John Bolton, who's as qualified as I am to be a United Nations ambassador, won't make much difference, because the United Nations doesn't amount to much. The so-called reforms the Bush administration wants are nothing but bureaucratic tinkering. Most of them have already been agreed to.
Some people on the right have used the United Nations as a booger-bear that threatens to become a world government. It is not a world government, and it never will be.
A government, world or otherwise, needs two powers. It needs the power to tax, and it needs the power to enforce its decisions — in other words, to wage war and to put people in prison. The United Nations lacks both. It was designed to be impotent.
The General Assembly, in which all the member nations and pseudo-nations get one vote each, has no power. It can pass resolutions up the gazoo, but it cannot enforce any of them. It is nothing but a forum for talk. For most of its ambassadors, it is an excuse to avoid living in their miserable countries.
The Security Council has the authority to levy economic sanctions and to wage war, but any one of the five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France — can veto any such resolution simply by voting no. Furthermore, assuming the five permanent members all agree, all the money and all the troops have to be volunteered by the member states. The U.N. has no army and no money, and no power to raise either.
While they might give some other nations a permanent seat on the Security Council for public-relations reasons, none of the present five members is about to grant any other nation veto power. Thus, any changes that are made will be essentially cosmetic.
And Americans should be happy about that. No sensible American wants a world government, because that would mean surrendering our sovereignty and independence to foreign rule. There have always been a few very liberal cranks yakking about world government, but it has never had any serious support in the United States. Any attempt to surrender America's independence would be a cause for the people to take up arms. The probability of a world government is so low, it is essentially a red herring. It's not even worth talking about.
All that said, the U.N. still has some useful functions. Its organizations that deal with health, children and refugees do good work. It is important to have a common forum where nations can discuss problems and hopefully build a consensus to solve them peacefully. Never worry, though, that the U.N. will be able to stop the United States from doing whatever it wants to do — or Russia, China, France or Great Britain, for that matter.
The reality is that the United States has and will use the United Nations to accomplish its own purposes or, in other cases, simply ignore it. Whenever we decide to ignore it, there is nothing the U.N. can do about it except talk.
The problem with Mr. Bolton is that he is a hack politician who has never shown any ability to build a consensus. The idea that "tough guy" Bolton will "knock heads" at the U.N. is silly. The ambassadors from Russia, China and France are tougher than he is, and a whole lot smarter. Bolton will be ineffective — which might, after all, be exactly what President Bush wants him to be. One Washington rumor says that Secretary of State Condi Rice wanted Bolton in the U.N. job because it gets him out of the policy-making business. In other words, it's a face-saving way to dump him out of the loop.
The U.N. is just one more failed attempt to build a Tower of Babel. If you remember your Bible stories, a united population decided to build a tower that would reach heaven. God didn't like the idea, so he caused all the workers to start speaking different languages. With the workers unable to communicate, the project collapsed.
The human race will never unite. We were created as tribes, and we will go extinct as tribes. Another tower, the European Union, is also starting to collapse. As I said, world government is the least of our worries.
August 6, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.