After a trip last week to Ireland, to take part in a debate at Trinity College on the War on Terror (yes, fighting back has made us safer), I’ve been catching up on UN doings. Right now, these would have the makings of a pretty good sitcom — if only the UN would stop advertising itself as qualified to stop genocide, war, and rogue-state nuclear bomb programs, and admit that the entire charade went off the rails about the time Alger Hiss was presiding over the UN’s 1945 founding conference.
Never mind that the UN deadline slid by almost two months ago for Iran to stop enriching uranium, the main effect having been to reinforce the message that UN deadlines don’t matter (the EU is now supposed to be tackling Iran, again, with France taking the lead; Ahmadinejad must be enjoying this). We live in an age when every nuclear-bomb happy tyrant gets to be famous — for 15 minutes. The big thrill this month is North Korea, whose leaders apparently got such a kick out of their Oct. 9 nuclear test that they want to do more.
So we now have a UN resolution imposing nuclear-related sanctions on North Korea. Except China — which voted for these strictures — appears to believe they do not extend to such activities as boarding ships in order to inspect cargoes bound for the Hermit Kingdom (Kim Jong Il must be enjoying that).
Meanwhile, as Venezuela and Guatemala duke it out to fill one of the 10 rotating two-year seats on the 15-member Security Council, the General Assembly has just gone through 22 rounds of voting, with no end yet in sight. Guatemala is leading, but has been unable to get the required two-thirds majority of the votes. Venezuela, home to sulfur-sniffing Chomsky-reading Hugo Chavez, at last count had garnered 77 votes to Guatemala’s 102, with some of the 192 General Assembly members abstaining. Voting is due to resume on Thursday, and will continue until a state from the Latin American and Caribbean region gets the necessary number of votes. There is no limit to this process, which in a record stand-off involving the same region once went to 155 voting rounds before Mexico finally won a 1979-1980 Security Council seat. If anyone deserves a replay of that experience, it’s the Excellencies of the UN General Assembly.