The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Scorched Earth

At this point, it should be clear to all that the UN under Kofi Annan can never appear credible to a majority of Americans. Centrists on both sides are willing to believe that Annan himself is the problem, and that his departure would be at least a partial remedy. Kenneth Cain, former UN lawyer and co-author of Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures, writes in the Guardian:
Annan asks - no, orders - unarmed civilians to risk their lives every day as election observers, human rights monitors, drivers and secretaries in the most dangerous conditions all over the world. They do it, heroically, every day. And, in the service of peace, some pay with their lives; others with their sanity. How can he then not ask of himself the courage to risk his job in the cause of preventing genocide? At the very least, he could go down trying to save lives, as opposed to going down trying to explain why he didn't.
Annan is not personally corrupt or incompetent. But the UN cannot have failed more catastrophically when the stakes have been highest. If he does not lose his job for that, then for what? And if not now, when?
And Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) editorializes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
For six months, I have insisted that Annan be held accountable for the U.N.'s gross mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program. Last week, the U.N.'s own investigators issued a report criticizing Annan's own conduct -- including his failure to resolve a serious conflict of interest concerning his son -- and the conduct of his chief of staff.
The Volcker report did not "exonerate" Annan, as many have claimed; to the contrary, it pointed the finger directly at him. Indeed, one member of Volcker's committee, Mark Pieth, made that point loud and clear: "We did not exonerate Kofi Annan."
With that in mind, I reiterate my call for Annan's resignation.
They are opposed from both ends; by die-hard internationalists who cannot face the admission of vast corruption in the very font of salvation, and by cynical nationalists who want to see Kofi stay on as long as possible, so that the damage to the UN can be maximized.

For the moderately partisan left, this is a lose-lose situation; their reaction has been silence. For example, Kevin Drum has not mentioned Mr. Annan since May 12, 2004, except for this brief apologia. Now, Mr. Drum has no real power over whether Mr. Annan keeps his job, so his reluctance to talk about this affair is understandable.

But among those who have some power, and do not share the desire to see the UN mauled, why is there no move to scapegoat Mr. Annan? Why is Jacques Chirac, leader of the nation which benefits most from the UN's remaining authority, silent? Perhaps it is through tender sympathy, wishing to spare Mr. Annan the suffering of a quiet retirement to the first-class lounges of the world's airports. But it seems more plausible to believe that the UN's allies are still backing Mr. Annan because they do not mind the corruption and brutality; they do not fear the falling of the fig leaf of false legitimacy; and they still think they can win.

[Hat tip: Instapundit.]

[Update 7 April 2005: An article in the Telegraph, on the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, contains this startling bit:
The shake-up comes after an extraordinary meeting last month in the Manhattan flat of Bill Clinton's former UN ambassador, Richard Holbrooke.
He gathered a group of foreign policy experts to "save Kofi" and persuade him to change his staff.
Apparently Mr. Holbrooke is among those who thinks nothing has gone terribly wrong.]