Let One New Flower Bloom: The UDN (United Democratic Nations)

by Herb London
President, Hudson Institute
April 12, 2007

Considering the precarious nature of international affairs, it seems reasonable that a world body might be necessary to adjudicate the differences among nation states. Yet the United Nations, designed to play this role, often undermines the international stability it was earmarked to uphold.

The question, of course, is what kind of role. What values does the U.N. promote? To name a few, the U.N.’s primary human-rights body, the Commission on Human Rights, includes such role models as China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Not surprisingly, of 86 separate votes held at the 2004 Commission, the U.S. was in the minority 85 percent of the time. Reports estimate that more than two million people have been killed in Sudan over two decades of conflict, 70,000 have been murdered in the Darfur region since March, and another 1.6 million persons are currently displaced. But there hasn’t been a U.N. General Assembly emergency session on Sudan, just as there wasn’t one for Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. That’s because the Assembly’s emergency sessions are reserved for denouncing Israel, the “tenth” emergency session having now been “reconvened” 13 times in the past seven years. Instead, the U.N. has sent a commission of inquiry to Sudan to “determine whether or not acts of genocide have occurred or are still occurring” and to report in three months. Zhila Izadi, a 13-year-old Iranian girl, is currently under a sentence of death by stoning for the crime of being raped and impregnated by her brother. But the U.N. response to a criminal “justice” system that stones, amputates limbs, and publicly hangs children was to abolish the post of U.N. investigator of human-rights violations in Iran in April 2002.

The differences between President Bush and the U.N.’s agenda should no longer be papered over. Success in the war against terrorism requires identifying the enemy. The U.N. should have a role in defining terror. At the moment, close to a third of its members actively participate in the Organization of the Islamic Conference and stand in the way of a comprehensive convention against terrorism or any resolution that would unequivocally condemn the use of all available means in the name of a struggle for self-determination.

Success requires an accurate assessment of priorities. The U.N. thinks the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the greatest impediment to world order — not a nuclear Iran, not a bellicose North Korea, not the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists, and not violent Islamic fundamentalism.

Success depends on distinguishing causes from effects. The U.N. claims the root cause of militant Islamic terrorism the world over is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, while in fact the occupation results from failed (and continuing) Arab attempts to destroy the Jewish state.

And success depends on an accurate assessment of responsibility. The U.N. Arab Human Development Report says “Arab countries…evince the lowest levels of freedom among the world regions…. When it comes to voice and accountability, the Arab region still ranks lowest in the world.” The report notes “the virtual absence of good governance,” “the relative backwardness of the Arab region in this vital area of knowledge acquisition, absorption and use.” But when it came to assigning responsibility, the report points a finger at “the severe impediment of human development” caused by “the Israeli occupation of Palestine” and explains that “the issue of freedom in Arab countries has become a casualty of the overspill from the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.”

On every one of these counts – terrorism, democratic reform, violation of human rights – President Bush has staked out a dramatically different course from that of the U.N. Therefore it is time that U.S. taxpayers had an in-depth accounting of the 22 percent of the U.N. budget that comes from their blood, sweat, and tears.

Most profoundly, an organization composed of tyrannies and democracies cannot prevail. Interests and perspectives are so different as to be incompatible. It is simply not reasonable to assume that nations concerned about the consent of the governed can coexist with tyrants willing to exploit the people they rule. I would submit, the day Admadinejad obtains nuclear weapons — assuming that is the case — is the day the UN as we know it, ceases to exist.

It therefore seems evident that major reform within the international body is probably impossible no matter how well meaning the reformers.

As I see it a multi-lateral body should be organized around the exclusive principle of liberty and democratic government. If this were the case, nations would still disagree on many issues, but what unites them is more important than the differences, to wit: a commitment to the consent of the governed.

One alternative is to think of NATO as a proxy for the U.N. This would certainly not yield consensus, but it is far more desirable than the present U.N. organization.

For those who contend that support for the U.N. should continue yet want to be part of reform, U.N. contributions should be calibrated to democratic governance.

Here I would contend the real need is for a UDN, United Democratic Nations, led by the U.S. Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia with others admitted based on a commitment to democracy, a coalition of the willing.

In an Hegelian sense this reformed organization brings to the fore the global struggle between the totalist ideologies of radical Islam and tyrannical regimes and those that promote individual rights and liberty. This is not a struggle for power concealed in the creation of a new entity, but rather the recognition that a united nations might be precondition for global stability if the organization can generate legitimacy, moral clarity and an open and honest consideration of issues. Although it is difficult to eradicate partisanship, it should be noted that a reformed U.N. is partisan only in its desire to favor states that allow for the free expression of their people.

Democracy is a loosely formulated word in the present political context. Even though it has protean forms, some characteristics are unalterable. Nation states should recognize the rule of law (leadership decisions cannot be arbitrary); private property should serve as the foundation stone of economic architecture and individual rights and opportunities for the expression of political opinion should be untainted by government interference.

In a sense this is a call to arms, a plea to fair minded people across the globe, to open their minds to a new united nations of democratic people, UDN. This would be a place where tyrants are unwelcome and where a vision of shared peace is promoted. I haven’t any illusion about how hard this will be to create. But I am undaunted; in part, because it is evident the U.N. is dysfunctional and, in part, because the aspirations of those who live in democratic nations yearn to be realized.

This is a beginning. In this dark season filled with tocsin in the air, an alternative to the U.N. offers a beacon of hope. America may lead the way, but it can lead only with those who share its basic vision. As I see it, the time for change is propitious, the need is obvious and the vision of hope poignant.

Therefore, I call for a long march to create a new organization, one that can promote liberty and be a bulwark against tyranny. Let one new flower bloom, the United Democratic Nations (UDN).