Friday, February 20, 2004

This is sad and disturbing. I didn't start out life wanting to be one of those Jesse Helms-esque xenophobes who where convinced that the United Nations was the seat of all human wickedness and venality. But the more I see of the Annans and Brahimis of this world, the less I can justify their action, their behavior.

To sabotage their own security over the summer can be written up as foolhardiness. Their own notions of noble neutrality and honorable ideals led them to think themselves immune from bloodshed. Fair enough.

To pull their people back could be spun as caution, but it looked a lot more like a combination of laziness and cowardice - the unwillingness to put the work into self-defense, and the physical fear of the very real dangers. Whatever the case might be, they cut and run. Well, the UN isn't a military organization, and one oughtn't expect bravery and nerve from bureaucrats and diplomats, yes?

But their forte is nation-building, right? (Yeah, yeah - I know. Work with me here.) It's what they specialize in - the planning, formulation, consultation, and implementation of political and diplomatic arrangements. It's the primary purpose of the United Nations, and all the bureaus and organizations, the international bodies and NGOs that cluster around the UN proper like a haze of eternal mayflies - those are secondary or tertiary purpose at best. So, when the UN was invited back into Iraq - by the provisional governing bodies, illegitimate as they are - then we must be playing to the very strongest strengths of that august body, the best and brightest hopes of "world government", as enthusiasts like to think of it. The UN wasn't even being asked to organize anything - not yet. It was a round of consultations, in expectation of recommendations. So, the consultations took place.

Oh, yes indeed, the consultations took place. Brahimi encouraged the Shiites to think that they'd get their direct elections, while giving the Kurds the impression that irregular, local elections would be held partially in various parts of the country that were ready for it. They helped trash the US caucus scheme. And finally, the recommendations came down from Mt. Olympus.

Elections weren't possible in the timeframe allowed, but the caucuses shouldn't be held, either. The timeframe should be held to, and sovereignty turned over on schedule. A new sovereign body ought to be composed according to the judgment of the Iraqi people. Not via elections, not via caucusing. The UN recommendations, in fact, declined to specify how this sovereign body ought to be created; not in the least detail, nor in the greatest. The apparent, unspoken notion being, apparently, that the Iraqi Governing Council was good enough for UN purposes. Figure out which budding criminal organizations weren't represented, and invite their bosses into the Council. Who needs popular sovereignty, anyways?

Annan and his cronies seem bound and determined to play to every suspicion I harbor about the diplomatic and bureaucratic fear and hatred of actual representative democracy. Diplomats and bureaucrats, after all, are by definition unelected - deriving their authority from appointment, delegation - seniority. Elections are fine - if it doesn't actually mean anything. Facade before structure, facing before frame, surface above all else. No wonder the diplomatic corps is by all reports delighted by today's farcical, horrible "elections" in Iran, and the prospect of being able to deal directly with the Iranian theocracy. They're tired of pretending to care about the powerless Iranian puppet-parliament.

Diplomats and bureaucrats prefer tyranny. Tyranny makes things simple. One structure, one place to go to, one set of people to talk to, one line to report to headquarters. Why wouldn't the diplomats and bureaucrats sabotage representative democracy wherever they can? Tyranny makes the job easy.

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