When Barack Obama was running for president he committed to leading the United Nations and other countries towards a common global goal. Obama believed that he could speak to allies and dictators directly and charm them into seeing the error of their ways. Since becoming President of the United States, Barack Obama has failed to convince the UN to follow his lead. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, a member of the President’s cabinet, has only been able to pass one resolution (compared to the Bush Administration’s five) on Iran’s illegal nuclear ambition despite the issue being the U.S.’ most important foreign policy goal. Rice also failed to convince Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon to support that one resolution despite 17 months of diplomacy.
Obama and Rice have been unsuccessful in their attempt to convince the Security Council to make progress on international problems they committed to deal with, issues like Sudan, North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian issues. Recently, Obama and Rice failed to convince Russia, China, India, Germany and Brazil to support a no-fly zone over Libya. Despite all the talk of global unity, team Obama has been wildly ineffective at the UN and scored fewer victories than the Bush team they so heavily derided as unilateralists. This week, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called President Obama’s Libya policy “not very helpful” in an interview with the Financial Times. Most every main stream U.S. media outlet failed to report the former UN leader’s slight.
We learned from Annan this week that White House staffers have called upon him for advice and counsel on how to deal with foreign policy crises. So far, Obama staffers have failed to convince the former Secretary-General of the merits of their slow response to the Middle East revolutions. Samantha Powers, the liberal academic who made a career out of calling for more international intervention, has tried to convince Annan that there is no civil war in Libya and sought his advice and counsel on what to do next. Annan responded by criticizing the White House team’s approach. In speaking with the FT, Annan said:
“And, as I suspected, the rebels will not be ready to talk to Gaddafi. They want Nato to help remove him, and of course, I think eventually probably he will have to go, but you cannot put it upfront the way people are saying: Gaddafi must go. A future Libya without Gaddafi must be part of the negotiations and handled properly. It should be part of the agenda, and this mantra of Sarkozy, Cameron, Gaddafi is one… Obama saying Gaddafi must go. Putting it upfront like that…it’s not very helpful.”
In typical UN double-speak Annan goes on to say “on the other hand, I see their problem…But on the other hand, I think they were right…”
Annan also questions the benefits of liberating Iraq and fails to see any progress made from turning that dictatorship into a developing democracy:
“One of my biggest regrets was the fact that as an institution and an international community we could not stop the war in Iraq. That really was very difficult and very painful. Every fibre in my body felt it was wrong. I spoke to leaders, we spoke to people, we tried… we couldn’t stop it… and we see the results.”
Annan goes on to dismiss accusations that his son, Kojo, benefitted from the UN’s Oil for Food program and told a story how he thought U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was a bully for reminding the Security Council that “Uncle Sam isn’t going to like it (increased UN spending)”. Annan also outrageously links a Mexican Ambassador’s lack of support for the 18th Iraq draft resolution in 2003 with a car accident that killed him more than 18 months after he was recalled for inappropriate comments made about the United States.
Annan said, “On the question of Iraq, some governments showed incredible courage: the way even Mexico and Chile wouldn’t roll over for the US; but the ambassadors paid the price. Both of them were recalled fairly shortly, and in fact the Mexican one died in an accident soon after he got out.”