December 30, 2003

UN Weakness

In the back of my head, something's been bothering me about the UN's actions in Iraq. In fact there were several things bothering me but at least one was something I couldn't put my finger on. This story helped me figure it out. The assassination of Archbishop Michael Courtney, Papal Nuncio to Burundi led me to think about how they will replace such a highly experienced diplomat. It's quite likely that they will follow the same procedure that they use for picking a bishop. You make a list and start at the top. A phone call, a terse introduction, the offer is tendered and the respondent has to answer on the spot, yes or no.

Then it hit me. Unlike the UN, it wouldn't even occur to the Vatican to withdraw from Burundi due to an assassination, even a multiple assassination incident like a bombing, just as it didn't occur to the US to withdraw from Beijing after the embassy was stoned or even after a more serious assault, like the Boxer rebellion. Embassies and missions are withdrawn for political reasons, not generally because of threat of force by rebels.

The UN ran from Iraq but the embassies are all pretty much open. This is the UN's Beirut, their Mogadishu, their moment of shame for which they will have to pay in future with interest, just as the US is paying now in Iraq.

The UN will have to prove it won't cut and run or it will be permanently crippled. The only problem is that I can't see a reasonable future where it will be capable of doing so this decade or even the next.

Posted by TMLutas at December 30, 2003 02:24 PM