Thus concludes my weekly lack of interest in Plamegate.
Yesterday, a few of the first-year faculty (Suzanne, Kamilla, and Peter) and I went to see The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; most thought it was a very good film. Although I don’t specialize in African politics, it seemed to be fairly faithful to the themes of sub-Saharan Africa—the semi-obvious inspiration for the film’s fake country of Mobutu is Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe was once viewed as the savior of his people but has spent much of the past three decades terrorizing his own population, but aspects of other central and southern African countries are present as well.
The broader point raised by some in the war party of the blogosphere (e.g. ☣ Little Green Footballs), that the choice to set the story in Africa instead of the Middle East somehow is a denial of the existence of Islamic-inspired terrorism, strikes me as rather stupid. For one, the terrorist attack in the story is a political assassination—not the preferred tactic of most Middle Eastern terror groups. More importantly, I think it’s easier to think seriously about the issues raised in the film if they’re not tied up in the 9/11 framework, especially since the film doesn’t want to make it as easy as “people with guns and bombs bad.”
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:
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).
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.