Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

What Use Is the UN?

- Abstract

For a golden jubilee, the celebrations were strangely subdued. To commemorate 50 years since the founding of the United Nations, the General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution expressing satisfaction that the world body had “survived and played an important role,” gamely noting the UN’s ongoing “determination” to prevent war and to “invigorate the dialogue and partnership between all countries.” In a manner utterly characteristic of the institution, it took 32 meetings for a committee to come up with this text, with its opaque bromides about “accelerating globalization and interdependence” and ensuring the “maximization of the benefits from and the minimization of the negative effects of” something or other.

As for the United States, whose brainchild the UN was, its press and politicians were equally restrained on the occasion, coupling dogged incantations of faith in the organization with an unmistakable underlying disenchantment. The New York Times commented: “Without significant changes in organization and behavior, the UN will lose its remaining effectiveness and public support.” Newsweek: “No one loves the United Nations.” Time “How beautiful. How brave. How naive.” Even President Clinton could come up with nothing better than: “The dreams of [the UN's] founders have not been fully realized, but its promise endures.”

About the Author

Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is working on a book about Arab and Muslim democrats.