Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind

Cure the Disease -- Not the Symptom

Jeff Jacoby thinks that Kofi Annan is just one part of a corrupt whole. And he makes clear something I pointed out yesterday in my post about replacing Annan: until the culture of autocrats and dictators at the U.N. are no longer running the show, no meaningful reform can take place.

Why should anything be different this time? Oil-for-Food may be the greatest international rip-off of modern times, it may have strengthened one of the world’s bloodiest dictators, it may have deprived countless Iraqis of food and medicine, but if history is any guide, the scandal headlines will fade from view long before the secretary general does. By week’s end, in fact, dozens of governments, including all the permanent members of the Security Council save the United States, had publicly rallied to Annan’s support. Scandal or no scandal, he will almost certainly serve out the remaining two years of his term.

Which is just as well. Annan is merely a symptom of the UN’s sickness, not the cause of it. His resignation would do nothing to reform the UN into the engine of peace and liberty its founders envisioned. Better that Annan remain in place as a symbol of UN fecklessness and failure, and a spur to those who can envision something better.

The UN is a corrupt institution, one that long ago squandered whatever moral legitimacy it once had. The UN’s founding documents venerate justice and human rights, but for the past 40 years, the organization has been dominated by a bloc of states – essentially the Afro-Asian Third World – most of whose governments routinely pervert justice and violate human rights.

Inside the United Nations, there is no difference between a dictatorship or a democracy: Each gets exactly one vote in the General Assembly. The reason the UN indulges vicious regimes like those in North Korea, Syria, and Cuba is that they are members in good standing, and most other governments lack the courage to cross them. The UN cannot be fixed unless that changes – and that isn’t going to change.