11 October 2006

The most likely person wins

When explanations are given in old-fashioned detective stories, one often finds the likes of Miss Marple saying primly that well, of course, in books it is the least likely person who might be the culprit but in real life it is the most likely one (usually the husband or wife or heir to the money) who is probably guilty. And so it is with the next SecGen of the United Nations: the South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was always the most likely candidate. On Monday he was officially nominated by the Security Council and will, without doubt, be endorsed by the General Assembly.

As the decision (by acclamation) on Ban was taken just before a special meeting to discuss what if anything is happening in North Korea and what if anything can be done about it, John Bolton was given a superb opportunity to make some political capital:
It's really quite an appropriate juxtaposition that today, 61 years after the temporary division of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II, that we're electing a foreign minister of South Korea secretary general of this organization and meeting, as well, to consider the testing by the North Koreans of a nuclear device.
Yes, indeed. What would have happened if the Soviet Union had not been in a huff in 1950 and the UN would not have authorized military protection of South Korea against the aggressive North?

Ban is another UN apparatchik, Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) being the first of that breed to become SecGen, though he had spent only ten years in that organization. The rest of his career was diplomatic. As the International Herald Tribune puts it:
Soft-spoken and retiring, Ban presents a sharp contrast to Annan, who won a Nobel Peace Prize, made pronouncements on violations of international law and gained diplomatic rock star status before a series of setbacks - mismanagement of the oil-for- food program, sexual exploitation by blue-helmeted peacekeepers and scandals in the UN procurement office - tarnished his reputation during his second term.
Hmm. SecGen Annan may have made pronouncements (usually in an anti-American way) but his record was considerably tarnished even before he had risen to that illustrious post or had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Annan was, let us not forget it, the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) between March 1993 and December 1996, during which we had such delightful occurrences as the slaughter of around 800,000 in Rwanda and the massacre of around 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenice. In both cases the UN troops played an important part, in the first by not going in despite the desperate pleas from the officers on the ground, in the second by disarming the population and then retreating in the face of a Serbian onslaught. Indeed, the Dutch UN troops in Srebrenice apparently shepherded the men and boys onto the buses that would take them to their deaths.

This and other events (let us not forget Darfur, also not mentioned by Warren Hoge of the New York Times in his article) were discussed in a long essay by Adam LeBor in the Sunday Times magazine on October 1. The piece that presents the case against Annan, a rather less spectacular case for him, a summing up and a brief financial overview, is based on LeBor’s forthcoming book: “Complicity with Evil: The United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide”. I think we can safely predict that a few feathers will be ruffled by that volume.

I do not know how the book will cover the wider issue of the UN but, at the risk of repeating what has been said many times before, I have to say that the UN is an impossible proposition. It was impossible from the very beginning. As the late, great Professor Leonard Schapiro wrote in his essay “My Fifty Years in Social Science” in 1980:
For the most blatant exercise in international cynicism it is unnecessary to go further than the Charter of the United Nations itself: “We, the Peoples of United Nations, … determined to reaffirm our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” signed by the USSR, Byelorussia and the Ukraine.
The very idea of having those two Soviet republics sitting in the UN General Assembly as if they were independent nations was preposterous. And one must not forget that the Charter was signed round about the time Stalin was gearing up to his second purge, not completed because of his death.

If the UN was a farce then, it is an even bigger farce now. How many of the member states know what “fundamental human rights, dignity and worth of the human person” means? Mr Ban, like his predecessor, is promising to reform the United Nations. What is he going to do with the Human Rights Council with its members Cuba, Saudi Arabia and others of that ilk?

What of the stupendous sums that the organization devours and the seriously unbalanced way in which those sums are supplied by some members? (Britain is one of the biggest contributors but her “membership fee” pales into insignificance in comparison to the fantastic sums the endless attacked and berated United States hands over.)

The UN is not simply a collection of the member countries, though given who these countries are, that would be bad enough. It is an unaccountable organization that lays claim to supranational authority, the biggest and strongest of the tranzis, whose aim it is to create some kind of rules across the world, which will be obeyed by the democratically elected governments and constitutionally established courts of various countries. Because, let’s face it, no-one else will obey.

It remains to be seen what Ban Ki-moon will make of it all. I, for one, shall miss the entertainment provided by Kofi Annan (father of Kojo). But somehow I do not think the man will fade from the transnational scene.