Secretary of State George Shultz used to give a little test to the ambassadors he sent overseas. The secretary would bring them over to a globe in his office and ask them, "Which is your country?" The about-to-depart envoy would spin the globe until he found the country where he or she would be posted and proudly point it out. "No," the secretary would explain, spinning the globe back and pointing to the U.S.A. "This is your country." We were reminded of the story as we read yesterday in the the Wall Street Journal the op-ed piece in which the under-secretary general of the United Nations, Christopher Burnham, rattled on about what a good job Secretary General Kofi Annan is doing on reform. He's been pressing this line in the face of Ambassador Bolton's efforts to hold the secretary general's feet to the fire on budgeting.
We don't question the patriotism of Mr. Burnham, who was assigned by Washington to Mr. Annan's team. But the secretary general is, outrageously, pressing for a two-year budget that would, in effect, permit him to delay or weasel out of promised reforms and still get the money he wants. Ambassador Bolton is pressing for a shorter budget commitment in an effort to enforce conditionality and make sure we don't pay the U.N. until we get the reforms we're paying for. Mr. Bolton, our Benny Avni reports from Turtle Bay, has won support from Japan, whose taxpayers pony up 20% of U.N. dues while we pay 22%. Ambassador Oshima is quoted by Mr. Avni as saying that passing the budget Mr. Annan wants without manifested change is "neither appropriate nor acceptable." Mr. Bolton himself, in an interview, told Mr. Avni that giving Mr. Annan his budget while simply "hoping" for reform would be "consigning reform to the dust bin."
This is the context in which Mr. Burnham is shilling for Mr. Annan and declaring, as Mr. Avni reports he did yesterday, that a two-year budget must pass regardless of how the reform ideas are implemented. Mr. Avni quotes Mr. Burnham as scoffing at the suggestion that his position pitted him against former colleagues in the Bush administration. What is actually worthy of scoffing is Mr. Burnham's suggestion that language can be worked out that "continues to put pressure on the General Assembly to act on management reform ..." In other words, the under-secretary general wants us to believe the problem is not in Mr. Annan's suite but elsewhere.
The charitable response is that Mr. Burnham is just new on the job. We can still remember Senator Helms, then chairman of the foreign relations committee, coming to speak before the Security Council. That was back in January of 2000. He'd been brought there by a hapless Richard Holbrooke, President Clinton's envoy, to explain the compromise, a bill known as Helms-Biden, by which Congress began releasing some of the funds it had been withholding from the world body. Helms-Biden, the senator explained, was an effort in the Senate to try to gain a working relationship with Mr. Annan upon his election as secretary general. It has, of course, turned into a tragedy. What the U.N. needs to know is that behind Mr. Bolton and the administration that sent him to Turtle Bay stands a Congress - not to mention the American taxpayers - who resent the way they've been treated by Mr. Annan and his camarilla.
The truth about Mr. Bolton is that he is the last, best hope Mr. Annan and the U.N. have for salvaging American support for the world body. Millions of us have long since concluded that the United Nations is not worth the candle, a point Mr. Helms warned against six years ago. "Most Americans do not regard the United Nations as an end in and of itself - they see it as just one part of America's diplomatic arsenal," he said. "To the extent that the U.N. is effective, the American people will support it. To the extent that it becomes ineffective - or worse, a burden - the American people will cast it aside."