Thursday, 16 September 2004

Kofi Annan: Not helping John Kerry

You’d think—or at least want to hope—those “foreign leaders” who want John Kerry to be elected in November would be politically smarter than Kofi Annan, who decided to sex up his complaint that the conflict in Iraq was “not in conformity” with U.N. resolutions today by calling it “illegal” in an interview with the BBC World Service. If, as unnamed Annan critics allegedly charge in the New York Times account, the U.N. secretary-general is “trying to influence politics in important member countries, notably the United States” (presumably to help Kerry), I think he is making a big mistake on two fronts:

  1. Kerry’s dubious claim that he can bring in allies that the Bush administration can’t is undermined by Annan’s statement. No country not in Iraq now will sign on to an “illegal” occupation and stabilization force. Of course, non-participants (most notably, the French) already severely undercut this claim when they stated they foresaw no circumstances under which they would participate, but this adds another nail to the coffin of Kerry’s Iraq policy (such that it is).

  2. Annan’s “cowboy talk” unnecessarily increases tension between the United States and the U.N., at a time when congressional goodwill toward the organization is cratered. Furthermore, since no responsible American government will ever concede that the Iraq invasion was “illegal” (a charge not even made by Howard Dean), it will further erode official U.S. support for the U.N.‘s pronouncements on the “legality” or “illegality” of actions and for the U.N. process in general.

Meanwhile, of course, the Security Council fiddles while Darfur burns; perhaps Annan’s attention should be more focused on bringing the U.N. together to stop the genocide in Sudan rather than rehashing past disputes.