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Monday, December 04, 2006

An exclusive association of humanity

In the afternoon yesterday, I was just browsing the Internet when my eye caught the following article on Yahoo!. If I had to explain the browsing bit, it's an attempt at slowly returning to the work flow part of being at work. Man, that's another thing I've noticed about myself...I don't seem to be able to wax eloquent-like anymore. I mean, and not to toot my own horn or anything, it's just a lot harder these days for some reason. That's not a good sign, and I guess I have to really work at speaking more, or at trying to make a better effort at being coherent. God forbid if it's the Algernon-Gordon effect or something. Nooooo... But, as you can see, I seem to have not lost the ability to digress into all sort of nonsense willy-nilly.

Back to what I was saying about the article that I came across, it was Kofi Annan's last interview with the BBC, and it was conducted by ace presenter and correspondent Lyse Doucet. Well, it was an excerpt of that interview in any case. Now, I have to say that I haven't paid too much attention to Mr. Annan and his efforts as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I mean, he has come on the news a lot, and there have been a couple of documentaries I've seen about him, but other than that, I haven't really made all that much of an effort to personally read more about and learn more about him as a professional and as a person. Having said that, I will remind people about the comments he made during the first round of talks when Colin Powell presented damning evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction to the UN Security Council. He said that it was a mistake to go to war over something like this, and, as evinced in his interview here, he still maintains that stance.

Unfortunately, spending ten years as Secretary-General of the UN, one tends to see more action, so to speak, than one probably desires, I imagine. For example, a couple of other issues that come up in the course of this interview are the situation in Darfur at the moment, and the instances of sexual abuse committed by peace-keeping troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Well, it's tough, but at the end of the day this kind of stuff will find a place to stick, eh? And as unfortunate as it may be, I don't think that it makes sense in any way to hold one person responsible for any of it. In fact, I'd have to say that the worst thing about being Secretary-General, again, as I imagine, is that it means being the fall guy for all governments around the world. It's like this person is always trying to live out the you-can't-make-everyone-happy-all-the-time fallacy. And that's a terrible way to live, eh? I mean, what is a "Secretary General" after all? According to Wikipedia (not that I claim this as a totally reliable resource all the time, but then again they do warn you about this themselves), a secretary-general is a term used by a "small number of international organizations...for their chief administrative officer".

And let's not forget about the last time there was an effort to form a body of nations that were entrusted with keeping the peace in the world: The League of Nations. For those of us who like to loosely flaunt our now diminishing knowledge of World history, especially of the events of the last century, the League of Nations was a precursor to the UN, and it lasted in some significant capacity between the end of the First World War and the "remilitarization of the Rhineland" by Adolf Hitler. Prior to this final death knell, the League was already in the throes of having to deal with those nations that looked to it for support in times of need, and the other nations who decided that if the League could not suit their needs then they wanted nothing to do with it. A good idea on the one hand, yet, as was painfully evident, something far from what was needed at that time, and possibly even now.

The funny thing is that this is exactly what happened when the US decided to go to war in Iraq. It signalled the right exercised by the US to say that if the UN was unwilling to ratify the plan of invasion it had been presented with, then the US was just going to have to find its own allies and do things on its own. And I know that there are several critics of US foreign policy who may be able to quote numerous examples of other times when the US has directly acted on an impulse without a thought to international treaties and that whole mess, but I see this as the one big, bold move that is going to lead to the downfall of the UN. I don't mean to say, or even suggest that this will happen overnight or anything, simply because this isn't the first time the UN has had to deal with its own monsters and prove to the world that it is, in fact, a united body of nations acting on the general interests of the world. Most definitely not. If nothing else, what is apparent is that like any other association of members, be they individuals or nations, the UN is only as strong as its members want it to be.

On that depressing note, what was Mr. Annan ever supposed to do? Or, perhaps the more pertinent question is, what were we expecting Mr. Annan, or his predecessors and even his successor to accomplish? Are we willingly passing the buck on all the problems of the world by holding individuals with administrative authority responsible for what goes on around us? Is the UN Secretary-General responsible for the many, many carbombs and suicide bombings that happen in Iraq on a daily basis? Is he (and possibly she sometime in the near future) responisble for countries declaring war on one another, or exercising their military might on neighboring regions? Is this person resoponsible for scenes of ethnic cleansing exercised by despotic and often fanatical leaders of people like you and me? I honestly hope not.

The way this excerpt ended was rather poignant and somehow reminded me of a rather typical, politically-correct response, in spite of Ms. Doucet's efforts at eliciting a more committed statement. When asked if he had any advice for his successor, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Mr. Annan said, "He should do it his way. I did it my way, my predecessors did it their way and he should do it his way."

And that, at the end of the day, is how things will continue to be. People will still continue to live their lives the way they want to live them. The issues that grip and perplex them will never really be their fault. And, for what seems like the rest of eternity people will never identify with each other as people, but as individual beings who are either for-or-against, on the same side of the fence as as they are, and all those other ways of saying that there exists a great, impassable divide between the proverbial us and the eternal them. And so, we are on the verge of a new era of leadership in the UN, one that will bring us many more pictures of efforts at peace and numerous peace visits in the news. And so, the exclusive association of humanity, aimed at achieving peace on Earth and quite possibly goodwill to all men will continue to do what it has always done.

Mr. Annan, all the world applauds your efforts, just like it did those of your predecessors and will do those of your successors. We're glad you did it your way.
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