BACK IN THE 1950s, the world was a bipolar place. There was East and West, Socialist Camp and Free World. Many countries, typically poor and newly independent, felt comfortable with neither. There were blocs to be non-aligned with, ideologies to be non-aligned about.
The Non-Aligned Movement always struggled with credibility. Its founders were Nehru of India, an ally of the Soviet Union based on mutual anxieties about China; Tito of Yugoslavia, an undoubted Communist who defied Moscow; and Sukarno of Indonesia, an anti-imperialist become leftist dictator.
Now that the Cold War is over, there is nothing to be neutral about. The East is banging on the door of the West, for admission. Yet most of the 113 member nations showed up at the Non-Aligned Movement summit at the port city of Cartagena in Colombia this week, some 30 heads of state or government among them.
There was the host, President Ernesto Samper of Colombia. He is the anti-drug crusader accused of being elected with drug money. There was Fidel Castro of Cuba, non-aligned in his vanished alignment. There was President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, staunch friend of the U.S. and President Suharto of Indonesia, right-wing autocrat of an emerging Asian tiger.
If anything, this was an alliance of the poor, but Singapore was there. It is an alliance of those denied permanent seats at the United Nations Security Council, but India and Brazil, confidently demand such status.
If there was a common theme, it was bashing the United Nations. This may sound like the U.S. Congress, which bashes the U.N. for being the bastion of the Non-Aligned. The Non-Aligned bash it for being the tool of the United States. Its reforms are not President Clinton's.
The Non-Aligned Movement never was good at getting its act together. Now, why try? Its leaders should end the organization, alas never to see the Cartagenas of this world.