These same two words function for some as a reference to a much-needed union of nations to promote humanitarian values, provide an international standard of laws and a deliberative and lawful conflict resolution alternative to brute power and war - while to others, they reflect a worrisome gathering of elite powers forcing their agendas upon the world. The UN agenda has been characterized by some on the left as “imperialist”, by some on the right as “secular-progressive”, by some religious conservatives as “occult”, and by many on both the right and left as “hostile to American national sovereignty.” Still others see in the UN a kind of ‘mixed bag’--some good, some bad.
One argument made by libertarians and conservatives, in particular, is that the United Nations has become a bastion for hypocrisy, waste, and ineffectiveness. For instance, concerns have been raised that the UN Human Rights Council, recently chaired by Saudi Arabia, includes many of what some people consider to be the most egregious abusers of human rights, including Cuba, Sudan, Venezuela, Mauritania, Gabon, and others. Others point to high profile corruption and mismanagement, including the 1990s oil-for-food program which implicated UN leader Kofi Annan - and accusations of UN peacekeepers raping local populations. Thus some see the UN as hopelessly compromised and morally illegitimate.
From another perspective, these represent human failings that happen in any organization - and the ongoing insistence on flaws and failings represents an over-focus on negatives in an organization that has and will continue to do much good in the world. From this vantage point, critics are seen as coming from a place of fear-mongering and excessive critique in relation to the U.N. - obscuring the necessity of coordinating needs across the world community. Others, too, point to what they see as the rather dismal human rights record of nearly every nation (including the United States), and thus see the UN more as a gathering of sinners than saints, but still much to be preferred to a lawless brawl.
Michael Strong, Arthur Peña
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