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  • Havel & the UN

    Posted by Ginny on November 23rd, 2004 (All posts by )

    Instapundit has a remarkable vision: Vaclav Havel in Kofi Annan’s place.

    Update:Chris Muir’s has returned and his Dec. 6th is on Havel (and Annan). (The link doesn’t seem to work; but our sympathy and thanks go to Mr. Muir, who has made many a moment happier.)

    Update: Primary sources: Havel’s op-ed, Havel’s Taiwanese speech, Palous’s column.

    Update: In another news story, Havel demonstrates that he certainly isn’t “campaigning” for the post and it also reveals his – it seems to me quite transparent and honest – perspective. (Or that to use Gerwitz’s point and Peggy Noonan’s words – he “has two of them”.) His respect for others is clearly not determined by power – in his op-ed, he takes those to task who would blame our hyper-power for their problems and here he declares his respect for the vulnerable. (More on both stories below)

    Some people mistake bravery for standing up to a relatively benign management; others look at each situation and determine responsibility and solutions. The former are not brave; they are irresponsible and passive. Havel doesn’t make that mistake because he doesn’t take a perspective that concerns power as much as truth nor complaints as much as solutions.

    Further update: The Czechs, aware of the similarity between Castro’s government and the one they knew quite well, are taking a stand on the EU reconsideration of ambassadorial sanctuary; see the WSJ column by ambassador Martin Palous. A former dissident in the Velvet Revolution, he presented the 1999 resolution condemning the Castro regime at the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He argues

    Precisely because we lived a communist dictatorship and saw firsthand how totalitarian mechanisms worked to crush the spirit and the foundations of moral structures, we feel the obligation to speak up on behalf of the brave Cuban people. We know well their situation of being harassed, blackmailed, ridiculed, persecuted and jailed. From our own experience we also know the crucial importance of international pressure to the dissident struggle.

    See Palous in a recent Texas visit.

    Further Update: Nov. 29: Reynold’s editorial for WSJ.

    Further Update: Dec. 1: Prompted by Rummel, checked out Diplomad. Entry on the UN by these saavy State Dept. types. It does, of course, take the attitude toward the UN of most of the commentators.

    Meanwhile, however, bumperstickers have arrived (at a site with many links to other enthusiasts).

    Havel’s eloquence both in his op-ed on the United Nations role and in Taiwan are excerpted in the extended entry:

    Mad Minerva notes Havel’s acceptance of the Order of the Brilliant Star from Taiwan. “Former Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel praised Taiwan’s courage in “walking its own road” Monday in the first public speech delivered since his arrival in Taipei Friday for a six-day visit.” Havel clearly sees in Taiwan a history similar to that of his own country, at least in its vulnerability, its ability to perform well in terms of art and democracy, but also its integrity and beauty.

    “Havel said that although the Czech Republic is far away from Taiwan, they have many things in common.

    “We are both democratic states. I admire the people of Taiwan and the economic development here,” he said. . . .

    “Although Taiwan faces a difficult situation in the international community, its people have been courageous. I believe Taiwan should join the UN. I supported Taiwan’s entrance to the UN in the past. I still support its participation in the UN and will do so in the future,” Havel said.

    Besides Instapundit’s endorsement, he links to Havel’s statement on the Ukranian election and op-ed in the Miami Herald, which has Havel’s usual resonance. He argues:

    But, above all, it is necessary that we not lose faith in the meaning of alternative centers of thought and civic action. Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated into believing that attempts to change the established order and objective laws do not make sense. Let’s try to build a global civil society that insist that politics is not just a technology of power, but must have a moral dimension.

    And he concludes with his usual argument for self-consciousness and responsibility, put in the context of Western society:

    We Europeans have one specific task. Industrial civilization, which now spans the whole world, originated in Europe. All of its miracles, as well as its terrifying contradictions, can be explained as consequences of an ethos that is initially European. Therefore, unifying Europe should set an example for the rest of the world regarding how to face the various dangers and horrors that are engulfing us today.

    Indeed, such a task, which is closely tied to the success of European integration, would be an authentic fulfillment of the European sense of global responsibility. And it would be a much-better strategy than cheaply blaming America for the contemporary world’s various problems.

    Havel’s Presidential Library has issued its first volume according to his admirer (but then, there are a lot of us) Welch. Yes, this is a New Europe not all that ready to mind the French’s remarks to “keep quiet.” And wouldn’t such a man be willing to see the “oil for food” program to its nasty depths?

     

    11 Responses to “Havel & the UN”

    1. incognito Says:

      Why try to fix a useless and corrupt organization (gang of thugs really). Defund the UN and kick them out of the prime manhatten real estate.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      I agree with Incognito. The UN has long since outlived its usefulness to us. Why invest more time and resources to revive an idea that was flawed to begin with. There are better institutions to invest in.

    3. ginny Says:

      Well, if you think Bush is going to get us out of the United Nations, fine. All of us have different turning points when we began to think it was a lost cause – mine was Srbencia. But I would be surprised if we pulled out unless an alternative was in place so it didn’t look like we were turning our back on the world. (No, of course we wouldn’t be – we’d be turning our back on a corrupt force that often does much harm. But that isn’t the way it would be spun.)

      And, given those alternatives, I prefer a man who pointed out in that same op-ed: “We could start, for example, with the United Nations, which, in its current form, is a relic of the situation shortly after World War II. It does not reflect the influence of some new regional powers, while immorally equating countries whose representatives are democratically elected and those whose representatives speak only for themselves or their juntas, at best.” While I suspect such a position means he wouldn’t be let near the UN, it needs a man who can, at least, draw distinctions and who sees grown ups find solutions, they don’t “blame America for the contemporary world’s various problems.”

      Of course his economic vision doesn’t match this blog’s – or even Klaus’s. But he is both a pragmatist and an idealist. He has capital to expend; spending it by challenging those kleptocrats, child murderers and child molesters, those anti-Semitic despots by calling them what they are might improve the conversations at the UN and within the international community.

    4. Jonathan Says:

      I agree that Bush isn’t likely to repudiate the UN, and I hope you’re right about having someone like Havel as Secretary General. However, I am skeptical that merely hiring a new figurehead would accomplish much. Moynihan did his best in the ’70s to point out the UN’s corruption, and his long-term effect has been like a pebble in the UN’s bureaucratic ocean. I want us to abandon the place, stop subsidizing it, and now’s not a bad time to do it. A lot of Americans would agree. What do we gain by remaining in the UN?

    5. ginny Says:

      I’m going to make another point, but I’ll admit my heart isn’t in it; I don’t know enough to agree with you intelligently – and what little I know tends to make me think the UN may be a lost cause. (I’d love to work in an office building, however, with that wonderful marble that appears in all the tv shots.)

      Still: Moynihan was smart and carried scars from battles where he showed he also had integrity. We knew that. Nonetheless, I suspect that internationally he was tarred with the “racist” label that was thrown at him quite often about that time. Secondly, he was “our” figurehead. I suspect that, despite the fact that we pay the lion’s share, anyone that is clearly “ours” is going to have trouble doing the reforming. Of course, the fact that we pay the lion’s share and no one listens to us is certainly a reason to be getting a bit tired of the whole thing.

    6. Lex Says:

      There is no significant constituency in the USA for withdrawal from the UN. The vast majority of people, I suspect, would be alarmed by any seeming major change they did not understand. Bush is not going to try to withdraw us. So, if we are stuck for now with the UN, Havel would be great. He might do some good there.

      I think a more practical medium-term goal would be to lobby Congress to institute an investigation of the UN’s current practices beyond the oil for food scandal. For example, Wretchard writes about how the UN bureaucracy is a global prostitution ring. Not surprising. The idea would be that the commission would have to make a two column list of the costs and benefits to the US of participation in the UN. This would provoke a public debate and raise public awareness of the actual nature of this entity. Liberals would scream, but they’d look like idiots opposing a factual and historical investigation.

      While I’d like us to withdraw and create other more useful bodies to cooperate with other countries, the political foundation for any such provocative move would have to be laid in advance.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      I think there’s a big constituency — Bush’s core supporters — for pulling out of the UN or at least putting an end to our subsidies. The problem is that there’s also a big constituency for business as usual, and Bush is not likely to spend political capital on the issue. Pity. However, your idea of having a Congressional investigation is a good one. I’m not sure the Republicans have the balls for it, though.

    8. ginny Says:

      Both the Op-Ed and the statement in Taiwan are really arguments that the UN is flawed – indeed, those points are so huge (the non-recognition of facts like Taiwan’s existence, the archaic nature of the Security Council, bizarre voting that weights equally tyrants and democratic representatives, large contributors and large “takers”) that Havel himself seems to be saying the UN is beyond “cleansing.” Of course, besides his natural courage and extraodinary ability with words, that is what makes him attractive.

    9. Mitch Says:

      Those remarks about Taiwan are enough to ensure that Havel will never be UNSG. China would not stand for it.

      If the UN were an institution that could stand, let alone welcome, a man of integrity and vision at its head, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion. They would need a couple hundred Havels at this point to retrieve the situation, and there have rarely been so many of such a man. How many heads of state have been fans of Zappa? And that’s just for starters.

    10. MatyaNoBaka Says:

      OK, there is no way to get Taiwan into the UN given China as it is today. But still, there is a precedent. Someone like Havel should remind the Chinese that Ukraine and i think Byelorus were members of the UN while they were one country with the Soviet Union. “Since you are one China, this really increases your voice in the world. One country, two system. One country, two voices.” Something like that.

      It wouldn’t work, but maybe it would be a start of something less strident. Bleah, i’m starting to sound like a European. Just start a process and it will get better…

      Matya no baka

    11. incognito Says:

      But remember that the reason each Soviet republic got a vote was because Stalin wanted more votes in the UN. They were puppet state voting whatever Moscow voted. So it would just be China having two votes vs one in the general assembly, which really is a useless debating forum anyways.