You Can Call Me Al
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Mark Malloch Brown of Britain may have launched Al Gore’s next presidential campaign. After all, what are friends for? The jeremiad against America that the deputy secretary general of the United Nations issued in New York was directed at the Bush administration’s supposed neglect of the 191-member world organization. But Mr. Malloch Brown’s language and idiom were culled from Mr. Gore’s playbook.
For listeners of a certain generation, the rhetoric seemed similar to that of Mr. Gore, then a senator, during the 1992 campaign that took him to the vice presidency under President Clinton. The Tennessean excoriated President George H.W. Bush for not doing enough about human rights abuses. Mr. Bush was also pilloried for failing to act with alacrity on global warming, then – as now – a phenomenon debated spiritedly among scientists.
Mr. Gore also had rued America’s alleged neglect of the U.N. during the four years leading to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when world leaders urged a global development blueprint that unrealistically called for $125 billion for environmental protection and economic security. His words were eerily echoed in Mr. Malloch Brown’s speech Tuesday.
Mr. Malloch Brown’s rapid rise in the multilateral system – which includes the United Nations and the World Bank, among other institutions – flows out of the Rio summit. The Rio gathering created a cohort that, in effect, subsequently hijacked multilateral organizations and pushed them sharply leftward.
Mr. Gore, along with Mr. Malloch Brown and the Canadian businessman Maurice Strong, who was the secretary-general of the Earth Summit, pushed for the placement of favored colleagues in organizations such as the United Nations Environment Program, Unicef, and the United Nations Development Program.
The prize job went to Mr. Malloch Brown. After Mr. Gore and Mr. Strong succeeded in getting the coveted presidency of the World Bank for the investment banker and former Strong protege James Wolfensohn, Mr. Malloch Brown’s profile was dramatically raised in Washington as Mr. Wolfensohn’s spokesman.
It was a good fit for him. Earlier, Mr. Malloch Brown had been a registered lobbyist with Sawyer Miller Incorporated in Washington. The firm was particularly close to Democrats, including Mr. Gore. Mr. Malloch Brown not only cultivated other members of Congress, he also took a road show to various emerging countries to assist leftist candidates in local elections.
One of his triumphs was in the Philippines, where he played a role in the election of Corazon Aquino to the presidency. After that, Mr. Malloch Brown became a widely wooed figure as invitations to manage other big campaigns kept flooding in. He also became a wealthy man.
Mr. Malloch Brown has enormous talents. I have known him for more than two decades; the UNDP once gave grants to a newspaper I ran. He’s a fine and fluent writer and speaker. He’s quick on his feet. He’s politically canny.
He also knows whom to cultivate.
Thus, Messrs. Gore and Strong and Wolfensohn were added to his armory. So was Prince Sadruddin, uncle of the Aga Khan, the leader of the Ismaili Muslims, both influential figures in multilateral circles.
And once he’d gained entry at the U.N. as its development tsar, it was only a matter of time before Mr. Malloch Brown would weave his charm around the Secretary-general Annan. The SG became so enamored of the Briton that he made him his chef de cabinet. Not long after that, he promoted him to the number two job – deputy secretary-general.
Mr. Malloch Brown persuaded Mr. Annan to name as his successor at the UNDP Alicia Barcena, an ambitious environmentalist from Mexico. She had worked under Maurice Strong at the Earth Summit and subsequently ran a nongovernmental organization that he formed to create an “Earth Charter,” the Costa Rica based Earth Council.
None of these interlocking relationships breaks any law. However, they do illustrate how firmly a cabal of left-leaning do-gooders has long been in control of organizations in the U.N. system, where lucrative jobs and sinecures are to be dispensed. Was it any coincidence that, soon after he became vice president, among the first people Mr. Gore invited to lunch with him at the Executive Office Building were Mr. Strong and Ms. Barcena?
The more understanding among us might tolerate this mutual back-scratching system. But the system is becoming increasingly anti-American. Its opposition to Mr. Bush is implacable. Both Messrs. Malloch Brown and Annan appear to have thrown the idea of neutrality completely to the wind, appearing to have made a strategic decision in the face of the fact that the multilateral organizations derive significant funding from America.
Mr. Malloch Brown has been known to harbor ambitions to succeed Mr. Annan as secretary-general; he would certainly need America’s backing for that, support that now seems remote. But then again, who knows? What if Mr. Gore becomes president? Will he replace Paul Wolfowitz – the current World Bank president who was nominated by Mr. Bush – with the Briton? Mr. Malloch Brown is too shrewd a person not to be thinking well ahead.
Mr. Gupte is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.