Tilting at the UN windmill
Not everything the U.N. does is evil. Some of it is just incompetent.

ITUpictures/Flickr

Mr Jaroslaw Ponder, strategy and policy adviser, corporate strategy division, ITU, during the Information Session WSIS Forum 2012 on July 5, 2012.

Those of us who believe the United States would be best served by pulling out of the United Nations and starting up a more morally and politically serious clubhouse for morally and politically serious nations are often accused of tilting at windmills.

The phrase “tilting at windmills” was inspired by Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, and it means to fight something that doesn’t really deserve to be fought. Quixote mistook the windmills of the Spanish countryside for ravenous giants and set out to vanquish them. (“Tilting” is a jousting expression, in case you didn’t know.)

Well, let’s review some recent evidence.

The U.N. has been working hand-in-glove with the Chinese government to make the Chinese one-child policy as efficient and ruthless as possible. “Our conclusion is that the [United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)] is directly responsible for forced abortions and forced sterilizations in China,” Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, recently told Congress in prepared testimony.

Of course, not everyone dislikes the one-child policy. Vice President Biden has supported it, and President Obama restored UNFPA’s funding when he took office. So let’s move on.

Lots of people like the Internet, right? Well, good news! The U.N. wants to take it over. The International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. organization, is secretly debating proposals to claim jurisdiction over the Web and take it out of America’s hands. The major forces behind this push: authoritarian regimes eager to censor their domestic Internet and monitor their citizens. Russia and some Arab countries, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Crovitz, want the power to read private e-mail. Others want to tax cross-border Web traffic. And countries like China are working hard to bribe, bully or barter votes in favor of the U.N. takeover.

You see, that’s what dictatorships do at the U.N.: work to make the world safe for dictatorships. The most brutal regimes on the planet are constantly trying to get on or game the Human Rights Council so they can spend all of their time condemning Israel and blocking any attempts to censure their own regimes.

Not everything the U.N. does is evil. Some of it is just incompetent. The whole of what passes for the “international community” has been trying to enforce sanctions on Iran and North Korea. But nobody told the U.N.’s intellectual-property agency, it was revealed earlier this month, so they went ahead and gave North Korea and Iran computers and IT equipment.

A few days later, the invaluable human-rights group U.N. Watch reported that Iran was elected to the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, despite having just been declared guilty — in a U.N. Security Council report! — of illegally shipping guns and bombs to Syria.

Speaking of Syria, which is currently violating agreements to not murder its own people, it recently had a big victory at the Human Rights Council. Syria co-sponsored and passed a resolution pushed by Cuba (and supported by the usual Legion of Doom nations) to establish a “Right to Peace.” The document is a lot of boilerplate until you get to the part where it says “all peoples and individuals have the right to resist and oppose oppressive colonial, foreign occupation.” This is Middle East–speak for “It’s okay to blow up Israelis.”

Now these are all just recent news items. But you can play this game any time you want because the U.N. always provides fresh hells for us to marvel and laugh at.

For example, the United Nations website tells us that there is something called the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group of the General Assembly on the Integrated and Coordinated Implementation of and Follow-up to the Major United Nations Conferences and Summits in the Economic and Social Fields. Who among us doesn’t sleep better knowing the OAHWGGAICIFMUNCSESF is working for us?

Alas, the U.N. website notes, “The Ad Hoc Working Group was last active during the 57th session of the General Assembly in 2003.” In other words, the ad hoc open-ended working group is so open-ended it hasn’t met in nearly a decade.

But that’s the great thing about the U.N.: It never fails to surprise us with its predictability.

I’m beginning to think the U.N.’s defenders are the Don Quixotes, only in reverse. Where the critics see the reality of the ravenous giant, the U.N.’s defenders can only see a harmless windmill converting hot air for the good of all mankind.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of The Tyranny of Clichés. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

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