"Dear Pundita, I was just reading about a proposal put forward at the 2004 Jerusalem Summit. The summit is establishing a Council of Civilizations to act as the voice of ethics for the international community. The 12 civilizations in the council amount to world geographic regions. The representatives will be the wisest people in a nation according to independent public opinion polls. The proposal is that the UN recognize the council as an independent, nonpolitical body. The council's resolutions about world problems will not have binding force but the hope is that the resolutions will inspire UN nations and the UN organization to adhere to higher ethical standards. Do you think this council is a good idea?"
The wise to be decided by public opinion poll, eh? Pundita wonders which Americans a public opinion poll would find to be wise. She has trouble seeing the Chinese Military Command -- or the British Parliament, for that matter -- hanging on Oprah's every word. Not that Oprah isn't wise, it's just that these days, UN members listen to only two things: Money or enough firepower to blow them to kingdom come if they don't listen.
Nonetheless, I put what I assume is the spirit of your question to the possum, who looked at me oddly after I summarized the United Nations record. Finally she asked whether America belongs to the United Nations clan. When I replied yes, she asked, "Why?"
The strangest criticism I've heard of the UN is that their peacekeeping force is useless. We should all be glad spiders can't fly. If the UN is half as inefficient, wasteful, corrupt, thuggish and antidemocratic as the critics claim, for any UN member to attempt to reform the UN is akin to joining AA with no intention of giving up booze. So what's the story behind the calls for reform?
As always, the crows are sharply divided in their opinion -- a problem I once tried to solve by excluding one of them from foreign policy meetings. That's how I learned crows have butter for brains without each other to caw at.
So, take your pick. If you don't have much faith in human nature the calls are not really for reform; they're an attempt to regain control of a situation that got away from the United States decades ago.
Or you can choose to assume that American calls for reform of the UN represent a failure to think the matter through. Since the end of WW2 the USA has set the world's standard for ethical conduct. If we do it, it must be okay. So, if we're willing to deal with despotic governments, who is going to listen if we call for reform of the UN without first reforming ourselves?
Every street kid who's gotten away from a gang could advise the US government on how to reform the United Nations. First clean up your own act. When other kids in the hood see you can do it, that inspires them to try. Sure, it's hard, as any ex-gang member could attest. Once you get in deep getting out always involves pain. But the first step is to leave the gang. Otherwise, you're hypocrisy in motion.