Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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"Your blog is bullshit"- anonymous angry French reader.
Another argument for keeping the UN from playing the 'central role' envisioned by Kofi, Jacques, Gerhard and Vlad.
When asked whether I think the United States or the United Nations should take the lead in rebuilding Iraq, I do not choose my country out of patriotism alone.
My answer is grounded in my observations of the UN at "work" in Kosovo. As an employee of the UN partner organization that administered Kosovo's 2001 elections, I witnessed firsthand how the UN's institutional interests ignore the best interests of the people they are supposed to serve.
Many of the UN's agencies, such as the World Food Program and UNICEF, excel in their specialized missions, but the organization as a whole suffers from an inability to provide the political direction needed to assume responsibility for a country. Instead of stepping up to the plate, the United Nations allows events to drive decisions and values consensus over results.
I arrived in Kosovo in June 2001 - two years after NATO bombing halted the conflict between the Serbs and Albanians and two years into UN administration of the province.
The United Nations had succeeded in restoring order by saturating the province with thousands of police officers sent by member nations and tens of thousands of armed peacekeepers. However, there was little evidence that the United Nations had done anything to ameliorate the rift between the warring ethnic groups of Kosovo.
Generators powered the offices of the United Nations and its partner organizations because daily blackouts lasted for hours. I never minded cold showers or reading by candlelight because I knew the situation was far worse outside the capital. But I was shocked to learn that the power shortages were the result of UN policy.
Kosovo's power plant operated at sufficient capacity to meet local demand, but the UN had entered agreements to export Kosovo's electricity at the expense of the Kosovars. On certain days, such as when elections brought in large numbers of international observers, the UN directed that electric service not be interrupted, an action that reinforced the artificial nature of the shortages for every Kosovar.
If we accede to a similar UN mandate over Iraq, we will condemn the Iraqi people to a maddening limbo. After three UN-administered elections in four years, Kosovo is no closer to responsible self-governance. As an election official with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, I worked closely with UN officials, Kosovar co-workers and the general population, so I saw firsthand how their interests conflicted.
In operating by consensus and compromise, the UN has no capacity for making the tough political decisions that are needed to effect change. Its field operations inherit a distaste for antagonism and are rewarded with a lack of oversight.
Although I do not question the abilities of the people I worked with at the UN and other multilateral organizations, their instinct for bureaucratic self-preservation is undeniable.
They possessed no internal or external impetus to finish their mission and actually depart Kosovo. We used to point out, half-jokingly, that many international workers would meet the residency requirement to vote by the next election.
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