Don’t blame U.S. for U.N. impotence

In the largest summit gathering ever, very little was accomplished.

We knew ahead of time 'œit was going to be a failure,' said Sylvie Matton in Paris' Libération. Last week's U.N. summit was the largest gathering of leaders the world has ever seen. More than 150 of the 191 member countries sent their heads of state or government to New York to celebrate the U.N.'s 60th anniversary. But even before the dignitaries arrived, the original reason for the summit—to completely overhaul the 'œobsolete institutions' of the world body—had already been 'œpronounced dead and buried.' Instead, member states settled for another vaguely grandiose joint declaration. They vowed to fight poverty and create a peacekeeping commission. They condemned 'œterrorism—though without defining it—but they couldn't muster enough solidarity on disarmament or proliferation issues to even mention the subjects. One of the biggest tasks on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's agenda, expanding the Security Council, was simply shelved for later.

You can blame the U.S. for that, said Anton La Guardia in the London Daily Telegraph. Annan's reform plan was ambitious, but it wasn't infeasible—until the U.S. upended the whole project 'œby demanding hundreds of late changes.' The member states spent more than a year fine-tuning the reforms only to have a new U.S. ambassador, John Bolton, come in two months ago and bury the project in an avalanche of 700 amendments. Bolton insisted on scrapping any 'œfirm targets on development aid and climate change,' because he and the Bush administration refuse to be held to any commitments to the U.N. or any other nation.

It's much too easy to make Bolton 'œthe villain of the piece,' said Bronwen Maddox in the London Times. U.N. bureaucrats should have known better than to craft, without U.S. input, proposals that curtail U.S. freedom of action and require U.S. spending. The bureaucrats were relying on the moral pressure of other members to force American support. But that maneuver simply 'œsets up the U.S. to be demonized as the world's great bully' when it understandably refuses to sign. The real conflict within the U.N. is far deeper than America versus the world. The rift is now between the developing countries, with their growing economic power and political awakening, and the developed world. 'œThe paternalistic tone of the U.N.'s early years is clearly no longer appropriate.'

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