DATE: 2/22/2005 12:45:00 AM
Defending the UN - The secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, says the world body still had a vital role to play in today's world. His defense of the organization he leads is unconvincing. The article runs nearly 1600 words. Of those, fewer than 100 deal with the oil-for-food scandal, and the words Annan does use are dismissive. He calls the affair "overblown" and blames the scandal on "ethical lapses and lax management."
Annan spends only about 70 words talking about the allegations of sexual abuse made by refugees in the Congo.
Most of the article is spent trying to extol the virtues of the United Nations. That Annan feels the need to do this shows just how tenuous is the UN's position with the American people. Glenn Reynolds recently pointed out how unpopular the UN is with citizens of this country. The organization is in danger of losing its moral authority, assuming of course that it hasn't lost it already.
Some of Annan's arguments simply don't make sense. Take, for instance, this paragraph on Iraq:
Even the scars left by past differences can be turned into today's opportunities. Precisely because the United Nations did not agree on some earlier actions in Iraq, today it has much needed credibility with, and access to, Iraqi groups who must agree to join in the new political process if peace is to prevail. The U.N. can be useful because it is seen as independent and impartial. If it ever came to be seen as a mere instrument or prolongation of U.S. foreign policy, it would be worthless to everyone.So the organization that fought against the liberation of Iraqis is the only one with the ability to ensure the success of their future democracy? The UN has no credibility on Iraq, because it did everything in its power to prevent the war that led to a free Iraq - Annan even called the war a violation of international law. How is that independent or impartial?
So what does Annan propose? Well, after spending most of his time singing the virtues of the UN, this is all he has to say:
In my eight years as secretary-general, I had already done a lot - with the support of member states, often led by the U.S. - to make the U.N. more coherent and efficient. Now we need to make it more transparent and accountable - not only to diplomats representing member governments, but also directly to the public.And that's it. I don't disagree with Annan here, but think he's understating the degree of the problem with the UN. The major problem isn't that the UN is secretive - the major problem is that it is a democratic organization that allows anti-democratic states to use the democratic process to deny democracy to their people. In the UN, countries led by fear and murder get just as much say in the General Assembly as countries led by the consent of the governed. It's moral equivalence in action.
It is that fact which makes the UN such a deeply dysfunctional organization. What Kofi doesn't realize is that it's not recent scandals that strip the UN of moral authority - the very structure of the organization has prevented it from ever possessing it.