One Last Cup of Kofi Before I Go

Kofi Annan gave his last major speech as UN Secretary General, and I had the prilvege to watch it on television.

You couldn’t miss the conviction in his words. Sure, he’s not exactly charismatic, but he spoke of some lofty goals:

“First, we are all responsible for each other’s security.

Second, we can and must give everyone the chance to benefit from global prosperity.

Third, both security and prosperity depend on human rights and the rule of law.

Fourth, states must be accountable to each other, and to a broad range of non-state actors, in their international conduct.”

But what had me puzzled was his litmus test for legitimate power: “When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose — for broadly shared aims — in accordance with broadly accepted norms.” He appeals to the absolute necessity for the rule of law, then he defines it as “broadly accepted norms”?

Since when did a thing being broadly accepted make it right? Slavery was broadly accepted (globally) for thousands of years; does that make Martin Luther King a villian like Hitler, because he spoke out against broadly accepted norms? This brings about the obvious dilemma when something is not broadly accepted, when it’s broadly controversial, like Iran’s possesion of nuclear technology or America’s death penalty. What’s a global community to do?

“No nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others.” This smells like peaches and roses until you understand that he doesn’t really mean that. A few breaths later, he declares: “Respect for national sovereignty can no longer be used as a shield by governments intent on massacring their own people, or as an excuse for the rest of us to do nothing when such heinous crimes are committed.” We have a responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and if you are not ascribing to these widely held norms, we (as a global collective) have the right, nay, the responsibility to enforce them. Conformity equals rightness.

Now, I understand the importance of the accountability. He makes some pretty astute observations relating America’s size with it’s responsibility. And for the record, I think America has made quite a few mistakes (or “poor life choices” as my wife is required to tell her daycare kids) in her day. But the UN has very little power with which to enforce that accountability. And worse yet–if you actual gave the UN the teeth it needed to affect change, imagine what would happen if your country strayed from global norms?

I don’t pretend to have easy answers. I do know that our founding fathers spent many long years hammering out similar issues (on a national scale) and we still run into problems. Proof positive that we, the people of the whole world, do have one thing in common: a sin nature.

On a lighter note, did you hear Dunkin’ Donuts is hiring Kofi Annon as their new spokesperson?

No, “Kofi.”
Ohh… “Kofi”.
Yeah, “Kofi.”