Some day, years from now, when historians sit down to write about how the United Nations was lost, they are going to turn to the arrogance on display yesterday when Secretary Kofi Annan's deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, lashed out at the American Congress and, for that matter, the Americans who elect the Congress. Mr. Malloch Brown was speaking in Midtown at a conference that included not only President Clinton's state secretary, Madeleine Albright, but also Mr. Malloch Brown's landlord, George Soros, who has likened President Bush to Hitler. Mr. Malloch Brown knew he was going to say something explosive; he prefaced his remarks by confessing that his message "was not one a sitting United Nations official would normally make" to a public conference.
It did not take long to discover why the defensive preamble. Mr. Malloch Brown, nearly a quarter of the budget of whose institution is paid for by America, proceeded to lash out at what he called a "tendency" by American administrations of both parties "to engage only fitfully with the U.N." He assailed what he called the "prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics." Such a position, he harrumphed, was "simply not sustainable." And he went on to threaten: "You will lose the U.N. one way or another." He defended Mr. Annan's record in Turtle Bay and chastised the United States for declining to participate in the fraud of the "reformed" Human Rights Commission that puts such countries as Cuba in a seat of honor.
At one point, Mr. Malloch Brown noted that "Americans complain about the U.N.'s bureaucracy, weak decision-making, the lack of accountable modern management structures, and the political divisions of the General Assembly here in New York." And what was his response? "Guilty," he said, "on all counts." And whom did he blame? America. He complained that Americans - he didn't call them "stupid hayseeds" but he implied it - don't know about where America is "constructively engaged with the U.N." That's because the public discourse that reaches the American heartland "has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News." Then he went on petulantly about how the United Nations can't even get its headquarters rebuilt.
Ambassador Bolton wasted no time in calling on Secretary General Annan "personally and publicly" repudiate his deputy's remarks. He called the matter "very, very grave" and called it "the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official" that he'd seen in the nearly 20 years that he's known Mr. Annan. But Mr. Annan refused, compounding Mr. Malloch Brown's blunder and making it official policy of the world body, which many in the Congress will find astounding. Nor can anyone suggest that Mr. Bolton just has it in for Mr. Annan. Only the day before, he lunched with our Pranay Gupte, who invited along a few of the editors of the Sun. It was a relaxed conversation, and we couldn't detect, though we asked, a note of anything but a focus on working with both the secretary general or Mr. Malloch Brown.
Mr. Malloch Brown tried to dress up his hostility with all sorts of long-hair talk about "power" and "global leadership" in the 21st century. He tried to draw a distinction between the "all-moral-idealism-no-power institution of the League of Nations" and a United Nations that was designed as "an antidote to the League's failure." He spoke of the "enforceable concept of collective security" at the core of the U.N. vision. But he quickly degenerated into carping about the budget and then turned to political sloganeering. He claimed there "is currently a perception among many otherwise quite moderate countries that anything the U.S. supports must have a secret agenda."
And then he got to his point - which was to enter the 2008 American election campaign against the Republicans. He tried to disguise that as a bipartisan remark, talking about not only Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt but also Arthur Vandenberg and John Foster Dulles. "Who are their successors in American politics?" he demanded. "Who will campaign in 2008 for a new multinational national security?" It was a veritable call to the hustings to the John Kerrys and Albert Gores of the Democratic Party left. It was a public bet on the Democrats taking control of one or both houses of the Congress. His landlord, Mr. Soros, must have been rubbing his hands in glee. It may be that the Democrats will win. But it may not. And if the U.N. is lost, the historians will ask, Who lost it?