National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Can the U.N. Survive Bush?

As the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki Moon travels to Darfur to see conditions there in advance of the deployment of U.N. peace keeping forces, we are once again reminded of the indispensable role of this international institution in our troubled world today.

Over its 62-year history the U.N. has been the easy target of monstrously unfair criticism for not being effective enough in reaching its own goals. But on the other hand it has, time and time again, been willing to go where no single country has been willing to go. It has provided moral leadership that has given even the most oppressed and incapacitated Third World countries of the globe a voice and flicker of hope.

Its biggest achievement is the fact that it’s still around after all this time. A body such as this is virtually unprecedented in the entire history of civilization, and the number of participating nations continues to grow.

But let no one forget that bundled in the package of primary motives driving the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the undermining, neutralization, forced obsolescence and downright destruction of the U.N.

The neo-cons, who took over reigns of U.S. foreign and domestic policy when the Supreme Court handed them 2000 election, had evolved a policy in the previous decade under the “New American Century” rubric. In the aftermath of the Cold War these neo-cons insisted there will be only one global superpower, not two, and that will be the U.S.

The fact the West succeeded against the East Bloc on the strength of multi-national alliances such as the U.N. and N.A.T.O. became irrelevant to them. It was time for the United States to break any tethers tying its destiny to other nations of the world and go it alone as the singular king of the hill.

There has been a quality of arrogance attached to this sentiment which has been as unsavory to the entire world as the insulting and destructive behaviors and policies derived from it.

The flip side of this arrogance has been a sinister, paranoid distrust. As a matter of ideological conviction, these neo-cons harbor hatred toward everyone but their own inner circles, and certainly toward every nation beyond U.S. borders.

They begin from the Orwellian assumption that the world will inevitably resolve itself into a new superpower configuration involving four rival blocks: Europe, Russia, China and the U.S.

All the rest of the planet’s real estate will be fought over by these four powers, including for the vital natural resources therein.

Therefore, Europe, Russia and China were the real enemies targeted by the preemptive U.S. invasion of Iraq, as were the multi-national institutions like the U.N. that tied America to the destinies of these blocks in the past.

No wonder the Russians and Chinese responded to Iraq by holding their biggest combined war games in history last month. As members of the new Shanghai Cooperation Association, they and the central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan ran the so-called “2007 Peace Mission” involving 6,500 soldiers, 500 combat vehicles and 2,000 and 1,600 units of Russian and Chinese personnel, respectively. The military drills began in Urumqi in China’s autonomous province of Xinjiang and moved across to Chelyabinsk in the Urals. Other states present as observers were Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and People’s Republic of China President Hu Jintao were arm-in-arm, sending a loud and clear message halfway around the world. If the U.S. has designs to come after the oil reserves in central Asia, it will not be able to pick off the republics there one by one. That starts with Iran.

This joint military show of force was no vindication of neo-con paranoia, however, but more like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the U.S. continues to go it alone, and refuses a multi-lateral approach to a peaceful planet in favor of its current, obsessive unilateral resource grab, the world will indeed unite against it with force.

Sixty-two years of incremental cooperation under the U.N. umbrella will evaporate in the incendiary din of a global military conflagration. But this is not inevitable, not if America’s neo-cons are rousted out of Washington.