Memo To: Pat Buchanan
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Choosing sides
I’m not sure you ever had anything good to say about the United Nations, but I know you at least have never condemned it in the way our new U.N. Ambassador has – John Bolton at one point arguing that it really doesn’t exist. Over the years, I’ve had problems with the U.N., especially at the height of the Cold War. Yet I have always looked upon the tall pile of bricks at Turtle Bay in Manhattan as a necessary international institution. I never thought it could really do much harm as long as the United States had veto power over Security Council resolutions that might run counter to our national interests. The General Assembly could pass resolutions we didn’t like from dawn ’til the cows came home, but as long as they could not enforce those resolutions, they seemed only a nuisance.
It could be that I was aware of its coming into existence after WWII, when I was nine years old. It was about the only issue that my conservative father and my left-wing maternal grandfather could agree was a good thing. Why? Because it would provide a place where nations could discuss their differences and try to resolve them through diplomatic means. Diplomacy is always cheaper than war. Yes there was the Korean War and the Vietnam War, more “battles” within the larger Cold War than actual “wars.” But the U.N. did not interfere with Washington’s decisions to engage in those long battles. The Korean War was actually a “police action” endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, with the Soviet Union not showing up to veto the resolution. (Perhaps because it believed it would be in Moscow’s best interest to have the U.S. tied down in an Asian war, which of course turned out indecisively.)
You may not appreciate my perspective, Pat, but I would say the proof is in the pudding, i.e., our United States “won the Cold War” without a nuclear exchange. Can you say that would have happened if the pile of bricks on Turtle Bay never existed? Conservatives have long dismissed the U.N. as an expensive “debating society,” but how expensive could it have been if in the end it played a constructive role in preventing the nuclear exchange we all worried about when we learned the Soviets had nukes? I never covered the U.N. full time, but the old National Observer would send me there on special assignment in the late 1960s, so I did get to experience first hand the discussions and debates that went on, not only in the halls, but also in the dining rooms, the elevators and even the men’s rooms. I wrote several thousand words on the India/Pakistan war that was a hot topic at the U.N., and I wound up appreciating the salubriousness of intellectual engagement in that pile of bricks when the war ended with little loss of life.
The reason I am writing to you, Pat, is to try in a small way to let you see that for all our complaints about the United Nations during the Cold War, there is a new paradigm. In the Cold War, the chess game between the Capitalist West and the Communist East meant that Washington and Moscow (and Beijing, from time to time), would try to win over “Global Public Opinion” by sucking up to the “lesser nations” with money bribes and military or economic assistance. The nature of the bilateral contest for global dominance meant that the countries of the world lined up on one side or the other, with Washington or Moscow, and expressed that support at the General Assembly and the Security Council. None of that goes on anymore. Why?
Because we are in a unipolar world. The United States is at the top of the global power pyramid. To me, this means the shifting alliances that you and I watched on a daily basis during the Cold War are no longer relevant. The United Nations remains a great debating society, but all its debates now are aimed at keeping the world at peace within a capitalist framework, more or less. (Look at Russia, India, and China if you want to see unbridled capitalism at work.)
If we now look back two years, to the days before the U.S. went to war against Iraq, I think you should acknowledge that the international political body proved far superior to our political national body in debating war and peace. The U.N., both General Assembly and Security Council, could clearly see that in March of 2003 there was no threat of weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein. He had been rendered toothless by the previous decade on U.N. inspections and U.S./British bombings. You and I could both see that the war was unnecessary, but don’t you agree you might not have felt that way unless you had seen how Saddam had buckled in every way to UNSC #1441? If we hadn’t watched the proceedings at the U.N. over that period, we might have gone along with Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and signed up for war.
What I mean to say is that conservatives who once decried the United Nations as a nuisance should now look upon it as a positive force! Republicans who were snookered by the neo-cons into supporting the Iraq war are now confused about this new set-up. How could the U.N. have been right and they wrong? As a “nationalist” and America First advocate, you can of course continue to view the meanderings of the U.N. membership with some skepticism, but I’d suggest that you think of it the way my dad and granddad did back in October 1945. You and I have spent our lives as communicators, and what the Forces of Darkness in the U.S. wish to do is shut down the U.N. because they do not want to hear from the rest of the world what they think of their Plan for American Empire.
This is what the so-called “Oil-for-Food Scandal” is all about. The Perle Cabal has been furious with Kofi Annan and the rest of the U.N. crowd for the past four years, because it has gotten in the way of their Imperial designs. Here is how I put it in a commentary I posted here last December 10:
Once it became clear some months ago that Saddam Hussein had been telling the truth about not having weapons of mass destruction or connections to al-Qaeda, it should have been an embarrassment to the neo-conservatives who talked President George Bush into war with Iraq.
They were not in the least embarrassed, though, because they had known well before the invasion that Saddam had done everything he could possibly do to assure the world that he was no threat to the region, the US and the world. Their intent all along was no secret: They wanted "regime change" to fit their plans for an American empire, with a permanent outpost in Baghdad.
To do this, they had to clear out all the obstacles in their path – which meant open assaults on the international institutions that had been developed to prevent war, through diplomacy backed by the threat of sanctions. This meant demeaning the United Nations, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) inspectors of chemical and biological weapons under Hans Blix, and the International Atomic Energy Agency under Muhammad al-Baradai.France, Germany, Russia and China had become obstacles to regime change in Baghdad, either at the UN Security Council or at NATO, or both. To neutralize them with American public opinion, the neo-cons used their contacts in the news media to broadcast the argument that these countries were pursuing selfish interests related to Iraq's oil. Out of this soup came the "oil-for-food scandal" which now threatens to bring down UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan and besmirch the UN and its affiliated institutions.
That was December 10. You can now see more clearly that the only real force determined to denigrate Kofi Annan, and with him the entire infrastructure at Turtle Bay, is that of the neo-cons and their allies in Congress and in the conservative news media. They all went berserk this last week when Paul Volcker issued his latest report on the “Oil-for-Food Scandal” and cleared Secretary General Annan of all the slimy assertions that have emanated from the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Can you believe Coleman decided that Volcker’s virtual exoneration of Kofi meant that Kofi should resign or be fired as Secretary General?
Bottom line, Patrick, is that we cannot fiddle around and watch these dark forces of American imperialism continue to have their way, spinning the news to demonize Kofi Annan and the U.N. agencies that stand the best chance of seeing the planet through another half century or more without a nuclear exchange. In the last analysis, you are either a supporter of the U.N. or another foot soldier in the Cheney/Perle/Wolfowitz American legion. There is no middle way, unless you want to play Mugwump. Remember the Mugwumps? Mug on one side of the fence, wump on the other?
April 2, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Jude Wanniski