May 2, 2006
Kofi Annan clearly got the message that the corrupt, inefficient status quo at the United Nations will no longer be tolerated by the U.S. government, at least not as long as George W. Bush is president. The Secretary General was pushing for a set of measures to reorder the U.N. bureaucracy, with U.S. support, but a coalition of developing nations thwarted his efforts on Friday. The main issue was the proposed creation of a small group of nations to exercise responsibility over the U.N. budget. This would have undercut the strong influence currently wielded by the "Group of 77" less developed countries (which actually includes 132 members), and they would have none of that. Quite the contrary, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution obliging the Secretary General to work harder to help people from poor countries obtain high-level jobs in the United Nations. Egypt's ambassador emphasized "that we are all equal partners in this organization." See Washington Post. From the Third World perspective, why should they agree to such a change? What's in it for them? This is precisely why we needed somebody like John Bolton as U.N. ambassador to create incentives for reform (carrots and/or sticks), and just put an end to the nonsense -- or drastically reduce it, at least. As I wrote just over a year ago, when he was being raked over the coals by the U.S. Senate, we shouldn't "expect to get much reform done at the United Nations with a 'Herman Milquetoast' approach."
You may recall that Kofi Annan was indirectly tied to U.N. corruption by his son's involvement in the Iraq "oil for food scandal" in late 2004. Now there is a new ethical blemish: He just appointed to a key environmental post a German who happened to be on the board of an organization that awarded Mr. Annan $500,000 prize last year. Annan denies that had anything to do with his decision. See today's Washington Post.
As the United States tries to work with the United Nations in trying to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons, just remember how dysfunctional that hallowed body is. Even under the best of circumstances, getting a large number of sovereign nations to agree on anything significant is almost a miracle.
The West's difficulties in exerting leverage over the Third World is related to what Shelby Steele wrote in opinionjournal.com today. (Rush Limbaugh talked about this at length today.) Steele observes that America has been extraordinarily "delicate with the enemy" since Vietnam, to which he attributes
the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty.
Because dissociation from the racist and imperialist stigma is so tied to legitimacy in this age of white guilt, America's act of going to war can have legitimacy only if it seems to be an act of social work...
This shift in global zeitgeist has left much of Europe and the United States virtually paralyzed by "secular penitence." It's a very thought-provoking thesis, and I think it is very pertinent to the question of why discourse on university campuses these days is so biased. You either toe the politically correct, anti-Western line, or you get the cold shoulder.