The United Nations has been back in the news lately. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlights the importance of the UN’s mission in this “time of turmoil.” But maybe we should take a closer look at what that “mission” is. The avowed purpose of the UN is to maintain peace and stability — or, as former American UN Ambassador Susan Rice says, to “deter and punish aggression.”
That’s a bit odd, when you stop to think about it. The UN’s stated mission is to prevent aggression; yet it does absolutely nothing to restrain the one country whose aggression far outweighs all others in the postwar period — perhaps in all of history. In the past seventy years the United States has invaded more countries, overthrown more governments and backed more dictators and terrorist death squads than any other country on Earth. There isn’t even a close second.
Even assorted “threats” like al Qaeda, Hamas, ISIS and Saddam’s Iraq were either blowback from aggressive American policies or were covertly sponsored by the US and its allies to further their aggressive aims. The criminal acts of al Qaeda and ISIS today result directly from past American support for the Islamic Brotherhood as a counter to Egypt’s Nasser; destabilization of Afghanistan’s peaceful, relatively progressive government (for the purpose of embroiling the USSR in its own Vietnam); support for Kosovar terrorists in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s; support for Chechen rebels against the Russian government; and covert support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
Both the United States and the UN proclaim spreading democracy as a central goal. Yet the US overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and Lumumba in the Congo and actively encouraged the wave of military dictatorships that swept South America in the 1960s and 1970s.
And despite packaging its criminal acts as “punishing aggression” or “spreading democracy,” the United States has been motivated almost entirely by a desire to protect the ability of extractive corporations to loot mineral resources in Africa, oil in Indonesia and Nigeria, etc., or the ability of First World manufacturers to export sweatshop production to slave labor countries.
Far from stopping the United States from any of these crimes against humanity, the UN serves as a fig leaf for US aggression against those who defy its will.
To paraphrase Lysander Spooner’s quip about the Constitution, either the UN was created to enable these crimes by the world’s largest and worst aggressor (in which case it is pernicious), or it has been unable to stop them (in which case it is worthless). The second alternative is damning enough. If the League of Nations is held in contempt for failing to stop Hitler, shouldn’t the UN be judged equally harshly for failing to stop the United States?
But I go with the first option. The UN was central to FDR’s and Truman’s vision of a postwar world order enforced by the United States and its allies. That postwar vision was to impose corporate rule on the world and punish any future power attempting to secede from that world order. That means the UN is evil and its stated purpose is a lie.
From the standpoint of radical anti-imperialist critics of US policy, American withdrawal would be a good thing to the extent it made it harder for the US to build multinational coalitions to share the fiscal and military burden of aggression with other powers. But the United States government, for that very reason, will never withdraw from the UN; the UN exists only to serve the corporate ruling class that controls the US and its allies. Even if the US did withdraw, the result would not be — as the UN’s right-wing detractors believe — to purify the US of the corrupting influence emanating from Rockefeller Plaza. The corruption is inseparable from America itself. US withdrawal would simply amputate one tentacle of the octopus, while leaving the beast’s Wall Street heart and Washington brain intact.
Instead of being distracted by the UN, we need to strike at the root of evil: Abolish the United States and the system of domination it serves.