Kofi Annan Resigns

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“Here is a man who, by his own account, came to America nearly 50 years ago to study in Minnesota. He then spent something like 44 years in or close to the United Nations, rising to the top of an organization that has been funded, through thick and thin, by the ordinary American taxpayer, who underwrites the United Nations to the tune of $5.3 billion a year. Mr. Annan was given the leadership of the world body with the backing of America and, despite the eruption on his watch of the worst scandals in the history of the world body, was kept in office by the acquiescence of America. Our taxpayers have helped underwrite a luxurious residence for him. He won the Nobel Prize for work funded by America. Yet he has chosen to depart his office with a bitter diatribe directed at the very country at whose table he for so long supped.”

* * *

Those are the words with which these columns remarked on Kofi Annan’s last departure from a United Nations assignment. That was back in 2006, when he finished his term as secretary general. The question that is raised by his resignation this morning as the special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League — one could just say the United Nations, for short — is a moment to ask the question: What in the world was the United States doing countenancing his return in the first place?

Our Benny Avni had reported from Turtle Bay back on March 6 that when Mr. Annan was first given the special assignment, the skivvy around the world body was that the Secretary General Ban was said by several U.N. officials to have “’swallowed’ the appointment unhappily after conducting an icy relationship with his predecessor. ” Mr. Ban’s aides tried to suggest that it was Mr. Ban who had suggested to the Arab League that Mr. Annan would represent both in Syria. But the other day Foreign Policy magazine’s Web site ran out a dispatch suggesting that Mr. Avni had the more credible report.

Our own hunch is that the Obama administration was up to its eyeballs in this erroneous expedition. It is a part of a pattern in which the idea is that all this can be settled by talking out misunderstandings or, in any event, negotiating. There are those, however, who understand that the appeasement is not in the deal. The appeasement is in the talking. What has happened in the last months is a classic case. Mr. Annan actually spent his time trying to get a deal between the rebels and — wait for it — the regime.

What a classic error. When a peace deal in our own civil war was attempted a century and a half ago — by Horace Greeley, the John Kerry of his day — President Lincoln was so furious Greeley was lucky he wasn’t brought up on charges. Back in Syria today, Al Qaeda is now in the fray, and the United Nations is back on the sidelines. Where it deserves to be. We do not gainsay the importance of Syria, or the scale of the tragedy unfolding there. It’s hard to see a way, though, for all this to be sorted out in a constructive manner while the Iranian mullahs are still operating — a problem away from which it would be wise to keep Mr. Annan, and the United Nations for that matter, as far as possible.

The New York Sun

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