Monday, December 11, 2006

Kofi Annan Bids Adieu With Reflections on US Hegemony

In his farewell speech after 10 years as United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan imparted 5 lessons to the world, in general, and the US, in particular. He chose as the backdrop for this event the Harry S. Truman Library in Missouri because, in his words:

I think it's especially fitting that I do that here in the house that honors the legacy of Harry S Truman. If FDR was the architect of the United Nations, President Truman was the master-builder, and the faithful champion of the Organization in its first years, when it had to face quite different problems from the ones FDR had expected. Truman's name will for ever be associated with the memory of far-sighted American leadership in a great global endeavor. And you will see that every one of my five lessons brings me to the conclusion that such leadership is no less sorely needed now than it was sixty years ago.

In other words, while the US scuttles away all the goodwill it commanded in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, there is an imperative to recall the reasons why the US stood as the champion for world peace after WWII and heralded the United Nations as the future bastion of discourse and diplomacy to achieve that peace. And as the Bush Administration considers the Iraq Study Group Report and ponders how to get out of the mess it has created for itself and the Iraqi people, it may be wise to heed the 5 lessons Annan spelt out:

1. My first lesson is that, in today's world, the security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else.

2. My second lesson is that we are not only all responsible for each other's security. We are also , in some measure, responsible for each other's welfare . Global solidarity is both necessary and possible.

3. My third lesson is that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

4. My fourth lesson – closely related to the last one – is that governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one.

5. My fifth and final lesson derives inescapably from those other four. We can only do all these things by working together through a multilateral system, and by making the best possible use of the unique instrument bequeathed to us by Harry Truman and his contemporaries, namely the United Nations.

These five lessons can be summed up as five principles, which I believe are essential for the future conduct of international relations : collective responsibility, global solidarity, the rule of law, mutual accountability, and multilateralism .

In his closing words, Annan implored the White House and all Americans to hold on to its legacy and its committment to leadership.

You Americans did so much, in the last century, to build an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations at its heart. Do you need it less today, and does it need you less, than 60 years ago?

Surely not. More than ever today Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world's peoples can face global challenges together. And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership, in the Truman tradition.

Typical of the tin ears of this Administration, the only comment came from the State Department's Spokesman, Sean McCormack, at his daily press briefing:

As I said, are we going to see eye to eye on every single issue with Secretary Generals of the United Nations? No, probably not. With respect to Mr. Annan's remarks, he, of course, is entitled to his opinion. ....And in terms of how the United States has sought to protect itself and act in its own national interest and, by the way, also try to help protect and defend freedom and liberty and those countries that subscribe to that political viewpoint, of course, we have made difficult decisions and we don't expect that everybody has agreed with those decisions and people are entitled to their opinions...."

Yes, those were actually McCormack's words, as unbelievable as they sound.

Yet, I see a glimmer of hope that Annan's words will not be in vain. He was introduced at the Truman Library today by none other than Republican Senator Chuck Hagel! (See my previous posts on Hagel)

The message coming from all directions is that the US go-it-alone sledgehammer foreign policy is counterproductive; it has left us and the world worse off. And that is the lesson we can all learn from the last 6 years....

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Blogger Charlie said...

If only the U.S. would learn that lesson...

Hagel rocks.

9:29 PM  
Blogger CB said...

The U.N. is housed in the U.S., would that it weren't. The U.S. is free, whereas 90% of the world is not, so the U.N. is a den of theives and thugs with view voices of reason.

Rather than being envious, other nations of the world should perhaps emulate what we've done.

The world hates us so much that most of them are trying to get here, go figure.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Dahlia said...

CB - I am not quite sure I understand what you are arguing. Are you suggesting that the US has earned the right to be arrogant? And even if that is the case, for arguments sake, what good is it for us to exercise that right? Isn't that what we have been doing these past 6 years, and look where it has gotten us? More to the point, was the US any less great after WWII when it chose to lead the world rather than antagonize it? As for hating us, I don't think anyone hates Americans. It is the policies of the Bush Administration people have problems with, including a good many Americans as the last election proved!

12:19 PM  
Anonymous SAURON said...

The same Harry Truman the world sees as the only man in history to use nuclear weapons on a civilian population?
The same Harry Truman that in 1948 forced the establishment of the State of Israel through the U.N. ?
I think the world view of Truman would be less than Bush's if he were in White House today...

7:51 AM  
Blogger CB said...


I agree, I don't think the world hates us. "World opinion" is a media creation based on agenda. Their agenda is based on their belief that it is unfair for 5% of the world's population to control 25% of the world's wealth. They also don't like the uneven distribution within the US as if these are indications of unfairness.

Annan's opinions reflect the bureaucracy he governed and the bent of the member states, most of which are tyrannies looking to gain economic advantage at our expense.

Take the Kyoto accords, for example. Set aside the "science" on green house gasses and their effect on global climate change which was recently revised by the UN to suggest cattle, not humans, are the biggest culprits. If the goal is to reduce emissions, then why are the biggest polluters, China and India exempt?

With regard to our supposed arrogance, it is only viewed as such through the lens of envy. Acting in our (and the world population's [if not their self serving government's] interest would only be viewed as arrogant by they that are envious. We shouldn't govern ourselves based on the envy of others.

8:15 PM  

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