Friday, December 21, 2012

Nine is the Loneliest Number

The U.N. vote on Palestine three weeks ago is memorable owing primarily (in my opinion) to that map – you know, the one that shows who voted for, who abstained, and who voted against. And what do you see? Well, there were 9 “against” votes – the U.S. of course, also Canada (our “mini-me” when it comes to foreign policy)... Israel, natch... the Czech Republic, for some unfathomable reason (Are they the only ones in Europe still on a guilt trip over the Holocaust? Seems unlikely... )... Panama (which, I guess, doesn't dare contradict us after we did that number on Noriega)... and that's about all you can see from looking at the world map. So where are the other four members of this loony-tunes coalition of the willing? Oh, right – those global powerhouses the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. Wow, I'm quaking in my boots. (Must be something in the coconuts.)

And the rest of the world? Well... there were 41 abstentions, which I guess is the U.N. equivalent of “undecided” voters. Don't they have an opinion? What I think is that they don't want to offend either us or the Palestinians, figuring... well, they could get in hot water either way. I mean, we've attacked other countries for lesser offenses, and the Palestinians are no slouches when it comes to “bringing the war home”. So better to just cool it, be quiet, and stay safe. 

On the winning side (for the Palestinians) we have 138 votes, which, in a U.S. presidential election, would be called a crushing landslide, and a mandate – especially if it were a Democrat victory. But in the U.N., which we had everything to do with setting up, it's obviously just a bunch of short-sighted fools who are afraid of the terrorists, or anti-Semitic. Or something. It can't possibly have anything to do with a real concern for human rights, in other words. And of course, Susan Rice – that very exemplar of idealism, virtue, and competence – immediately launched into a tirade, louder and longer than anything Israel could come up with. It was, in short, a humiliating performance (for us) – but catch anyone in the administration seeing it as anything other than an annoyance. We're all for “democracy”, but when it gets down to cases, might makes right – and those clowns in the U.N. are deluded if they fancy otherwise (as George W. Bush established with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq). 

As is usual in foreign affairs these days, ironies abound. The U.N. was set up, as we all know, after World War II as a place where the nations could sit down and reason together – and hopefully avoid World War III. And at least to that extent, it succeeded where the League of Nations failed. Or, if it did not clearly succeed, it at least didn't obviously fail. But the main point of the U.N., as with any international political/diplomatic organization, was to suppress, if not eliminate, the baleful influences of nationalism, religion, ethnicity, tribe, race, etc. -- all of those things, in short, that gave rise to nearly all armed conflicts throughout history. It was supposed to be the high temple of globalism... of that process of deracination which was supposedly the key to achieving, and maintaining, peace on Earth. So even if some of the delegates did show up in burnooses, dashikis, and turbans, they were expected to, eventually, all start to think alike about the same things. And thus peace and harmony would be achieved! And America's obsession with Utopia would extend beyond its own shores and encircle the globe! Because it was assumed – as a secular humanist axiom – that the things that made human beings different were also the things that caused them to fight with one another. So – eliminate, or at least neutralize, the differences, and there would be no more reason to fight. And this was not just about nation, religion, ethnicity, tribe, and race – it was also about social and economic leveling. No more class or caste systems, no more rich and poor... just all the peoples of the world, holding hands in a really big circle. The world of UNICEF greeting cards, in other words. The cornerstone of every U.N. agency should read “That all may be alike in every way”.

But a funny thing happened on the way to U.N. Utopia. Well, for starters, it was never about radical democracy; there was the Security Council, after all – AKA “the big dogs”. And guess what, a lot of those members were not independent states at all, but still colonies at that time – or parts of larger political entities. So yes, they were in the room and at the table, but still seated far below the salt.

Over time, these second-class world citizens became politically independent (at least officially), and started to develop not only their political structure, infrastructure, and economies, but – gasp! -- a sense of pride. Not pride based on that “It's a Small World After All” ride at Disney World, but nationalistic pride, based on things like – you guessed it – religion, ethnicity, tribe, and race. And funny thing, the farther they moved along from being colonies, second-class, third-world... the stronger these nationalistic urges became – even in cases where the “nations” were a complete fabrication on the part of the colonial powers, as was the case for most of Africa and the Middle East.

So there was a kind of general “oops!” heard among the first- and second-world powers, like – this isn't exactly what we hand in mind (kind of like the way the liberals reacted when they found that conservatives and libertarians had taken over big chunks of the Internet). These places were supposed to be homogenized by now, simply existing for administrative convenience (like states in the U.S.) -- they weren't supposed to have any identity, let alone pride, let alone nationalism! And then you combine this unfortunate trend with things like radical Islam, and you have a real mess on your hands... and the next thing you know, they're voting to recognize Palestine! Oy vey!

So, in sum, the organization that was supposed to be an extension of U.S. foreign policy... an instrument of globalism... a way to the triumph of secular humanism... has turned out to be anything but. It is, in a sense, a circus – and in the center ring are the 138 countries that, for whatever reason, are willing to stand up to the U.S. and Israel on the Palestine question. And, getting back to that map, the U.S. and Canada, as big as they are, look awfully lonely with just a few small specks elsewhere on the globe in the same color. And this feeling can only become more acute over time. It has apparently become obvious to most of the world that the establishment of the State of Israel, although it seemed like a good (or at least humane) idea at the time, was a political and diplomatic blunder of historic proportions. Looked at objectively – to establish a small, religion- and race-based state in the midst of its moral enemies... a state that would have to be defended forever (that's where the “eternal” comes in whenever our politicians are talking about Israel)... is this not the height of folly? And you can say what you like about Israel's “ancestral homeland” claims, but plenty of people claim plenty of places as their homeland, but that doesn't entitle them to anything. I mean, good grief, is there a racial, ethnic, or tribal group anywhere on the planet that doesn't claim they have a “homeland” somewhere besides where they are now? Migration, displacement, exile, ethnic cleansing – these are the human lot. They are part of the ebb and flow of history. Whoever wins any given war gets to tell the losers where they're permitted to live. I mean, if we're so convinced that Israel should exist based on the “homeland” argument, hadn't we all better hop on the next boat back to Europe and leave this country to the Indians, oops, I mean Native Americans? Yeah -- you get the picture. There are some arguments that only make sense when used in a political context, and it's the politics that make them make sense. Otherwise, it's nonsense.

And believe me, Israel was one of the places that was supposed to benefit the most from the world view that the U.N. was established to promote. You know, things like tolerance, anti-anti-Semitism, etc. So it's doubly ironic that its enemies have taken it over, or at least seem to have the upper hand in many of the debates. As usual, we have sown the wind and are reaping a whirlwind – but hey, we're used to that by now. The only question remaining is, what's the outcome of the next vote going to be? If 9 is a lonely number, how about 2? And what would happen if the rest of the world decided to become “eternal allies” with the Palestinians? Then we'd start to feel really lonely.

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