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on September 13, 2005
When I was much younger, I had a high regard for the United Nations. I liked their postage stamps. I thought that they did a good job with international tasks such as eliminating smallpox and at least a useful one with, say, Planned Parenthood.
Still, I had to notice that the UN was not very effective in times of conflict. Whether the conflicts were in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, or Europe, the UN always seemed helpless at best. In 1974, when Arafat was applauded there, I began to have more serious doubts about how it was doing. And within a few years, the values of its postage stamps fell dramatically. For me, that was confirmation that the UN itself was of very low value. And since then, I've been in favor of getting rid of it. I think it is just too perverse to be of much help to the people of this planet. We could replace it by restricting ourselves to sets of bilateral agreements, or by creating ad hoc single-issue international organizations, issue by issue (to avoid building up too much esteem, which would permit their perversion). We could also have competing advice-giving organizations that could stand or fall on their own merits (poor ones would go out of business).
Well, just how bad is the UN? This book gives us an idea about the UN, and the Secretariat in particular. Incredibly, the Secretariat employs over 6000 people and costs over 2 billion dollars per year. And I may be biased, but I find it hard to believe that it serves any useful purpose at all.
Sanjuan describes the amount of Soviet influence and control in the Secretariat, which extended to, for example, the UN library. By the way, one of the few people the author has kind words for is the present US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Among other things, Bolton helped get the infamous UN resolution repealed that equated Zionism and racism.
The author describes some of the endemic anti-semitism at the UN. To me, it seems surreal. It is a little like hearing that the UN is against Martians, and that many people there suspect that quite a few of the people they meet are related to Martians, or are Martian-lovers, or are friends of Martians. And that there is a vast Martian conspiracy to run the United States or worse. In any case, these sorts of fantasies can't be productive. In addition, they have to be bad for real live Jews, even though such people rarely resemble the fantasy ones. And the assault on rationality, sanity, and truth has to be bad as well.
Sanjuan describes some of the ways that the UN wastes money. But I think that may be the least of its problems.
The book finishes with ten modest recommendations from the author. He's against UN Secretariat's nepotism, conflicts of interest, antisemitism, racism, moonlighting, contacts with local and international crime, corruption, espionage, and support for terrorism. And he thinks that members of the Secretariat that engage in them "ought to be relieved of their posts." That's nice, but I think the UN is unsalvageable. We humans do not need it, we can do better without it, and if we really need to, we can create a much better organization than the UN.
This book is very readable, and I highly recommend it.