Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pulling the Plug?

When I hear bandied about such breathless accolades as "a bold, courageous voice for reform" or "staunch advocate for reform" or sundry other descriptions, one of the names who leaps to mind (we can all tally our long lists and squabble over them later) is Claudia Rosett. Her most recent Opinion Journal piece "U.N.-Plugged?" focuses on the Sisyphean task of UN reform without a tangible, meaningful re-formation of the institution in its entirety. As she makes clear, such a labor cannot be successful without radical changes in its structure, its accountability, and its internal logic.

Power has since been restored. But Monday's blackout was about as close as anything's come to Ambassador John Bolton's much-quoted line that the U.N. could lose its top 10 stories and nothing would be different. The General Assembly session, continued without interruption in another part of the U.N. complex. The global economy ticked along. The world turned on its axis. On schedule, the sun set. All of which led to a taboo line of thought: What if we simply left the U.N. unplugged?

[...]But in the fleeting twilight moment this past Monday of contemplating a U.N. without power, I did wonder what a new world council would look like, if instead of restitching the creation animated by our forefathers in 1945, we created an institution tailored to our own era--not the 20th century, but the 21st.

The upside of an entirely new U.N. could go well beyond better electrical circuits at headquarters, or more agile computer backup (for a while, the U.N. Web site went out along with the lights). The current U.N. dates back to a time when the frontier of information technology was the vacuum tube, the ascendant philosophy in the developing world was communist central planning, and the kind of war the U.N.'s founders sought to prevent was chiefly the domain of uniformed armies clashing under the flags of sovereign states.

The U.N. founders wrote a charter at the end of World War II filled with wonderful words about reaffirming faith in "human rights" and "the dignity of human beings." They then contradicted themselves in practice from day one by respecting thug regimes enough to provide Stalin's Soviet Union a permanent seat on the Security Council and two extra seats in the General Assembly. They set up a U.N. system that not only failed to prevent a long series of wars but today fails to curb terrorism, or even adequately define it. In other words, to create an inclusive gathering of nations in 1945, our forefathers made some big practical compromises with their lofty ideals. In making those tradeoffs, their priorities did not reflect a world in which Osama bin Laden could surf the Internet.

How is it the notion persists that we're against Progress? Extreme Makeover: UN Edition sounds pretty darn Progressive to me. (Incidentally, having walked through the Taj Mahal in AC, the Home Edition crew will be doing the remodeling, not Donald.) I'm not up on all the details of my news, so correct me if I'm behind the times, but why the resounding silence from the evolving constitution folks? A couple more shenanigans from the UN and we might just own this issue--meaning you'd lose not only a consensus-building opportunity, but a chance to, well, play with some nonjudicial directed evolution.

Notice has been served...On to the progressing part! Or rather, to the drawing board...

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