Jan 8, 2004 4:55 pm


I cannot think of a better idea than the one offered by the indefatgable, Max Kampelman. Create a Caucus of Democracies at the U.N.

Since the U.N.'s creation, millions have been killed, maimed, starved, tortured or raped by brutal rulers whose governments nevertheless wield great influence in the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council. These facts clearly reflect the inadequacies and failures of the U.N. For example, North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Il, has inflicted a holocaust on his people. Defectors and observers have estimated that more than a million people have starved to death in brutal Gulag-type camps. The resulting flood of refugees into China, where an estimated 360,000 North Koreans may now be hiding in an effort to escape brutality, has not produced action in the U.N., though the U.N. High Commission on Refugees is fully aware of this human catastrophe. China classifies these tragic human beings as"economic migrants" and"not refugees," while cynically embracing the refugee convention as the"Magna Carta of international refugee law" and thereby earning the applause of U.N. officials. The U.N. Human Rights Commission has become a travesty. Two years ago, the U.S.--which has worked diligently to make the commission an effective instrument--was replaced by Syria, a corrupt, totalitarian supporter of terrorism. This year, in spite of American efforts, Libya was elected to chair the commission, an egregious challenge to the commission's integrity considering Libya's rule by a militant tyrant responsible for the 1988 bombing of a U.S. civilian jet in Lockerbie in which 270 people were murdered. U.S. opposition to Libya was supported only by Canada and Guatemala; 33 countries voted for Libya, while our European"friends" conspicuously abstained from voting at all. In electing such states as Syria, Libya, Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Zimbabwe to serve on the commission, the ostensible guardian of human rights, the U.N. has forfeited its commitment to those values.

If not now, when?

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More Comments:

C.R.W. - 1/20/2004

"Liberal" meaning protective of the freedoms of opposition candidates and parties (Japan), degree of religious adherence of candidates (Iran), ability of opposition parties to campaign in a fair and free fashion (Russia). A 15-year history of adherence to certain benchmarks indicative of political stability should make a difference in alloting membership legitimately.

Jonathan Dresner - 1/16/2004

It's not a bad definition. Being a troublemaker, I'm trying to think about the borderline cases....

Iran comes to mind: multiparty elections under a constitutional system with checks and balances.

Japan as well: a multi-party parliamentary system with very weak opposition in most districts and functional one-party domination of the government for a half-century.

I also wonder what would happen if a country qualified for entry but then changed: The Musharaf coup in Pakistan, for example, or Putin's Russia, where, having had elections, he then proceeds to not have them again for a very long time, all the while using government power to crush opposition movements.

Judith Klinghoffer - 1/14/2004

Sorry for the delay in responding. I define a democracy as an ELECTED government. One party systems do not count. Multiple candidates are a must. The most important feature of democracy is the ability of the electorate to throw the rascal out. That possibility does wonders to focus leaders' mind on the well-being of their citizens. A bill of rights is important though not sufficient.

Jonathan Dresner - 1/8/2004

A caucus of democracies? An amusing notion, but it won't turn out the way you like. Can you write a precise definition of "democracy" that includes the US, UK (which is still a monarchy), France, Japan, India, Holland, and Israel, but not Russia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, or China? Or maybe you're envisioning a small core group which could elect other nations to be members on a case by case basis, a fraternity system?

Not going to help.