Monday, January 10, 2005

UN - Worth Saving?

Peggy,

Thanks for getting us off to a great start. The United Nations will no doubt be a perennial topic for us here.

The UN is obviously having a rough period, at least in the U.S., where congressional committees are harassing it and certain right-leaning parts of the media are relentlessly attacking it. The right-leaning blogosphere is certainly on the case, as this series of damning posts from (admittedly somewhat disgruntled) foreign service officers about the UN's efforts at tsunami relief illustrate.

In my humble opinion, most of these attacks are justified, and serve the salutory purpose of keeping the UN honest. Certainly, the UN's high purpose (maintaining peace and security) should not exempt it from the hurly-burly of the blogosphere and democratic politics.

The harder question is whether the UN is such a corrupt and/or worthless institution that it should be scrapped. This is hard to say. The mainstream view, as this NYT editorial (reg. req'd) no doubt reflects, is that the UN is doing important work and simply need to be improved. But I wonder if that assumption needs to be reconsidered among folks like the NYT editorial board and by international law academics who have otherwise shown a fairly knee-jerk defense of the institution.