Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bolton vs. Brown

UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown has drawn the ire of John Bolton over a speech delivered to the Century Foundation and Center for American Progress Security and Peace Initiative yesterday in New York City.

Brown's speech was presented " as a sincere and constructive critique of US policy towards the UN by a friend and admirer." The central point of the critique was that "the prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable." After noting Government Accountability Office and Rand Corporation studies that have found UN peacekeeping to be a cost-effective means of promoting international stability, Brown stated, "Yet for many policymakers and opinion leaders in Washington, let alone the general public, the roles I have described are hardly believed or, where they are, remain discreetly underplayed. To acknowledge an America reliant on international institutions is not perceived to be good politics at home." That, of course, is exactly right.

Does the UN matter? Brown argues that it does:

The US--like every nation, strong and weak alike--is today beset by problems that defy national, inside-the-border solutions: climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, migration, the management of the global economy, the internationalization of drugs and crime, the spread of diseases such as HIV and avian flu. Today’s new national security challenges basically thumb their noses at old notions of national sovereignty. Security has gone global, and no country can afford to neglect the global institutions needed to manage it.

Kofi Annan has proposed a restructuring of the UN to respond to these new challenges with three legs: development, security and human rights supported, like any good chair, by a fourth leg, reformed management. That is the UN we want to place our bet on. But for it to work, we need the US to support this agenda--and support it not just in a whisper but in a coast to coast shout that pushes back the critics domestically and wins over the sceptics internationally. America’s leaders must again say the UN matters.

On the whole, Brown's analysis is on target, which is probably why Secretary-General Kofi Annan declined to distance himself from the speech as Ambassador Bolton demanded. Not surprisingly, Bolton ("Ann Coulter with a moustache," according to a comment here) was left fulminating in a way that very precisely demonstrated Brown's main points.