Saturday, July 5, 2008

America and the U.N.

"Norming" is our European friends idea that the U.S. should base its decision on some kind of international consensus, rather than making its decisions as a constitutional democracy. It is a way in which the Europeans and their left-wing friends here and elsewhere try and constrain U.S. sovereignty. We are sitting at the table with a majority of countries that have no traditions or understanding of liberty.

A professor from a major European university said: "The problem with the United States is its devotion to its Constitution over international norms." Duh??

Take, for example, the question of death penalty.At the federal level, procedures have been reformed to meet objections from the Supreme Court, so that the death penalty can be handed out in appropriate cases. Opinions on the subject change constantly as we debate in the US whether we should have a death penalty and, if so, under what circumstances. But at the UN this debate is closed; the death penalty has been ruled out.

Another issue is gun control. In 2001, the UN had a conference about international trafficking in small arms and light weapons - weapons that flow into conflict zones and pose a risk to UN peacekeepers. The idea was to discuss methods to deal with this threat. But the discussion turned out to have nothing to do with small arms and light weapons in African or Asian civil wars. Instead it was about gun control in the US, with advocates of "international norms" pressing for the prohibition of private ownership of firearms of any sort. The US delegation made it clear that while we were concerned about the illicit flow of weapons into conflict area, we were not going to sign on to any international agreement that prohibited private ownership of guns. We have a Constitution that precluded any such restrictions.

These kind of "norming" exercises by which foreign governments hope, over time, to build up a coral reef of UN resolutions and pronouncements that can be used to manipulate US policy.

So in all the areas where the UN shouldn't be involved - issues best left to sovereign countries - it is very successful in passing judgement, especially when it can spit in the eye of the US. But in the the one area where the UN could be of most use in promoting international peace, it has failed completely. So much for "norming"

Under the current system, the US pays 22% of the cost of most UN agencies, and 27% of of peacekeeping costs. We are far and away the largest contributor, and every year Congress pays the bill as apportioned by the General Assembly. The US should pay for what it wants and insist that it get what it pays for. This would break up the entitlement mentality at the UN and foster an organization that is both more transparent and more effective.

International peace and security was the objective that motivated the founders of UN after WWII. And it started a long list of unfulfilled promises. Not only during the Cold War, but the present case of Darfur, or the case of Iraq, too. UN is willing to talk but not to act.

There is one point of view here in America - a view given expression during the 2004 presidential campaign by senator Kerry - holding that American foreign policy should meet some kind of "global test". By this way of thinking, America needs, in effect, to demonstrate the legitimacy of its foreign policy decisions by getting the approval of the UN Security Council or some other international body. The same suggestion will no doubt surface again this year, in the run-up to the November election. In the 21st century, then - just as in the 20th - the political decisions we make here in the US will be much more significant than those made at the UN.


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