I hear people badmouth the United Nations…a lot. “What the hell is the point of a United Nations? They don’t actually do anything.” In the back of my mind, I always sort of disagreed, but wasn’t really sure because I actually didn’t have any tangible examples to back up my position. The World Food Program maybe? The UN High Council on Refugees? I have always felt that an open and transparent forum to discuss global issues between countries, even if the best resolution they have to offer is usually non-binding, isn’t a bad thing. And, as a matter of principle, I disagree with with former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, on every single issue, from foreign policy to favorite season of the Wire. He famously said in 1994 – a full decade before taking up the post of UN ambassador – this about the institution:
There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.” He also stated that “The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”[
Such an asshole.
But this week can be chalked up as a win for the institution, since Cote D’Ivoire’s recalcitrant, thuggish big man former president, Laurent Gbagbo was sheepishly captured in his basement and is now going to be tried in the International Criminal Court. The UN troops in the country successfully protected Gbagbo’s opponent and rightful heir to the presidency, Alassaine Outtara, until the heroic French, led by the militant Nicolas Sarkozy, who is tired of having the rest of the world consider his country a bunch of pansies (and also maybe feeling a bit guilty about having completely fucked over the country, just like it did with Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and a few others in West Africa).
Over at the Big Think, Mark Seddon puts the victory in perspective:
‘Responsibility to Protect’ or ‘R2P’ as it is known did not of course emanate as a doctrine from Ban ki moon’s first term. But its practical implementation is most certainly coming to be most closely associated with this quietly determined, and more confident, Secretary General.
The UN is no longer being seen as a sometimes dallying, hand ringing bystander to the abuse of human rights but as an active leader in stopping it. If I was a Cote’ D’Ivorian, facing a thug wielding a machete, who claimed to be supporting a president who had been voted out of office, I wouldn’t care whether it was a blue beret or a French soldier, who came to my aid.
This is the UN and the Secretary General, at their active best, confident in their mission and clear about their responsibilities. How refreshing.
So, UN haters, put that in your pipe and smoke it. If Gbagbo had won a power-sharing agreement, or even taken over and maintained his position as dictator outright, it would have set a terrible precedent (or cemented one, since Mugabe and others have proven that it can be done).
Thanks to the UN’s actions, democracy prevails. A neoconservative like John Bolton must be experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance right now.