Roger L. Simon

Apologia Pro Vita Kofi

Kofi Annan has an op-ed of his own in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, the newspaper that has printed so many eviscerations of him and his organization, by Claudia Rosett and others, in the last couple of years. His defense of the UN (and tactily of himself) is puerile and boring, not even really worth reading. He puffs up their contribution to tsunami relief like a second-rate PR man, ignores the horrendous and metastasizing sexual scandals and sees the Volcker Report on Oil-for-Food as some kind of vindication before it has even appeared in its entirety. (Does he know something we don’t know?)

The United Nations deserves better than Kofi at its head, obviously, but Annan himself is only a symptom of a far greater problem. The United Nations itself will never function as it was intended without total economic transparency in all its activities. Oil-for-Food is undoubtedly only the tip of a corrupt gravy train that has been running for decades. Volcker must demand that it be stopped through complete transparency. It is the only way. Otherwise his committee is nothing but a whitewash, no matter what it says or how it phrases its conclusions. Without economic transparency, those of us who grew up imbuing the UN with our most idealistic hopes will never recapture them. Future generations will never believe in the possibility of any kind of world government. And yet we all must have a way of communictating with each other. The UN is a great and necessary idea. Kofi Annan and the kleptocrats he has enabled have betrayed humanity at the most base level.

This also means that those who defend the UN in its present form in kneejerk fashion for their own political purposes must honestly face what they have been doing. Martin Peretz says it clearly at the conclusion of his essay in the current New Republic (link by sub. only), relating the problem of the UN to the greatest issues of our times:

Peter Beinart has argued, also in these pages (“A Fighting Faith,” December 13, 2004), the case for a vast national and international mobilization against Islamic fanaticism and Arab terrorism. It is typologically the same people who wanted the United States to let communism triumph–in postwar Italy and Greece, in mid-cold war France and late-cold war Portugal–who object to U.S. efforts right now in the Middle East. You hear the schadenfreude in their voices–you read it in their words–at our troubles in Iraq. For months, liberals have been peddling one disaster scenario after another, one contradictory fact somehow reinforcing another, hoping now against hope that their gloomy visions will come true.

I happen to believe that they won’t. This will not curb the liberal complaint. That complaint is not a matter of circumstance. It is a permanent affliction of the liberal mind. It is not a symptom; it is a condition. And it is a condition related to the desperate hopes liberals have vested in the United Nations. That is their lodestone. But the lodestone does not perform. It is not a magnet for the good. It performs the magic of the wicked. It is corrupt, it is pompous, it is shackled to tyrants and cynics. It does not recognize a genocide when the genocide is seen and understood by all. Liberalism now needs to be liberated from many of its own illusions and delusions. Let’s hope we still have the strength.