What would you do with the UN?
September 7, 2005 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Leader of a major global governmental entity takes responsibility for massive failures of management within his organisation, showing humility and expressing regret. No, not him. Now, if I was in charge...
posted by klaatu (32 comments total)
I don't know much about the UN, my only contact vaguely being with UNESCO via a short time working for the ITI. Any mefites on the inside?

I did once meet a grande dame of this affliated organisation over a pleasant cup of tea in the front room of her apartment on the upper east side overlooking Central Park, feeding popcorn to her poodles.

She was there when the UN was being created, and talking to her for even just a few minutes gave me a deep sense of belief in the organisation and what it stood for historically. What about now?
posted by klaatu at 2:52 PM on September 7, 2005

If you were in charge, you'd get us out of the UN? Why? The "Get Us Out" link is all rhetoric with little substance, and the ReformtheUN folks are actually pro-world government.
Annan is a pretty classy technocrat, I tell you what.
posted by klangklangston at 2:54 PM on September 7, 2005

Ditto the klang.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:58 PM on September 7, 2005

Any opinion of mine is pretty uninformed, actually. Those links are talking points. Instinctively, I'm very pro Annan and pro UN. But here I'm just letting this talk yacht bob on the brain lake and seeing what floats.
posted by klaatu at 2:59 PM on September 7, 2005

No need to get the US out of the UN. With Bolton allowed to participate there may not be a UN for much longer...
posted by clevershark at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2005

Meanwhile, in some other universe:

Emperor Hirohito Bush addresses Imperial Japan on August 8, 1945

My fellow Japanese,

It is with a heavy heart that Empress Laura and I are receiving news of the factory fire in Hiroshima a two days ago. I wanted to spend just a minute before we go to the theater tonight to comment on that.

First of all, the fire was big, and hot. Some people were uh... injured in this fire, and we want help them. It is good to help people, who are injured. Injured people need help.

I want the people of Hiroshima to know that help is on the way, food, medicines, waters... and uhh.... public emergency ...uhhh... experticians... who care. We all care... uh... we're here to help. Because that's the Japanese way.

I also want to say that Emergency Commander Sakaibara ...uh... well "Saki" I like to call him, is doing a fantastic job! Already we have heard reports of people in Hiroshima finding food and water and uh... things to eat. And that's good. Eating is good. Several weeks from today I will dispatch Commander Sakaibara to Hiroshima and give him the authority to do what is necessary to provide help to those people who want it.

Some of my opponents have exploited this tragedy for political purpose. Let me relitterate, our strategy is working. Japan and it's people are safer, and living better lives, because we are preventing our Allied enemies from having the capability to attack us. But they will attack us. They attack us because they hate our judo, and other forms of karate. But we are preventing them from attacking us. We're doing an excellent job.

We call upon all Japanese to be supportive to Hiroshima. That is why I am authorizing tax cut incentives to encourage private businesses to form prayer groups and to invest in job training programs for the unemployed in Hiroshima.

Again I want to thank our commanders for their hard work, they could use another vacation. When I get back from acation I know there will be work to do, more uh... emporing... imperialing, and uh... making Japan safe.

Thank you, and may I bless Japan.
posted by StarForce5 at 3:07 PM on September 7, 2005

I know a lot of people in the U.S. hate the U.N., including the Bush administration (I hope that's obvious enough to everyone that I don't have to justify it). But isn't this issue a loser for them, since most of the dirty money went to U.S. based corporations?

I mean, it's hard to say with a straight face (and moral authority): "The U.N. needs to be reformed! They were in charge of this giant program which was massively defrauded by, well, you know, us. They shouldn't be allowed to run programs that, um, we can steal from."
posted by jlub at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2005

Don't you guys read Christian Fiction? The U.N. is going to be the antichrist's puppet soon.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:43 PM on September 7, 2005

Jlub: But they conveniently ignore the fact that the corruption was mostly local and point out that the UN didn't enforce the rules like they were supposed to. It's pretty clever and pretty crappy all at once.
posted by klangklangston at 3:45 PM on September 7, 2005

But isn't this issue a loser for them, since most of the dirty money went to U.S. based corporations?

Well, no. First of all, I don't think that most of the money did go to US corporations, based on what I've read so far. I'll qualify that by saying I don't know much about this topic, to say the least. But even if it had, US corporations are not the US government, so the "us" and "we" that you put in simply aren't relevant. In any case, I suspect this is more complicated than it looks.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:02 PM on September 7, 2005

It's not that big a surprise here; Annan made reform of the UN the centerpiece of his first term as Secretary-General, and actually succeeded in a lot of areas, yet failed to improve the overall credibility of the organization. So the second term is also focused on reform, so in a sense he's trying to make the point that he's fixing the problems.

Truthfully, the UN for too long was the province of the grandes-dames and life-tenure diplomats. Particularly during the Cold War a lot of jobs were handed out based solely on power considerations -- so there had to be a Soviet undersecretary of something, even if he wasn't needed. That bred complacency and a lot of patronage and no-show jobs. Annan actually is (or is trying to be) a technocrat, which is a step in the right direction, although I'm not sure that the whole of his vision is achievable.

Transparency has improved, I think, and one benefit is that it has made the US Congress much more amenable to catching up on our dues arrears.

If you look at Oil-For-Food even briefly, it's clearly trouble waiting to happen. You're basically making the UN oversee, tax, stamp, and approve what is at its heart smuggling. Of all the UN programs involving money, this was like sulfur on a match. Of course it was going to be a weakness, whether or not the US right wing was pushing it for deliberate political reasons.
posted by dhartung at 4:03 PM on September 7, 2005

The really important aspect of the minutes in this report, is that indeed Annan is taking responsiblity with courage and humility. Something which we could use in more of our leaders. It is a shame that this sort of scandal has occured and needs to be straightened out in order to give this organization crediblity. BTW, that christian fiction was written by inflammatory right wingers who help put Emperor Hirohito W. Bush on the Throne. It was written out of paranoia and fear of big government. Obviously, this week of 'action' in Lousiana shows the Libertarian model of political solutions, and it's not pretty. I certainly hope that the UN is able to further develop itself into a working model of world mediator/enforcer and then perhaps America and her citizens will be relieved of the burdens of Imperial Egotism.
posted by N8k99 at 4:43 PM on September 7, 2005

me & my monkey:

Ok. I thought I read somewhere that U.S. corporations had made the majority of the illegal deals, but I can't find it now, so perhaps I just made it up. There is this though, so who knows.

As for the U.S. government and U.S. (oil) corporations not being the same thing, well, I guess that's a value judgement. On the one hand, we have one of the only privatized oil industries in the world. On the other hand, there is an oil tanker named after our Sec. of State.
posted by jlub at 5:03 PM on September 7, 2005

klaatu - the "I" link leads to the World Federalist Movement, and the "charge" link leads to the John Birch Society. Those are just about as far apart on the political scale as they can be - do the two have something in common that I'm missing? Where are you going, here?
posted by swell at 5:04 PM on September 7, 2005

You know what is one of the horrible things that Bush has done? He's made it so hard to agree with him on anything that when he finally hits on something that probably does need to be changed, I get knee-jerked in the other direction.

But I've become aware of it more.

I was never a fan of the UN before Bush, and thought we should pull out of the UN altogether. A useless organization that does not serve our interests. But then Bush appoints Bolton, who'se self proclaimed goal is to make the UN a useless and powerless organization, and I get all defensive.

I was never a big fan of the CIA. But when this administration finds a way to harm this unneeded, corrosive, evil organization, I get all defensive.

And what jlub said.
posted by Balisong at 6:03 PM on September 7, 2005

Balisong: Frankly, that's something I just don't understand, the idea that the UN doesn't serve our interests. If we desire interaction with other countries on a security, economic or humanitarian level, the UN IS our interests. And the amount that they kowtow to American policy is enormous. It's just, you know, kinda odd to hear people who don't understand what a tremendous job that the UN does with so little to work with. It's probably because most people focus on the Security Council, when there's a lot more that's more subtle byut just as important.
posted by klangklangston at 6:57 PM on September 7, 2005

Klangklangston: you misspelled "kleptocrat" in your first comment when you were referring to Annan.

In any event, I am not sure why you consider "interaction" as a national interest. Interaction is a neutral activity. War is interaction. Trade is interaction. All sorts of other activities in between (sister cities programs?) are also interaction. Some are beneficial. Some are not. The UN is not necessary for any of them, although I think I agree with the sentiment of your post that it is useful to have a standing multilateral forum located within the U.S., so that our diplomats do not have to travel too far to be heard.
posted by esquire at 8:17 PM on September 7, 2005

"In any event, I am not sure why you consider "interaction" as a national interest. Interaction is a neutral activity."
Perhaps you're confused because that's not what I said.
With regard to our interests, though you and I may differ on what those are, the cases are as follows: In security, the UN acts both as a tool for resolving conflicts without force, and as a way of spreading cost while accruing legitimacy. The caveat being that the UN only functions like this when the goal is to use the UN in this manner. When the goal is to undercut the UN, it loses its efficacy.
In economics, and on this point I'll roll in humanitarian issues as I have a feeling that your personal views in appraising international goals would devalue them, the UN functions as an even more important regulator of trade than the WTO, as it sets many, many trade agendas. While an argument for a free market can be made, such a market does not exist. Committees like ECOSOC function to set policy goals and by doing so, set policies on tariffs, taxes, imports, foreign ownership and the like. Through the UN, the US both benefits through treaties that are more likely to be honored and by restraining other countries from enacting broad treaties that would leave the US out of the loop. (Narrow treaties of course exist, but there is a definite benefit in having a world talking-shop).
Further, it is in the US's interest to remain on top of the global hegemony, and for that to occur, the interests of the entire globe have to be provided for at least to the extent that they do not organize themselves against us. Through the powerful lever of trade and the representation of the world forum through the UN, the US is better able to respond to the needs of the globe.

Look, there are many, many different cases that can be made for the UN, from "realist" to "internationalist," even anti-Marxist. I had an international relations professor who liked to frame everything as the opposing poles of Catholic and Protestant. Suffice it to say that I believe the UN to ultimately be the ultimate tool of diplomacy, which affects nearly everything in peace and war, and that's why I believe that it's important both to the world and to the US. And I also believe that the US has had the predominant influence on the UN over its history, and that's likely to continue, meaning that the UN will be an important policy tool for the US for years to come. Unless shortsighted folks like Bolton get too entrenched, at which point other nations (or unions of nations) will replace our global hegemony, and I don't think that's necessarily in our interests.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 PM on September 7, 2005

StarForce5: you're not funny or clever.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:12 PM on September 7, 2005

Just because the US us the biggest source of income for the UN doesn't mean the UN is a UN marionette--that's absurd. The UN is an autonomous entity with its own culture; one of corruption.

Stop the lies. Oil-For-Food is a UN Scandal; not an American one. Annan is either the world's most corrupt bureaucrat, or the world's most stupid. He should resign and live the rest of his life in disgrace.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:24 PM on September 7, 2005

ParisParamus writes "Annan is either the world's most corrupt bureaucrat, or the world's most stupid. He should resign and live the rest of his life in disgrace."

What DOES that remind me of... oh yes:

"If WMDs are not found in Iraq, and in large quantity (or at least objective evidence that they were destroyed), then, in terms of American politics, the war was a sham, and the President should be indicted."

Funny how moral authority has proven to be so selective, hasn't it.
posted by clevershark at 11:15 PM on September 7, 2005

I detest Bush, yadda yadda yadda, but sympathize with his frustration at getting the security council to enforce its own resolutions during the runup to the war. The five-way veto is now major baggage that is virtually impossible to drop. For this reason alone, I'm skeptical that the UN will ever be able to resolve major conflicts, and that it will ever have much success at its major mission, averting war. If UN believers think that's overblown, I'd love to hear why.
posted by gsteff at 11:52 PM on September 7, 2005

I thought StarForce5's comment was pretty good. Satire usually appears ham-handed to those whose ox is being gored.
posted by bigbigdog at 12:19 AM on September 8, 2005

I detest Bush, yadda yadda yadda, but sympathize with his frustration at getting the security council to enforce its own resolutions during the runup to the war.

Which resolutions do you mean, specifically? If you're saying that the resolutions passed after the first Gulf War legitimised the invasion and the Iraq War, then you're dead wrong. Not even the UK's Attourney General believed the war was legal without having his arm twisted by Blair.
posted by salmacis at 12:55 AM on September 8, 2005


As part of that agreement, the regular budget ceiling was reduced from 25 to 22 percent; this is the rate at which the United States is assessed. The United States is the only member that is assessed this rate, though it is in arrears hundreds of millions of dollars;(see also United States and the United Nations) all other members' assessment rates are lower. Under the scale of assessments adopted in 2000, other major contributors to the regular UN budget for 2001 are Japan (19.63%), Germany (9.82%), France (6.50%), the U.K. (5.57%), Italy (5.09%), Canada (2.57%) and Spain (2.53%).

Would you please stop whining abou how the USofA pays most of the UN? The donations of Germany, France, UK and Italy make up 26,98% of the UN budget although their population is only 261,6m compared to 295,7m of the States (CIA factbook).

I hate to read (mostly American rightwing) propaganda about the UN. As if the UN is nothing but a useless and totally corrupt organisation.

Hell, there is lot's more to the UN than just the oil-for-food -program. Do check out at least UNICEF and UNESCO. But that just isn't the news, is it?

Compared to the recent "nation building" attempts of the US, the UN peacekeepers have been a huge success. Goddamn, I almost forgot, the UN weapons Inspectors did their job well too in Iraq.

I know personally some people that have been either in the "blue helmets" or worked in the UN. They have all been highly qualified, motivated and hard-working.

I am not saying that it is a perfect organisation; there is a lot of room for improvement. I'd just like to see some good news occasionally of the UN in the US media. We all just lose too much if the UN is cripled.
posted by hoskala at 3:53 AM on September 8, 2005

Gsteff: Even with the five-way veto, which I agree is unweildy but has its own baggage, the UN has been fairly decent at preventing large-scale conflict and relatively good at managing small-scale ones. I doubt that it will ever be perfect, but for an organization that has roughly the same size infrastructure as the state of Wyoming, it does a pretty decent job.

And don't take the thing from PP's hand. He's just expectorating again.
posted by klangklangston at 5:36 AM on September 8, 2005

(from the right wing nutjob site in the FPP)

World government through the United Nations is a serious threat to the freedom of all Americans.

UN World Government :: America
Hallamshire Ballet School Girls 2nd XI :: Chelsea Football Club.

Imagine being held prisoner in a foreign land and tried in an international court with judges from such countries as Afghanistan, China, or Iraq.

Or imagine being held in Guantanamo bay and not being tried at all.
posted by athenian at 8:57 AM on September 8, 2005

Anything that makes the wing nuts heads spin around so madly MUST have some great redeeming qualities.
You go Annan.
Takes a real man to apologize for Halliburton and Texas oil companies simply because he was the man in charge of the organization when the thievery occurred.
Are you paying attention Ken Lay and GW Bush? You could learn something here.
posted by nofundy at 9:42 AM on September 8, 2005

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Get a new rant please.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:46 AM on September 8, 2005

You've bored your inner human to sleep, have you PP?
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on September 8, 2005

instead of those stupid car magnets that read I support the troops; which we all know means that you are a blood-thirsty warmonger; instead of taking such foolish pride and hubrish because of the accidental nature of being born within certain geographical confines; there needs to be more people on the planet ( of which we alol breathe the same air) who have magnets that say I support the peace. They should be light blue ribbons. Is it not the slightest bit ironic that the very next rant on this page is about how we can not afford to buy gasoline?
posted by N8k99 at 1:41 PM on September 8, 2005

klangklangston: I appreciate the time and effort that you put into your post, but I think that your conclusion is based on a faulty assumption. Why in the world would it follow from the fact that the US has had a predominate influence over the UN (which coincides with the US' predominate influence over world affairs) that the UN will be an important policy tool for years to come? You mentioned that you once had a professor of international relations, which suggests that you must have taken a course in international relations. I do not know whether that means that you have to study international relations theory, but I am not sure why you would think that, during a phase of rapid deconcentration of power, a hegemon like the US would want to validate the rules, norms, and institutions that were established during a period of what was essentially a unipolar system?
posted by esquire at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2005

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