It's a curious exercise to predict the impact new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might have on the United Nations. At first, I asked myself why I'd even care.
The United Nations isn't exactly cranking out results these days, at least positive ones, and aside from the disproportionately large dues levied on the US and the tiresome slaps at President Bush, there may be little reason to pay attention to what's oozing around Turtle Bay from one day to the next. It's fair to believe that if the United Nations were itself to ooze into the East River next Tuesday, the free world and genocidal maniacs alike would carry forward, without a moment's pause.
But lest we forget, the UN's faded relevance, though self-inflicted, is due in large part to the Bush Administration. We can't take it for granted because alas, like Republican control, it won't last forever. Turtle Bay's anti-US shills weathered six years of conservative control, and in the event of, e.g., a Clinton II and a Democratic Congress, there will be little to repel the UN's insidious march on US sovereignty. And in that event, we'd better hope Ban distinguishes himself from his post-Cold War predecessors, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The next issue is accountability, meaning of course the absence of it. Kofi Annan reminded us everyday that U.N. leaders are akin to the common law status of the king: They are immune; they can do no wrong. Naturally, Ban's reign will be shaped by world events. Beyond this, though, he'll say and do mostly as he pleases, and there's not a thing the world can do (we're the peasants - we're supposed to simply hope Ban will be merciful and benevolent).
We should also bear in mind John Bolton's observation last year that the US is the only member at the UN that's expected to do something other than act in its own self interest. With Ban's South Korea being a member of that other group, the simplest guess here might be the accurate one: Ban will do as much as he can to advance the interests of South Korea. (Who knows? And what's to stop him?)
The good news is that Ban may be unlikely to adopt the third world agenda of his immediate predecessors. Ban is the first UN Secretary General since Kurt Waldheim who comes from an industrialized and relatively wealthy nation, one with ideals and interests even roughly coinciding with the United States'. He was raised in South Korea and is old enough to recognize that the US military and economic strength, in the face of the Soviets and Chinese and their puppets, helped save the world from communist tyranny. He's also old enough to be among those South Koreans having a fundamentally positive view of America's global objectives.
Consider, too, that Ban has spent much of life in the shadow of a contemptuous, lunatic tyrant who likes to jib jab about incinerating South Korea - aided by Clinton I appeasement - and that he's spent much of his career protecting his country from that lunacy, as National Security Advisor and Foreign Policy Advisor for South Korea's President, and in various diplomatic positions. And suffice it to say that South Korea is a capitalist nation, and her citizens are well-educated. This means they understand Kim Jong Il is strangling and starving their former countrymen. It also means Ban's country is a target, not a recruiting ground, and that he may well agree with the notion of an "Axis of Evil."
Admittedly, these are generalizations, and it is a leap to suggest such things are of any moment in terms of Ban and the UN. This also isn't meant to suggest Ban will simply shutter the UN's doors, admit the whole thing is an abject failure and a farce, then quit and go home. If only....
Much of Ban's job will be juggling the discordant interests of tiny, poor, and underdeveloped nations that regard the United Nations (and rightly so) as the best means ever concocted for the Third World to wield disproportionately large influence over world affairs and pick the capitalists' pockets.
To some extent, Ban is only a spokesman. But inasmuch as we remember his predecessors' use of that pulpit to circulate corrosive, anti-US propaganda, Ban may wind up being a refreshing alternative to the trash that preceded him. For the first time in decades, the Secretary General may turn out to be something of a US ally.
Bill Lalor is an attorney in New York City and proprietor of Citizen Journal.