Closed Communion and the UN

One of the defining differences between right and left today in the US is that the left is enamoured of the UN while the right thinks it mainly an execrable waste of time, money, and resources of which not the least is mention bandwidth on the global stage. For the most part, I don’t want to concentrate (with one exception at the end of this piece) on Mr Obama’s speech to the UN, which can be found here. Unlike his predecessor, Mr Bush, Mr Obama had nothing but nice and complementary things to say about the UN, which at the very least supports the statement made in the opening. One of the primary complaints that the right has about the UN is that it has a completely open membership. Dictatorships have equal voice with Democracies. Free societies with closed. Coercive with (mostly) non-coercive. For the left, somehow this is not a fault but a feature. For the right, as a feature, it is sort of like more like the “smell feature” the outhouse has over the water closet.

A recent development in the last few decades in mainstream liberal churches has been one of open communion. Anyone who is a baptised Christian (in some churches these qualifiers are not in force) can partake of the Eucharist. In the early centuries of the church, “let the catechumen’s depart” was a feature of the liturgy. What this signified was the separation or break between teaching and Scripture in the liturgy and the prayers developing to the giving of the sacrament. Non-Baptised perspective members of the church actually left the church proper and the doors were locked at this time. This was likely far more important during the period of persecution prior to Constantine and the legalization of Christianity. That reminds me of a story from Eastern Europe, which I may be misremembering but I think I’ll get the gist of it. A troop of soldiers entered a church at the start of a service. They told the people present that if they continued they would be arrested (or shot … I forget). Some left, but many remained resolute to continue their worship no matter the consequences. At that point the soldiers dropped their arms and joined in worship, allowing that they had to weed out informers.

The film, The Tuskegee Airmen, teaches a lesson misread by many. The lesson for the UN is that by restricting membership and making the road to qualification harder, the effect is to create a better more elite capable force. For the UN, this might mean that benefits to membership combined with the introduction of qualification for entry might create a better more capable organization.

The point of this is that qualifications for membership has purpose. It is not a priori a bad thing. It certainly might be more useful if membership in the UN (or some alternate organization) required confirmation and affirmation that their nation was free and not coerced. When the UN is the only game in town, you end up with armies of rapists stationed to “police” unrest in the Congo. You get anti-Semitic declarations made by human rights congresses and so on. The list goes on. The root of this problem is that so many of the representatives in the UN assembly represent not a nation but an individual or small coterie or junta in power.


Oddly enough on the hotly debated questions of torture he said:

On my first day in office, I prohibited — without exception or equivocation — the use of torture by the United States of America.  (Applause.)  I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law.  Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.

Hmm, how is that for accuracy. Guantanamo Bay is still actually open, torture is still in the Executive quiver (Mr Greenwald has exhaustively documented the loopholes and exceptions), and his “forging a framework to combat extremism” has mostly been (in the public view at any rate) a matter of outlawing the use of the phrase, “war on terror.” One wonders if “you can tell I’m lying because my mouth is moving” is to be viewed in the context of the preceding sentences as a American value or whether prevarication is the norm and expected in the halls of the UN.

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13 responses to “Closed Communion and the UN

  1. One of the primary complaints that the right has about the UN is that it has a completely open membership. Dictatorships have equal voice with Democracies.

    Errr, you are aware that members of the security council get veto power over anything the general assembly passes? The UN is hardly built upon each country getting an equal voice. As for the left being enamoured with the UN, it seems like the left is just not as much into the posing that the right enjoys. Obama made a speech at the UN. Bush made speeches at the UN. Reagan did and backwards in history. I don’t recall in any of the time periods the right was running things a proposal on the table for the US to pull out of the UN or for membership or voting rights to be allocated based on style of gov’t. Proposing such a thing is a feel good measure but the party of Henry Kissenger should see the practical problems with such an idea.

    Actually Obama did order Gitmo closed (he didn’t say it was closed now nor do most reasonably commentators believe it could be closed instantly, we are still not even a year into Obama’s presidency). As for torture, interrogations are now under the rule of law.

  2. As for ‘exclusive clubs’ of nations, what is the G7, G20, Nato, IMF, the Security Council, and so on.

  3. Boonton,
    Obama was not critical of the UN in his address in any way. Bush apparently was.

    I’m not suggesting we pull out of the UN, but that we start a “better” more exclusive variant and put the majority of our eggs and validation of same in that basket.

    As for torture, interrogations are now under the rule of law.

    Not according to Mr Greenwald.

  4. One of the defining differences between right and left today in the US is that the left is enamoured of the UN while the right thinks it mainly an execrable waste of time, money, and resources of which not the least is mention bandwidth on the global stage

    I would say the left is not “enamored” with it but rather believe it has some use today and even more potential for tomorrow.

    This distinction is really just a symptom of the deeper distinction — the right, being more nationalistic, looks at the UN solely from a what-can-we-get-out-of-it point of view, while the left, being more humanistic, believes that the same principle that says a nation’s citizens should have a say in their government also says that the nations of the world should have a say in whatever passes for global “government.”

  5. Obama was not critical of the UN in his address in any way. Bush apparently was.

    Apparently? Are you referring to an actual speech Bush made or just assuming?

    JA
    I would say the left is not “enamored” with it but rather believe it has some use today and even more potential for tomorrow.

    I agree, I think enamored here is simply redefining “not posturing”. The UN is not some type of great World Congress. Like most diplomatic bodies, it is mostly hot air except for the few times it does get some useful stuff done. The right, though, enjoys a lot of tough talk without any real action. I’m still waiting to see the example of the Bush, Bush Sr. or Reagan (or for that matter Nixon) case of advocating any of the reforms Mark offered as a serious proposal.

  6. Boonton,
    I said apparently because I’d read that and didn’t verify it. I’m not assuming, I’m reporting what I read. How would you prefer I indicate that?

    The UN is not some type of great World Congress. Like most diplomatic bodies, it is mostly hot air except for the few times it does get some useful stuff done.

    This is indeed a key point, i.e., error. The UN is indeed mostly hot air, except for the things which it actually does …. and the right believes that the majority of the “non-hot air” things it actually does are harmful, not useful.

  7. JA,
    First, the problem is that the right sees the UN as not “having some use” today, but that it is actively an agent for harm today … and has little potential for use in the future.

    This is the particular criticism as opposed to your generic contention that “the right is more nationalistic” a claim which is lacking in any concrete examples or basis and impossible to refute.

  8. (FYI: The Reply button works but the link gives an error.)

    First, the problem is that the right sees the UN as not “having some use” today, but that it is actively an agent for harm today … and has little potential for use in the future.

    Okay. Although I can’t help but point out that the right was wrong and UN head of inspections Hans Blix was right and something on the order of 100,000 people would be alive today if we’d listened to the UN guy instead of the right.

    This is the particular criticism as opposed to your generic contention that “the right is more nationalistic” a claim which is lacking in any concrete examples or basis and impossible to refute.

    I didn’t realize that was controversial. It is usually the right who accuses Americans of being anti-American, the right who think that treaties are for other countries to follow, the right who (to a greater extent) drapes themselves in the flag, etc.

    There’s just no equivalent on the left to the right’s claims that, e.g., Kerry “looks French.” The right implies that the U.S. is not just superior to Europe, Canada, and pretty much every other democracy on Earth, but that those other countries should be objects of ridicule.

    It’s probably not everybody on the right, but it is a lot.

  9. JA,
    Hmm, that may be a browser specific error. It’s working for me (it’s using AJAX). I’ll experiment at work tomorrow, where I have more browsers to try.

    It was my recollection that Mr Blix came out of Iraq with a report, “I didn’t find anything and Mr Hussein didn’t cooperate.” It was on the second that triggered the action, because it was insisted that “not cooperating” was going to be, uhm, problematic.

    Given that I place the at the foot of the UN the larger Palestinian problem regarding Israel that seems to be a bigger “oops” than Iraq.

    I was not speaking so much to the “right as more nationalistic” but that the attitudes about the UN flow from that.

  10. (I’m using Firefox, if you don’t know.)

    It was my recollection that Mr Blix came out of Iraq with a report, “I didn’t find anything and Mr Hussein didn’t cooperate.” It was on the second that triggered the action, because it was insisted that “not cooperating” was going to be, uhm, problematic.

    Blix said that Iraq was being more and more cooperative and that inspections would be complete within months and that there was no evidence of existing WMDs. Bush decided one week after that report that “diplomacy had failed” and the war was necessary.

    Given that I place the at the foot of the UN the larger Palestinian problem regarding Israel that seems to be a bigger “oops” than Iraq.

    Huh?
    (1) How is that possibly the UN’s fault?
    (2) How could it possibly be a bigger “oops” than Iraq, which caused the deaths of 100,000 or more people?!?!

    I was not speaking so much to the “right as more nationalistic” but that the attitudes about the UN flow from that.

    Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  11. This is indeed a key point, i.e., error. The UN is indeed mostly hot air, except for the things which it actually does …. and the right believes that the majority of the “non-hot air” things it actually does are harmful, not useful.

    The two most significant things the UN did were the authorization of war in Korea and the Gulf (first Gulf War). Both acts happened because the US wanted them. The UN has never went against the US in regards to a significant policy. Two striking examples are the the Vietnam War and the second Gulf War.

    The bulk of what you would define as harmful would probably fall under totally irrelevant. Speeches made by 3rd rate dictators to mostly empty assemblies, dubious countries getting to ‘chair’ commissions. And so on…

  12. Pingback: Zbrodnia Katyńska and a the UN – Pseudo-Polymath

  13. JA,
    The UN established “permanent refugee camps” in which the Palestinians have been dwelling for generations. You think the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has had small impact between the 50s and now than Iraq?

    I disagree. I explain more in last night’s post.

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