Saturday, September 16, 2006

Non-Aligned Movement

Wht becomes of an international body that has outlived its usefulness? That's the obvious question to ask, with the 2006 summit of the Non-Aligned Movement underway in Havana. The organisation made a real sort of sense during the Cold War, as a meeting point for states that wanted alternatives to association with the two superpowers. But with that period long gone, it seems to have become a kind of rogues' gallery of international outcasts. The gang's all here: Iran, Venezuela, Belarus, Burma, Zimbabwe, even reclusive North Korea--everyone's favorite misbehaving regimes are here.

True, they're united by their bad standing in Washinghton. And a bad relationship with the Bush Administration is hardly in itself a reason to resent a government. Nonetheless, these are pretty dodgy folks--with the marginal exception of Venezuela, none of the states just mentioned has even a passable human rights record.

These, of course, aren't the whole lot. India, South Africa, and a host of other state currently well integrated in the global order are present--118 in total, and most of the world's population. But the odd cases seem to dominate the speaking schedule. It's a fair question who's running the show.

What this suggests, to me at least, is that American pressure on these states has forced countries with little in common other then emnity with Washington into league with one another, hijacking a harmless relic of an organisation. It also, oddly, makes the US look like the truly non-aligned state, having as it does few reliable allies outside coalitions of convenience.

Other international bodies that have outlived the bulk of their usefulness often end up in a fairly reasonable condition. The OSCE does little other than monitor a few elections now and then, yet it continues to serve as a pleasant form of tax-free employment for volumes of retired diplomats in Vienna. In any event, the folks in Havana at the moment are probably harmless enough, insofar as the dodgy governments represented have little influence outside their own borders. Still, it seems unfortunate that the only states genuinely and openly resistant to poor American foreign policy are so poorly governed themselves.
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