Can 120 (Non-Aligned) Countries be Wrong?

In this picture released by International Iran Photo Agency, IIPA, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, greets his E
In this picture released by International Iran Photo Agency, IIPA, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, greets his Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Morsi, during the Nonaligned Movement, NAM, summit in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi arrived in Tehran on Thursday in the first visit by an Egyptian leader to Iran after decades of hostility between the two countries. Morsi, an Islamist, is in Iran for a summit of the Nonaligned Movement. Representatives of 100 members of the 120-nation bloc were expected to attend. (AP Photo/IIPA,Sajjad Safari)

During the Cold War, we used to joke about the Non-Aligned Movement, because it really wasn't non-aligned. On the contrary, it was aligned against the West and against colonialism. It wasn't really, as it claimed, non-aligned as between East and West, as between the Communist world and the so-called Free World, because it contained, of all things, Communist China!

Its heavies, from its founding in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, were Nehru, Nasser, Tito, Sukarno and Chou-en-lai, none of whom could be mistaken as friends of the West.

Not particularly relevant during the Cold War, what possibly can the Non-Aligned Movement represent today? The Cold War is over. Has the movement outlived its usefulness? The answer is no, despite the Movement's outmoded Cold War origins. It serves as a rallying point for all those countries who want to push back against what they see as the dominating attitudes and policies of the United States, and to a lesser degree, the West in general.

For example: as if to demonstrate the problem of the legitimacy of a preventive attack against Iran, the Movement's 120 members, meeting in Tehran on August 30, unanimously supported Iran's nuclear energy program and criticized American-sponsored attempts to use sanctions against Iran.

Much as it is tempting to deride the Non-Aligned Movement as an anachronism, we should ponder the symbolic implications of this expression of disapproval of a preventive attack on Iran by representatives of 120 of the world's countries, meeting in Tehran in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General. Although the meeting was not an unalloyed success for Tehran, with the Sunni members unwilling to give an expression of support to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, the Iranians pulled out all the stops in organizing the conference, including the display of the calcinated vehicles of three assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists.