What to make of the annual international gabfest that is the UN General Assembly? No longer a stately assemblage of heads of state, the get-together has devolved into a daytime talk show, rife with drama over who shows up, who doesn’t and who bashes whom. And when the next day rolls around, we’ve all forgotten what we watched the day before.
When the United Nations was chartered into being at the close of World War II, three kinds of people were present.
There were dreamy idealists, who envisioned the organization would evolve into good global governance like the World Federation on Star Trek.
There were self-serving power brokers, scheming how to bend the UN to serve their ends.
And there were the realists who thought the assembly could, at worst, serve as a responsible forum for debates and exchanges of ideas and, at best, establish some subsidiary agencies to coordinate actions for the common good—like standards for international commercial aviation.
So how did that turn out?
Today, the UN looks nothing like a global government. Even the globalist crowd has moved on. They now meet to plan their great global reset at places like Davos, where parking is less of a problem, the scenery is better, and the common people can be kept at a safe distance.
As for serving the common good, some agencies working under the UN umbrella actually do that. But they have been under constant assault from regimes like the Chinese who would rather treat them like puppets as they do their own peoples.
Case in point: the World Health Organization. We recently saw Beijing use every ounce of its influence to get the agency to help obfuscate its responsibility for triggering a global pandemic. Many other agencies are even more in thrall to China. How? Beijing works hard to get its candidates elected to leadership posts and inserted in key staff positions for the express purpose of serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.
What the UN is not is an important forum for debate and dialogue. In fact, it is more like a clown show.
According to reports, Putin and Xi are not even going to show up at this week’s confab. Of course, neither should be admitted if they did appear. Not while one is waging an unprovoked, war-crime infused war on another member state and the other is conducting the world’s largest genocide. The sad thing is, if they did show, they’d be welcomed.
Biden was there. He spoke on the theme: “democracies vs authoritarians.” Thankfully, it was nothing like last week’s prime time speech where he declared the big threat to American democracy to be anyone who disagrees with him.
This time, he focused on actual bad guys. He rightly condemned Russia for trying to obliterate its neighbor, reaffirmed that Iran should not be allowed to field nuclear weapons, and chided North Korea for being obstinate.
Unfortunately, the speech sometimes veered off on tangents that did not make sense, such as his suggestion to expand the UN Security Council. This very unlikely to happen. Not much upside there.
As for China, the president offered little more than weak tea. Basically, he declared that he didn’t want to pick a fight with Beijing—as if anyone though he did. The big question about the speech is: What will other nations make of it? Will it move them to actively oppose the heinous actions of Putin and other murderous authoritarians?
And here, there’s a credibility issue. Biden’s track record seems at odds with his words. After all, he tried to buy off Putin with Nordstream II. He failed to deter the invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. reluctantly and tentatively armed Ukrainians after the invasion. Meanwhile, Biden strove mightily to give Iran a trillion-dollar deal. And as for Beijing’s genocide, its crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong and its increasing belligerence toward Taiwan, he has done little more than finger wave.
Lincoln was wrong when he said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” at Gettysburg. But he would be right if he said that about the palaver over at the UN General Assembly. Amid all the preening and posturing, many words will be spoken. And by next week, we will have forgotten them all.