Tuesday, April 19, 2005

U.S. or U.N., I forget

Pity the poor ol' U.N. For a few, the U.N., despite all its warts, represents a noble ideal, to secure, or try at least, world peace, as its charter spells out. For others, like the Foxy faux news gazers, the U.N. is an evil force working in the shadows to stir up a batch of one-world-socialist poison. To this crowd, Washington was strongarmed into joining the organization, unwittingly manacling itself to this monolith. If only it were so. From the get go, it was Washington, or more specifically at the time, FDR, who was the mason putting together the U.N. edifice, brick by brick. And Washington made sure the structure was a little wobbly, for why would the U.S., or any power at that, create an institution so powerful, its might would eclipse that of its founders? Today, there's talk about the worthlessness of the U.N, that it hasn't lifted a finger to stop the bloodletting in Sudan's Darfur, before that in Bosnia, and Rawanda. And then there's the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, tantalizing for the role of Kofi Annan's son picking up wads of cash in dubious deals. All legitimate points, after all the U.N. is a huge bloated bureaucracy, and this after lots of fat trimming. But the U.N.'s deeper problems are rooted in its roots. For all its talk of supporting democracy, blah blah blah, the U.N. is one of the most un-democratic institutions around. Think about it, five nations, out of its 191 members, can say yea or nay to anything that comes before the world body. And then there is the General Assembly, a grandiose talking shop, a sop to the world's little nations. The General Assembly can pass resolutions, but they are non-binding, meaning they mean nothing more than the paper they're printed on. But that's the way it was supposed to be. After WW II, the U.S. was the dominant power. It could do and act pretty much as it wished anywhere it wanted. But most Americans wanted their boys home from the front, and let the world go to hell. Woodrow Wilson had tried to create the League of Nations, but that got shot down by isolationists in the Senate, who vetoed American membership. But after World War II, things were different. American business now understood their profits lay in opening foreign markets, and that U.S. foreign policy needed to support that goal, sa if it never did. As Thomas Dewey said, politics is merely the shadow of business. But how to get Joe Q. Public to go along? Wrap your mercantile goals within the clothe of lofty humanitarian goals, that's how. The U.N., with its awesome global membership, could be a key arrow in any hegemon's quiver, read U.S. So under the cloak of global peace and under the U.N. blue shield, the U.S. could pursue a more activist foreign policy. So why would Stalin go along with that? Stalin's objectives were much less grandiose. His domain lay in ruin, some 20 million of his subjects were dead from the war. All Stalin wanted was Eastern Europe as a buffer. So eager to get their U.N., the Truman administration threw that bone to the psychopathic son of a Georgian cobbler. Harry Hopkins was instructed to tell the Russians that "Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Austria (sic), Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, et al, make no difference to U.S. interests." Stalin was placated. To make sure America's right to act wasn't at all infringed, Nelson Rockefeller insisted the U.N. charter did not rule out regional alliances, making NATO possible, or SEATO, or the Baghdad Pact,and another less well known pact with corrupt Latin American leaders, called the Chapultepec Pact. Washington would in no way be straightjacketed by the U.N. The San Francisco Conference, establishing the U.N., was anti-climatic, if not theatrical, given that most of the details had been hammered out behind the scenes a year earlier in 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington. After a laughable signing ceremony, the charter was placed in a seventy-five pound safe and the ark with its sacred covenant was flown out under heavy guard to Washington where a be befuddled Truman in short-sleeves and armed with a whiskey was on hand to receive it. While the League of Nations, was greeted with hostility, the new and emasculated U.N. left Beltway pols fairly pleased with what had been and is an American project.

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