Monday, August 21, 2006


Since the end of WWI the world has been trying to do the one thing it knows gives any hope for a peaceful future: Construct an over-arching world body with the power to stamp out bloodshed, enforce peace, and work for the welfare of humanity. A "Parliament of Man," as President Truman was fond of quoting from Tennyson.

The first try, the League of Nations, was a bust -- a legalized, globe-girdling debate society with no teeth to back up its decisions. It died in the ignominy of being unable to stop -- or even slow down -- WWII.

The United Nations, invented in the crucible of that war and ratified in its wake, was supposed to be more robust, with the world's "major powers" sitting on a Security Council that could take quick, decisive action in a crisis. The weakness has proved to be that the "major powers" must first agree there even is a crisis, which can take an excruciatingly long time, and agree on what to do about it.

They handled the current Israeli/Hezbollah crisis better than most: The nations agreed there was a crisis, that Hezbollah started it, and that they should be disarmed. With only slightly less unanimity, they also felt Israel had gone way overboard, especially in Lebanon. It only took them a month to broker a ceasefire, which is pretty good for the UN. And the force to enforce this peace is supposed to be 15,000 strong -- big enough to be more than a symbol.

Unfortunately, the peacekeepers were not picked out and ready to go when the ceasefire went into effect, and Mr. Annan is having difficulty finding volunteers -- although a few tiny Arab nations are signing up. But Israel doesn't want peacekeepers from countries that don't recognize its existence. 49 French troops arrived yesterday, but the Lebanese army is having to go it alone for the most part. Poor Lebanon is always being caught in the middle of these things and I think would prefer that everybody just leave them alone.

Meanwhile Israel complains no one's doing anything yet to stop Hezbollah from re-arming. Certainly not the Lebanese who really kind of like them right now and at any rate don't want to cross Syria, one of Hezbollah's major sponsors. "So," say the Israelis, "We'll have to stop them ourselves until the UN gets here. "

Which is a violation of the ceasefire and has the potential of igniting the fighting again. Of course, getting new arms would be rather against the spirit (at least ) of the ceasefire as well.

I get the feeling sometimes that the earth is just a room full of selfish, obnoxious kids with no adults in sight. The UN is a valiant attempt by children to simulate what they think the adults would do if they were here -- which they're not.

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