Front Page Magazine
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Dore Gold, Israel’s U.N. ambassador from 1997 to 1999. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Hatred’s Kingdom and of the new book, Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos.
FP: What motivated you to write Tower of Babble?
Gold: During the period, when I served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in the 1990′s, I was struck by a sense that the world was becoming far more anarchical than anyone had anticipated at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. After all the Cold War was over. The competition between the superpowers was no longer going to exacerbate conflicts around the world and their delegations on the UN Security Council were not going to neutralize one another with their respective veto power. For that reason, President Bush (41) envisioned a “New World Order” emerging and after the success of the Security Council in confronting the aggression of Iraq in Kuwait, the UN was supposed to become the main glue holding that order together. Yet instead, the decade of the 1990′s was marked by growing disorder–global chaos. A new, and far more dangerous brand of international terrorism arose that struck the US on 9/11, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction accelerated, and acts of genocide returned in Africa and even on the continent of Europe.
From my vantage point, the UN seemed to be directly connected to this global deterioration. Had it not taken responsibility for multilateral diplomacy over the future of Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban, or not claimed to protect international security through the mechanism of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and finally not deployed peacekeepers on the ground in Rwanda and Bosnia prior to the mass killings in those areas, then I couldn’t make that charge. But peoples of the world looked to the UN to protect them, and the UN let them down. And frequently these UN failures led to the spread of far worse crises, particularly in the Central African Republic and in the Balkans. With this record, what moral right did the UN have to attack President Bush for seeking to forcibly implement UN Security Council resolutions with respect to the regime of Saddam Hussein?
FP: It doesn’t appear it had any moral right at all. So crystallize for us briefly, then, your main indictments against the U.N.
Gold: For President Franklin Delano Roosevelt the UN was supposed to be instrumental in “nipping aggression in the bud,” and by doing so, preventing a re-play of the Second World War. But the UN couldn’t even define aggression until 1974 and even then its definition was full of loopholes. Worse still, the UN is a manufacturing plant for the worst moral equivalence that just cripples effective action to stop wars: in its international behavior, for the most part, the UN does not distinguish between aggressors and the victims of aggression. In Bosnia, UN forces were partial to the Serbs, and not to their Bosnian Muslim victims. In Rwanda, when General Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander on the ground, proposed to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, headed by Kofi Annan, that it was necessary to destroy the arms of the Hutu militia before they were used to exterminate the Tutsi tribe, he was told by Annan’s office to not take sides–indeed, he was instructed to remain “impartial”. More than eight hundred thousand Rwandans were massacred within a few months.
Most recently, the UN General Assembly sought to activate the UN’s judicial arm–the International Court of Justice in the Hague–to stop Israel’s security fence. Annan’s office supplied supporting documentation to the judges in the Hague about Palestinian grievances over the fence, without even relating to the wave of Palestinian suicide terrorism against Israeli civilians that caused the fence to be built in the first place (nor was there mention of other security fences built on disputed territory in Kashmir or Cyprus). Yet the UN holds itself up to be “the source of international legitimacy”–a beacon of international justice. It is clear, however, that the UN does not determine the relative justice in the claims of parties engaged in an international dispute. It can only reflect the sum total of the political power that a state or national movement can mobilize on his behalf within the halls of the UN. For many peoples, from Tibetan Buddhists to Rwandan Tutsis, to Lebanese Christians to Iraqi Kurds and Black African Muslims in Darfur, Sudan, (and not just the Jewish people) that leaves them completely unprotected if they have to rely on the machinery of the UN.
FP: How did it happen that the forces of anti-Americanism and anti-democracy hijacked an international institution that was supposed to fight aggression, combat terrorism, and preserve global order?
Gold: I am strongly of the belief that moral values are as important in international diplomacy as they are in domestic settings. The UN was actually born in a moment of extreme moral clarity, when there was no confusion over the evil of Nazi Germany and the good of the allies who liberated Europe. In fact, to join the UN in 1945, a state had to declare war on one of the Axis powers, making the original UN more of an alliance rather than a morally rudderless collective body. Even though Stalin’s USSR was an original founding member in 1945, it even had to defer to the leadership of the democracies in many cases. Moscow didn’t dare vote against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it would only abstain. But with the expanded membership in the 1960′s, moral clarity was lost. Many pro-Soviet Third World regimes re-worked UN resolutions to serve their interests. Individual human rights and freedoms were increasingly re-defined as collective economic rights; the General Assembly, meanwhile, adopted resolutions about the non-interference in member states’ internal affairs by exploiting human rights resolutions. With this ethos, it is not surprising that the UN did nothing when the Khmer Rouge slaughtered two million Cambodians; indeed, the UN invited the Khmer Rouge to the Cambodian peace process — rather than indicting them for war crimes.
FP: Tower of Babble shows how terrorist groups have infiltrated UN organizations. Can you illuminate this horrifying reality for us a bit?
The story of the UN and terrorism is really about the loss of standards in the world organization. There may have been pre-conditions to join the UN in 1945, but no pre-conditions were set years later. In 1974, Yasser Arafat was invited to address the UN General Assembly, without having to first renounce terrorism; in a 1970 interview just recently aired on CNN, he voiced his opinion that airplane hija