When war broke out between Georgia and Russia last summer, I observed events with keen interest. I was a Russian immigrant, sitting in New York, trying to figure out how my neighbors at the United Nations and our partners in NATO were going to respond to the crisis.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton once quipped: "The Secretariat Building in New York has thirty-eight stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." Indeed, what difference does the United Nations really make?
It was founded principally to maintain international peace and security. For forty years it was sidelined by the Cold War. Its few successes, such as the U.N. peacekeeping missions in Congo and Cyprus, are overshadowed by failures in Rwanda, Lebanon, Sudan, Iraq, Indonesia, Somalia and many others. Its former secretary-general titled himself a "secular pope" while his replacement implied the genocide against black Africans in Darfur by Islamist militias was partially caused by global warming.
The U.N. Human Rights Council hosts delegations from Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In its first year it passed twelve resolutions, targeting Israel in nine.
The Security Council, the only U.N. body with any real ability to advocate force, was rendered impotent by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Former French President Jacques Chirac even went so far as to say the organization was "undermined" by that action.
Yet more and more states continue to see the U.N., despite its failed record and stream of contradictions, as the only legitimate venue for deciding matters of war and peace. France, Germany, Russia, China, and many others seem willing to outsource core elements of their foreign policies to this unaccountable organization. Why?
The sad answer: to use the U.N. as a tool to check American power and weaken our options overseas. As demonstrated by the crisis in South Ossetia, the Russians are not hesitant to use force to protect their interests. Yet when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talks about the U.N. as the arbiter of global security, what he really means is that the United States cannot play by its own rules and ought to be reigned in - evidenced by his remarks at the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy.
A vivid demonstration of this outlook came during the run-up to the Iraq war. Chirac, who saw the European Union as a future counterweight to American power, was eager to use the U.N. as a showplace to stand up to Washington.
That eagerness was shared by Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder who, like Chirac, also risked serious losses to military and commercial ties with Baghdad in the event of American invasion. They promised Saddam Hussein that any American war resolution at the Security Council would be dead on arrival and pushed instead for more negotiation and a new wave of weapons inspections.
The Bush Administration deciphered the ploy. The invasion proceeded anyway.
Hiding behind international mores and using the U.N. as a backdrop, the Europeans had attempted to simultaneously protect their interests and embarrass the United States by forcing it to stand down. Their failure not only humiliated them, revealing Europe's own weakness, but showed what a liability the U.N. is in advancing our foreign policy.
The problem, however, does not end here. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization may be an even bigger burden than its counterpart in Manhattan. Why? Firstly, NATO was just as divided as the U.N. before Iraq. The United States acted with the support of an ad hoc coalition, leaving dissenting "allies" to mire in their own helplessness. Furthermore, NATO is a military alliance without a clear adversary.
The oviet threat has disappeared and no new power or constellation of powers dares or, frankly, intends to challenge the organization. Yet the biggest reason why it should be scrapped is that it has become a misused tool of American expansionism. I specifically refer to Washington's use of NATO to isolate Russia; this has already produced one war, with several more potentially on the horizon, e.g. Ukraine.
When a military alliance becomes merely a political tool used by one of its states to promote its interests at the expense of the majority of its members, it ought to disband. As long as NATO exists, American policymakers will have an incentive to repeat bad behavior.
The United Nations and NATO, despite what many contend, are liabilities for the United States and its interests. Neither could prevent an independent American action in Iraq. The U.N. has been rocked by failed adventures and bureaucratic scandal. No longer serving its original purpose, it has become a stage used mainly to demonize and check American power. NATO is an alliance without a clear purpose. Its main use is as a tool to prevent "bad" countries from having influence in their regions, with "bad" defined in Washington. As such, it promotes recklessness and needless provocation, which lead to lost lives on several continents. Irrelevant in the past and incapable of meeting today's challenges to international peace and security, these two failed organizations must go!