The United Nations- Beggars Wishing to Ride
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I can’t think of a better phrase to describe the United Nations. The member nations are, for the most part, beggars, represented by appointees who are charged with doing little more than wishing for resolutions to conflicts. And when a nation that does more than wish, actually steps up and takes action, the council of beggars that is the United Nations offers nothing more than resentment. “How dare they ride while we sit and wish.”
The United States “rode” when it launched a missile attack against a Syrian air field from which a chemical gas attack appears to have originated. World opinion is divided on the appropriateness of the attack, which has become a subject of discussion at the United Nations. That discussion will no doubt result in another type of gas attack, this one being a blast of hot air emanating from the mouths of the assembled diplomats.
The theory of the United Nations has rarely visited reality. Some time ago, it provided a viable forum for diplomats to engage in public discourse. Although actual solutions were largely the result of back channel communications, open discussion on the floor of the UN brought pressure to bear.
UN’s historical stupidity
Such an event occurred during the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960s. In his 1962 address to the UN Security Council, Adlai Stevenson, US ambassador to the United Nations, spoke of the evidence the United States had of Russian nuclear missile installations in Cuba.
Stevenson asked his Russian counterpart, Ambassador Zorin, “All right sir, let me ask you one simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no? Don’t wait for the translation: yes or no? “
When Zorin refused to provide a legitimate response, Stevenson let loose with, “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that’s your decision….And I’m also prepared to present the evidence in this room.”
By diplomatic standards of the time, use of “until hell freezes over” bordered on blasphemy. And while Stevenson’s verbal attack made the Russians look foolish in the court of world opinion, the verbal sparring (more like a boxing match with Stevenson delivering a first-round knock-out) showed the United Nations was simply a bystander; it provided nothing more than a stage and an audience for two opponents to verbally thrust and parry.
The UN’s inaction
Fifty-odd years later, the stage is still in place, but most members of the audience are no longer wishing for horses; they prefer wheelchairs. From the safety of such an apparatus, they can claim an inability to participate, or can point fingers and make accusations with minimal fear of reprisals, or they can allow themselves to be pushed in whatever direction the horse-riders are travelling.
Nikki Haley, the current US Ambassador to the United Nations, is following in Stevenson’s footsteps. Her statements are direct, provocative and well targeted. Yet they elicit little more than a few raised eyebrows and a barely audible spate of useless chatter. After years of sitting idly by while Syria was engaged in an atrocity-filled civil war, members of United Nations feel compelled to address the missile attack launched by the United States.
No doubt, the discussion will be along party lines. Russia, Iran and their allies will condemn the attack, the United States and its allies will refute the condemnation and the beggars will side with the group they think will help them ride. Meanwhile, the world will wait until hell freezes over for the United Nations to do anything of consequence.