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A Jaundiced View of the UN


Samar Sen

A DANGEROUS PLACE
By Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1979, pp. 297, Rs. 30.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 1 July/August 1979

Moynihan is full of bounce and breeze in this 300-page account of his steward­ship of American interests in the United Nations for eight months, July ‘75 to February '76. It pullulates with contro­versies, but for an author whose back­ground is trumpetted to be one of research and analysis, these are surpris­ingly built on many wrong premises and unsatisfactory data. In the event A Dange­rous Place is not what it could have been—an intelligent America's guide to the U.N; instead, it becomes yet another tract by a politician who has done well and can expect to do better. Moynihan's message is simple: if the Third World continues to attack the USA it should instantly know that the USSR is much worse and the developing count­ries are no better. They all badly need progress and civilization and only the USA can provide them, now or in the future. This should be done on strictly American terms and certainly not by abusing the USA; the task is relatively easy as these countries have no real choice except to turn to the USA and the west­ern world which is indeed identical to liberal democracy and civilization; anyway, Moynihan will show the way to make the Third World behave itself. This staggeringly simple approach naturally blinds him to the implied compliment the Third World pays in applying ‘double standards’ in judging the USA vis-à-vis the USSR. Liberal democracy is open to criticism when it deviates from its ideal, but for dictatorships such a fall from grace becomes irrelevant as they never can have any. Besides, are we to enforce democracy by totalitarian meth­ods? Moynihan does not even attempt an answer. About his own countrymen, his des­pair is almost physically painful. ‘We are the most powerful culture in the world, I felt we must somehow get our nerve back’; ‘For to strip our past of glory is no great loss, but to deny it honour is deva­stating’. Sentences of this nature appear with a dull monotony; nevertheless Moy­nihan is conscious that the defeat in Vietnam was compounded by falsehood, corruption, treachery and arrogance; that with licence and hypocrisy at home, and cynicism and fraud abroad, the American ideal was unbearably strained in those dark years of 1970-75. Neither honour nor glory can exist without integrity, tolerance and a desire to understand ­qualities that ...


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