04 October 2004


Big Media Matt has a nice observation about the value and limitations of the United Nations.
It serves a valuable quasi-asperational purpose of asserting that all mankind is a member, in a sense at least, of some sort of global community that would ideally be regulated by a common norm of justice. That's important, but in terms of getting concrete things done, it's counterproductive. Any organization in which the governments of Burma and Sudan are members in good standing is bound to be ineffectual when it comes to confronting humanitarian problems. At the same time, it's a very good thing that we have an organization in which the governments of Burma and Sudan count as members in good standing.
A few years ago, I had some arguments with an Iraq war hawk who said that seeking UN approval for confrontation with Iraq was pointless because the UN was morally corrupt. He often scored some points because there are a number of things that the UN does not do well, simply because it is an organization of soveriegn nations. Yglesias does a nice job, I think, of threading the needle of seeing that while also pointing to the ways in which the UN is still valuable.

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