:44 PM

Pam,

Based on its annual budget, the U.N. wouldn't even rank in the top 1000 international corporations.

Could the U.N. haters be more specific about what, exactly, they want UNIFIL to do in southern Lebanon?

Posted by: alphie at May 10, 2007 09:21 PM

Graham: Ban her Totten. That's what you do when you don't agree with posters

That's not why she's banned. I don't agree with Aphie either, and he isn't going anywhere.

You missed the whole kerfuffle that got her banned a long time ago. She isn't banned for what she posted today.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 11, 2007 01:18 AM

As Robin Williams has suggested, the UN should pack up and go condo.

Posted by: Jonorose at May 11, 2007 02:29 AM

A better question is: when will conservapundits stop gunning for the UN?

Why, when the UN starts living up to it's ideals and stops being a corrupt, inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy riddled with incompetence and patronage.

Did you hear that Zimbabwe is about to assume the chair on the Commission on Sustainable Development?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6641271.stm

Posted by: rosignol at May 11, 2007 03:21 AM

Concur with the housecleaning. If people want to rant & rave (o.k, fervently express their, umm, unique views, let them start their own blog. No barrier to entry there)

I have yet to hear resonable, cogent, persuavive reason for the continued existence of the UN. Socialists, 3rd/4th world countries love it, UN Employees love it, but for the U.S., I belive it very much a detriment. Especially in todays world of communication modes.

The U.N. is anti-US, corrupt, ineffective, ineffecient and nepoptistic; other than that it is just fine.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at May 11, 2007 03:51 AM

Why, when the UN starts living up to it's ideals and stops being a corrupt, inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy riddled with incompetence and patronage.

Please design a multilateral institution genuinely not controlled by any single nation or national bloc, yet staffed, funded, and given marching orders by the world's population of governments, at a time when most or all of said governments are saturated with, corrupt, inefficient, bureaucracies and patronage, and not acquiring the same characteristics of those nations.

Furthermore, people who work with the UN are well aware of the noncorrupt, efficient, competent work they do in a hundred fields. Their press coverage, needless to say, is universally horrible. That's a reflection of the press and the audience, not reality. There are shocking examples of failures and flaws, but most of it is systemically preordained, and most of it isn't any worse, comparatively, than most other large institutions on earth - just more visible.

Corruption and incompetence can be found almost literally anywhere you choose to look for it - sometimes you have to get beyond anecdotes for that exact reason.

Posted by: glasnost at May 11, 2007 08:08 AM

Just because its corruption and gross inefficiency are 'systemic' and unavoidable doesn't mean the UN is a good thing or that its destructive qualities should be complacently patted on the head and let run rampant. I give you: the Human Rights Council.

I believe the UN often does decent work in its purely humanitarian efforts, but when it strays into the military sphere it is a mess.

Posted by: Pam at May 11, 2007 08:29 AM

Please design a multilateral institution ...staffed, funded, and given marching orders by the world's population of governments, at a time when most or all of said governments are saturated with, corrupt, inefficient, bureaucracies and patronage, and not acquiring the same characteristics of those nations.

That's why the UN needs to be replaced by the UNODS - the United Nations of Democratic States. Prerequisite for membership would include democratic elections, a free press, and the separation of powers.

That way you might end up with an authority that isn't dominated by the ridiculous posturing of dictators and despots.

Posted by: mertel at May 11, 2007 09:24 AM

Yeah, an international organization excluding China, Russia, Pakistan, the Middle East and most of Africa is gonna be really helpful solving problems relating to China, Russia, Pakistan, the Middle East and most of Africa .

Posted by: novakant at May 11, 2007 10:23 AM

Yep. The multitude of undemocratic countries that dominate the UN serve to use their power to effectively undermine any serious attempt at "solving problems". In fact, as demonstrated so effectively by the Human Rights Council, they ensure that their problems are actually ignored and instead focussed on a scapegoat.

Posted by: mertel at May 11, 2007 12:32 PM

Forget a UN, or a UNODS, what the world needs is an ass kicking world police with a mandate to deal with terrorism, slave trading, drug trafficking, genocide, and even serious environmental transgressions.

Don't ask me how you would go about setting up an organization like that (it couldn't be a UN project) , perhaps have Mertel's UNODS criteria for member status (democratic elections, a free press, and the separation of powers).

Posted by: Jonorose at May 11, 2007 04:30 PM

the world needs a pony!

Posted by: novakant at May 11, 2007 04:54 PM

Thanks for banning Carol. I found myself tricked into reading the first few sentences, then I would see "HOUSE OF BUSH/HOUSE OF SAUD" and instantly realize I wasted my time. I don't agree with glasnost, but at least he doesn't read one book and then write an off-topic book report on it over and over again.

Posted by: Rommel at May 11, 2007 04:56 PM

Do you think Carol works for Random House or something? Wasn't she shamelessly pushing "Warrior" by Ariel Sharon a few months ago?

Posted by: Corinne at May 11, 2007 07:40 PM

Do you think Carol works for Random House or something?

No.

Wasn't she shamelessly pushing "Warrior" by Ariel Sharon a few months ago?

Yes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 12, 2007 12:06 AM

Please design a multilateral institution genuinely not controlled by any single nation or national bloc, yet staffed, funded, and given marching orders by the world's population of governments,

That is an inherently flawed design. The reason is simple: the status quo suits a majority of the world's governments, and the will seek to perpetuate it: the elites are on top, and use their position to enrich themselves. The well-being of the little people is a secondary (or even tertiary) consideration.

at a time when most or all of said governments are saturated with, corrupt, inefficient, bureaucracies and patronage, and not acquiring the same characteristics of those nations.

The solution is obvious: exclude the corrupt, bureaucratic, patronage-saturated governments.

(I don't mind ineffeciency so much in a government- as someone once said, the government that governs least governs best- but efficency is desirable in non-governmental organizations)

Furthermore, people who work with the UN are well aware of the noncorrupt, efficient, competent work they do in a hundred fields.

Name them.

A hundred fields, as per your assertion.

Their press coverage, needless to say, is universally horrible. That's a reflection of the press and the audience, not reality.

Har. There are plenty of people out there who would like to hear good things about the UN- I'm one of them. However, what we get are reports of abuses from low (UN 'peacekeepers' handing out rations for sex) to high (Oil-for-Food, anyone?), and idiocy such as the Durban Conference on Racism.

Could it be that the overwhelming flood of negative information re the UN has some basis in fact?

There are shocking examples of failures and flaws, but most of it is systemically preordained, and most of it isn't any worse, comparatively, than most other large institutions on earth - just more visible.

The only conclusion I can make from that statement is that you are astonishingly ignorant, or you are using a very broad definition of 'large institutions' and are including most third-world governments in that category.

If you are trying to make the point that the UN is less corrupt than the Nigerian government, consider it made. I certainly know better than to argue that Nigeria is not corrupt. However, I do not feel that the Nigerian government (or any third-world government) should be the benchmark we should be using to assess the UN's performance.

Corruption and incompetence can be found almost literally anywhere you choose to look for it - sometimes you have to get beyond anecdotes for that exact reason.

Anecdotes?

We are well beyond mere anecdotes. If it was not for diplomatic immunity, there would be a substantial number of senior UN personnel in prison.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_for_Food_Scandal#Abuse

Posted by: rosignol at May 13, 2007 01:53 AM

A big 'Bow Down' to rosignol!

Posted by: Pam at May 13, 2007 09:16 AM

Har. There are plenty of people out there who would like to hear good things about the UN- I'm one of them. However, what we get are reports of abuses from low (UN 'peacekeepers' handing out rations for sex) to high (Oil-for-Food, anyone?), and idiocy such as the Durban Conference on Racism.

That's because you visit places where stories like that are sought out and served to you.

If you want one anecdotal example, I can give that to you. Read "What is the What" by David Eggers, a semi-historical memoir of the experiences of Sudanese Lost Boy Valentino Achak Deng. A real human being, by the way. Deng spends ten years of his life in UN refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya - camps you know nothing about, camps you aren't even aware existed. More than a million people died in the first Sudanese Civil War. Hundreds of thousands of others survived in UN refugee camps - camps that would not have set up themselves and would not have been set up by neighboring countries - where they otherwise would have died.

No one recognizes or thanks the UN for this sort of work. If you know about it at all, it's referenced as a supporting detail in a story about what's going on, i.e. a story on a civil war sending "hundreds of thousands fleeing into UN refugee camps".

You hear the stories that are reported to you. You know what you're told. They're not neccesarily false, but they're not neccesarily representative. The talking shops at the General Assembly and anything overseen by the Security are absolutely not representative - they're the least independent and therefore the worst of the lot.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:29 PM

For a little tiny window into what I'm talking about, Roz - from Wikipedia:

Major humanitarian arms of the UN are the World Food Programme (which helps feed more than 100 million people a year in 80 countries), the High Commissioner for Refugees with projects in over 116 countries, as well as peacekeeping projects in over 24 countries.

So, do you know anything about the World Food Progamme? Do you know anything about any of the refugee projects in 116 countries? Do you know anything about most of the peacekeeping projects? No. You don't. You know about Nigerian rented soldiers in prostitution scandals, about the Security-Council-overseen oil-for-food program in Iraq, in which every government in the West was complicit, and about the meaningless (and, in your defense, often genuinely unhinged) stuff that comes out of the General Assembly - but not from UN staff, but from resolutions drawn up by member country delegates.

You know the kind of problems the U.S. has had in creating scandal-free Iraqi soldiers? How and why do you expect the U.N. to have a perfect batting average? If their batting average was 90%, would you know? Are you informed? Or are you just reading what's put in front of you? Which is scandal, scandal, full stop.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:33 PM

The only conclusion I can make from that statement is that you are astonishingly ignorant,

I'm not, in fact, astonishingly ignorant. You get money-for-sex scandals right here in the U.S. government - for the most recent, please look into Tim Foley and Duke Cunningham. Also the serial shoplifter whose name I forget, but could recover, forced out of the top of the Executive Office around 2004 or 2005. Harold something. Nobody's clean. What you have left are comparisons of frequency and prevalence, and your knowledge of UN performance in this area is, in my opinion, warped. Which is the basic state of play, requiring only passivity to arrive at.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:37 PM

Hear much about this study? I bet you didn't.

A 2005 RAND Corp study found the UN to be successful in two out of three peacekeeping efforts. It also compared UN nation-building efforts to those of the U.S., and found that of eight UN cases, seven are at peace, whereas of eight U.S. cases, four are at peace, and four are not or not-yet-at peace.24

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG304.sum.pdf

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 01:41 PM

Actually, I am aware of their humanitarian efforts, and said above that I give some credit there.

I expect different behaviors from humanitarian and peacekeeping forces than I do actively engaged military forces in war; I'm not sure it's really inappropriate to hold the former to a slightly higher ethical standard:
From Refugees International, (while recognizing that sexual abuse is a problem in all military settings) The UN Security Council deploys military troops in order to protect vulnerable populations from the violence of the warring parties. In the words of the Zeid report, the UN “should not in any way increase the suffering of vulnerable sectors of the population, which has often been devastated by war or civil conflict.”

Of course, with over a third of peacekeepers coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Jordan, maybe we shouldn't have high expectations of benevolent attitudes towards women and children. Or it's a different concept of 'benevolent.'

Not sure why you think we hear ALL the bad stuff that happens and none of the good, or that the bad is so over-represented by the media. You tend to react rather strongly, if I'm not mistaken, when that is the exact defense used by the Bushistas, or by anyone else for that matter.

Posted by: Pam at May 13, 2007 06:06 PM

You tend to react rather strongly, if I'm not mistaken, when that is the exact defense used by the Bushistas, or by anyone else for that matter.

You're right, Pam. I do.

I guess we all have opinions on the relative accuracy of standard media reporting on any given issue. Those opinions are subjective and fallible things.

I'm not unwilling to believe that there are positive aspects of the Iraq-War underreported by the media. The question is, in the final math, what does it add up to, the underreported vs. the reported?

If the point is, "the UN is flawed and its performance could and should be improved", then there's room for agreement. The relative significance of the flaws to the non-flaws is something hard to establish beyond question. I just have my opinion.

Posted by: glasnost at May 13, 2007 07:09 PM

The point is

1) the UN is seriously flawed

2) as the UN was established via treaty that requires agreement of all signatories to modify, reform is for all practical purposes impossible

3) it is useful to have a forum for governments to have diplomats posture instead of having them posture by holding military training excercises

4) as a consequence of the above, the best practical plan for reform is for the US and other western powers to withdraw from the UN and replace it with a new organization based on a charter modified on account of lessons learned from the failure of the League of Nations and the unsatisfactory performance of the United Nations. While, restricting membership to democratically elected governments is unlikely to be practical, I see little reason why the body could not specify that representatives (or citizens) of such nations would be barred from holding any position within the organization other than "Representative of X" in the relevant assembly or council.

5) the useful functions of the UN (I do not deny that there are a few) should be transitioned to the new body, with stronger oversight provisions- as well as the automatic stripping of diplomatic immunity if corruption is found- incorporated into the charter from day one.

Posted by: rosignol at May 16, 2007 02:42 AM

Alphie, yes, the UN is corrupt. In fact, it's evil. But do you really think that the major Western powers oppose the corruption of the UN? Doesn't Washington still pay the lion's share of the UN budget? Despite all of the State Dept's complaining about the UN, do you think that the US would keep paying if somebody high up in US policymaking didn't think it somehow served a useful purpose?

Posted by: Eliyahu at May 18, 2007 12:58 AM

my comment above meant for Rossignol, not Alphie

Posted by: Eliyahu at May 18, 2007 12:59 AM

But do you really think that the major Western powers oppose the corruption of the UN?

Some of them, yes. Others, not so much.

Doesn't Washington still pay the lion's share of the UN budget?

Each nation's responsibility for a portion of the UN budget is based on that nations' GDP, in a formula defined in a treaty. The US has withheld it's dues in the past- and has been harshly criticized for doing so- but the very minor reforms the US demanded were implemented to some extent. More remains to be done, but things are not quite as bad as they used to be.

Despite all of the State Dept's complaining about the UN, do you think that the US would keep paying if somebody high up in US policymaking didn't think it somehow served a useful purpose?

Of course it serves a useful purpose. If it wasn't, the US would pull out of the organization. With that said, the US has withheld dues in the past.

ps: one 's', please. ;-)

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