7 January 2005
Tower of Babble
- Interview with Jamie Glazov
Frontpage Interview's guest today is Dore Gold, Israel's U.N. ambassador from 1997 to 1999. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Hatred's Kingdom and of the new book, Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos.
FP: What motivated you to write Tower of Babble?
Gold: During the period, when I served as Israel's ambassador to the UN in the 1990's, I was struck by a sense that the world was becoming far more anarchical than anyone had anticipated at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. After all the Cold War was over. The competition between the superpowers was no longer going to exacerbate conflicts around the world and their delegations on the UN Security Council were not going to neutralize one another with their respective veto power. For that reason, President Bush (41) envisioned a "New World Order" emerging and after the success of the Security Council in confronting the aggression of Iraq in Kuwait, the UN was supposed to become the main glue holding that order together. Yet instead, the decade of the 1990's was marked by growing disorder--global chaos. A new, and far more dangerous brand of international terrorism arose that struck the US on 9/11, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction accelerated, and acts of genocide returned in Africa and even on the continent of Europe.
From my vantage point, the UN seemed to be directly connected to this global deterioration. Had it not taken responsibility for multilateral diplomacy over the future of Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban, or not claimed to protect international security through the mechanism of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and finally not deployed peacekeepers on the ground in Rwanda and Bosnia prior to the mass killings in those areas, then I couldn't make that charge. But peoples of the world looked to the UN to protect them, and the UN let them down. And frequently these UN failures led to the spread of far worse crises, particularly in the Central African Republic and in the Balkans. With this record, what moral right did the UN have to attack President Bush for seeking to forcibly implement UN Security Council resolutions with respect to the regime of Saddam Hussein?
FP: It doesn't appear it had any moral right at all. So crystallize for us briefly, then, your main indictments against the U.N.
Gold: For President Franklin Delano Roosevelt the UN was supposed to be instrumental in "nipping aggression in the bud," and by doing so, preventing a re-play of the Second World War. But the UN couldn't even define aggression until 1974 and even then its definition was full of loopholes. Worse still, the UN is a manufacturing plant for the worst moral equivalence that just cripples effective action to stop wars: in its international behavior, for the most part, the UN does not distinguish between aggressors and the victims of aggression. In Bosnia, UN forces were partial to the Serbs, and not to their Bosnian Muslim victims. In Rwanda, when General Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander on the ground, proposed to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, headed by Kofi Annan, that it was necessary to destroy the arms of the Hutu militia before they were used to exterminate the Tutsi tribe, he was told by Annan's office to not take sides--indeed, he was instructed to remain "impartial". More than eight hundred thousand Rwandans were massacred within a few months.
Most recently, the UN General Assembly sought to activate the UN's judicial arm--the International Court of Justice in the Hague--to stop Israel's security fence. Annan's office supplied supporting documentation to the judges in the Hague about Palestinian grievances over the fence, without even relating to the wave of Palestinian suicide terrorism against Israeli civilians that caused the fence to be built in the first place (nor was there mention of other security fences built on disputed territory in Kashmir or Cyprus). Yet the UN holds itself up to be "the source of international legitimacy"--a beacon of international justice. It is clear, however, that the UN does not determine the relative justice in the claims of parties engaged in an international dispute. It can only reflect the sum total of the political power that a state or national movement can mobilize on his behalf within the halls of the UN. For many peoples, from Tibetan Buddhists to Rwandan Tutsis, to Lebanese Christians to Iraqi Kurds and Black African Muslims in Darfur, Sudan, (and not just the Jewish people) that leaves them completely unprotected if they have to rely on the machinery of the UN.
FP: How did it happen that the forces of anti-Americanism and anti-democracy hijacked an international institution that was supposed to fight aggression, combat terrorism, and preserve global order?
Gold: I am strongly of the belief that moral values are as important in international diplomacy as they are in domestic settings. The UN was actually born in a moment of extreme moral clarity, when there was no confusion over the evil of Nazi Germany and the good of the allies who liberated Europe. In fact, to join the UN in 1945, a state had to declare war on one of the Axis powers, making the original UN more of an alliance rather than a morally rudderless collective body. Even though Stalin's USSR was an original founding member in 1945, it even had to defer to the leadership of the democracies in many cases. Moscow didn't dare vote against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it would only abstain. But with the expanded membership in the 1960's, moral clarity was lost. Many pro-Soviet Third World regimes re-worked UN resolutions to serve their interests. Individual human rights and freedoms were increasingly re-defined as collective economic rights; the General Assembly, meanwhile, adopted resolutions about the non-interference in member states' internal affairs by exploiting human rights resolutions. With this ethos, it is not surprising that the UN did nothing when the Khmer Rouge slaughtered two million Cambodians; indeed, the UN invited the Khmer Rouge to the Cambodian peace process -- rather than indicting them for war crimes.
FP: Tower of Babble shows how terrorist groups have infiltrated UN organizations. Can you illuminate this horrifying reality for us a bit?
The story of the UN and terrorism is really about the loss of standards in the world organization. There may have been pre-conditions to join the UN in 1945, but no pre-conditions were set years later. In 1974, Yasser Arafat was invited to address the UN General Assembly, without having to first renounce terrorism; in a 1970 interview just recently aired on CNN, he voiced his opinion that airplane hijackings could be justified by UN resolutions. In fact, from 1970 through 1982, the UN General Assembly adopted resolutions condoning resistance to alien domination "by all available means" and then added "including armed struggle" -- to this day this has served as the key phraseology for legitimizing terrorism. More recently, in the years 2002-2003, Syria sat on the UN Security Council and was not required to close the offices of more than a dozen terrorist organizations in Damascus as a pre-condition to this elevation of rank in the UN system. No wonder the Syrians feel that they can back the insurgency against the US in Iraq with impunity. The same trend continued elsewhere. UNRWA, the refugee agency for Palestinians, also sets no pre-conditions about the workers it employs; the heads of UNRWA unions are declared members of Hamas. In short, from 1974 to 2004, those engaging in international terrorism were rarely punished in the UN (its post-9/11 Counter-Terrorism Committee, notwithstanding). A political atmosphere was created that was conducive to the appeasement of terrorism instead of directly confronting its global spread.
FP: So what is the solution for this mess? Do we try to fix the U.N. or just discard it for the anti-American and anti-democratic force that it is, and just pursue justice and security without it?
Gold: It is tempting to just discard the UN, but it would be a mistake. For the US, in my judgment, it would boomerang and just create more enemies. Historically, as I have noted, US administrations have bypassed the UN when their vital interests were at stake. President Kennedy relied on the Organization of American States in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and not on UN authorization for his naval quarantine of Castro. President Clinton acted in Kosovo through NATO, and not the UN. Finally, President George W. Bush assembled a coalition of the willing in the 2003 Iraq War, unlike his father's UN Gulf War coalition in 1991. Coalitions of the willing will become the likely vehicle in the future for urgent military interventions.
In the ongoing war on terrorism, it might be useful to form a permanent coalition of democratic countries. Some democracies, like France and Belgium, might be unlikely, at this point, to join. But besides European states, like Britain, Italy, and the new democracies from Eastern Europe, the US could go outside of Europe to Turkey, Israel, India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. Should this bloc become substantial, it would be worthwhile to force through the UN General Assembly new resolutions that served our collective interests and brake the hold of the Non-Aligned Movement. It is important for many countries what the UN is saying. If it is condoning terrorism in its resolutions, then they will not act sufficiently against armed groups. If it is protecting the Third World dictatorships by adopting resolutions about the "non-interference in the domestic affairs of states", then they will abuse their citizens and ignore their responsibilities to human rights conventions.
In short, in the near term, it is necessary to bypass the UN when the Free World faces imminent dangers. But in the medium to longer term, it may be possible to alter the UN--not by the kind of structural reforms, now being suggested by a panel of experts reporting to Secretary-General Kofi Annan (enlarging the Security Council from 15 to 24), but rather by reforming the substance of the UN through an agenda that serves the democracies instead of the dictatorships.
FP: What do you think about the rise of anti-Semitism world-wide? What explains it?
Gold: I would pick up from the insight of David Horowitz about the emerging alliance between militant Islam and the radical left. It is important to remember for perspective that Islam, while relegating non-Muslims to a second class status, nonetheless showed a remarkable degree of tolerance at times, especially to the Jewish people: the Ottoman Empire opened its doors to Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century and provided land grants for Jewish resettlement in the Land of Israel, well before the British. The Ottoman Sultans were the caliphs of all Sunni Islam, yet this background of limited inter-religious tolerance has been wiped out entirely by the new Islamic militancy, that has been fed by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In their effort to wipe out the "infidels", the new Islamic militancy has even produced in the last few years fatwas (religious opinions) that call for the mass murder of non-Muslims and the employment of weapons of mass destruction. Delegitimizing the enemy, including the revival and spread of anti-semitism for them is a critical first step to prepare the groundwork for what they operationally plan. France already has a rich anti-semitic past, but if you throw into the mix the message being spread to French Muslims by radical Islamic preachers, you can easily restore European anti-semitism. Rather than attack the Jewish people directly, the formula that many prefer is to demonize the Jewish state, Israel, to such a disproportional extent that the target audience can only conclude that Israeli behavior emamates from something inherently flawed or evil in Jewish character. That is the nexus between anti-Israelism and anti-semitism.
Here the radical Muslims have found a willing partner. The old European left felt connected to Israel. First, their Soviet allies initially supported Israel as an instrument against British imperialism. Later, after the split between Israel and the USSR, Israel still stood out as a real experiment in socialism; for the European left that no longer bought into the Soviet Union as a workers' paradise, the hard-working farmers on an Israeli kibbutz were to be admired and many Europeans came to volunteer for a summer on a kibbutz. Finally, until 1977, the European socialist parties maintained strong ties with the Israeli governing elite from the Israeli Labor Party through the Socialist Internationale. Secularized European socialists did not have to consider whether the return of the Jewish people to their homeland after 2000 years was legitimate, because the results of this experiment, regardless of its roots, was supposed to be part of their socialist world order, in any case.
When Israel became a global ally of the United States in the early 1970's downing Soviet MiGs over the Suez Canal and taking on Soviet expansionism in the Eastern Mediterranean, the European left became more disenchanted with Israel, just like they became alienated from other American Cold War partners (they went after the human rights record of US allies and not Soviet satellites). And with the rise of the the conservative Likud Party, that replaced the Israeli Labor Party for the first time in 1977 (and kept getting re-elected in the next fifteen years) the special Socialist link to the European Left was broken. Some of their leaders adjusted to the new reality. But for the radical Left, Israel now had no redeeming features. The Bible certainly had no meaning to those who were weaned on a strictly Marxist diet in their youth. Many looked at Israel, not as an epic drama of a people returning to history after centuries of exile, but rather as a throwback to European imperialism. For them it became illegitimate. And just like the radical Muslims, the radical leftists could easily transfer their dislike of Israel, which democratically made a sharp break with its past, to a general dislike of the Jewish people, in general. Today the anti-globalizes have taken on the PLO flag as one of their symbols; they associate Israel with the global capitalist establishment, which is their adversary. And like the radical Islamists, they buy into wild conspiracy theories about neo-conservatives in America serving Israel's interests in Iraq. This way they convert their anti-Israeli perspectives into a global assault on Jews, whether they are Israelis or just American citizens.
FP: What do you think is the psychology of the Left in its contemporary alliance with radical Islam? The Left supposedly values women's rights, gay rights, minority rights and all other democratic rights and yet it is now on the side of a group of fascists and zealots that violently extinguish all of those rights. What's the story here?
Gold: For all these groups anti-Americanism is a supreme value, above all others. That is why some women's rights groups could oppose the US intervention in Afghanistan even if the Taliban abused women.
FP: The U.S. and Israel are clearly fighting the same battle for liberty against tyranny and terror. Tell us a bit what strategies you think both nations should be pursuing in the terror war.
Gold: The war on terrorism involves a military campaign, but it can only be won with a diplomatic campaign, as well. This is really a world order problem. How do you get countries to adopt a code of behavior that neutralizes all aspects of the new global terrorism. Clearly, states must not provide sanctuary for terrorist groups, but as in the case of Syria, UN membership is insufficient to get Syrian behavior changed. Defeating terrorism means also getting at terrorist financing; efforts in this area have only begun. Most importantly, defeating terrorism involves eradicating incitement to engage in terrorist acts. Given our common backround in support of religious liberty, we all get uncomfortable monitoring what is said in a mosque or in a religious school. But the creation of a culture of religious tolerance may be as important as halting terrorist financing. The US does not have to impose these changes by force across the Middle East. It will need diplomatic partners worldwide in this endeavor. When the Wahhabis threatened the Middle East with a new militant extremism in the early 19th century, it was the Ottoman Empire that ultimately crushed them for many decades, not the British Royal Navy. As of yet there is no Muslim power which is willing to play that role today, but the Islamic world will ultimately have to take responsibility for extinguishing its own militancy, that seeks, after all, to first crush the "infidel" regimes of the Arab world, and then complete its global jihad. These are not short-term changes; they will take decades to be completed.