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Inside the Asylum
When friendships go bad
By Steven Martinovich
Although it wasn't a secret, the debate over last year's war against the regime of Saddam Hussein publicly exposed the deep divisions between the United States and the United Nations and its traditional allies in Western Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, a schism has formed between nations that practice 'soft power' versus the more muscular version preferred by the US. It's led a number of pundits to argue that America needs to reconcile itself to the fact that it won't always be able to count on the unquestioning support of many of its friends.
And then there is Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. Unleashing a double-barreled attack on the UN and Old Europe, he argues in Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse than You Think that they are de facto enemies, working to constrain America's power. Rather than joining the battle against terrorism, he charges, the two prefer to consider it the price of doing business with some parts of the world -- when they aren't openly supporting terrorists or dictatorships.
Babbin devotes the first half of Inside the Asylum to building a case against the UN. Babbin argues that the international body has failed in its original mission for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it considers the most brutal nations to be on par with the most democratic. When it isn't frustrating efforts to deal with threats, Babbin accuses the UN of assisting terrorist organizations, knowingly or otherwise, or being used by terrorists to carry out their twisted agendas. It is a bloated, corrupt organization that costs Americans billions every year yet seems to exist only to restrain American action against legitimate threats.
To that end he offers a number of reforms designed to limit the UN's importance. Babbin calls on the US to cut off funding until the Oil-for-Food scandal is investigated properly and that the position of ambassador to the UN is de-emphasized in its importance -- the position is currently the equivalent of being the ambassador to another nation. Further, he believes that no issues of importance should be brought to the UN and that the next secretary general must be from a free, capitalist and successful nation.
Ultimately, however, Babbin believes that the US must eventually withdraw from the UN in favor of a new alliance of free nations. "To do this, we should withdraw from the UN gradually, in stages, and build on the growing UN disillusion in European, and even global, popular opinion (if not the opinion of European and Third World governments.)"
Babbin has no love for Western Europe either. The second half is largely a polemic aimed at France and Germany, not coincidentally the primary opponents of military action against Iraq, the two self-appointed leaders of Old Europe. He blasts Western Europe as a collection of decaying socialist states gradually losing any importance they might have had. It is a nest of anti-Americanism that's "very hard to understand except in terms of envy and of Europe's own weaknesses and fears." Rather than fighting terrorism, Babbin accuses several European nations of openly dealing with malignant forces in the interests of appeasement and profit.
Although some might consider Babbin's shots at Old Europe to be sour grapes, his chapter arguing for reforms to NATO should be of interest to everyone. NATO isn't just a political alliance; it must also be a credible military alliance. "The new NATO must be a true alliance of states that share similar values, strategic interests, and military capabilities, not a military welfare program for Europe." That can only begin, Babbin believes, if the US withdraws its guarantees and forces European nations to begin taking their own security seriously.
Although some will be quick to argue that Babbin paints with too wide a brush, it's difficult to refute that both the UN and Old Europe have taken very questionable courses in recent years. Although Inside the Asylum is well researched, it doesn't pretend to be a scholarly tome like Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power. Rather, it is an impassioned call to Americans -- particularly ahead of this November's presidential election -- to remember that America's rational interests should never be under the control of others even those calling themselves friends, especially when they act otherwise.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
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