Sunday, March 27, 2005

Kofi Annan's UN reform proposals and terrorism

Kofi Annan has released his plan for comprehensive UN reform, based in very large part on the report of the High Level Panel. I have blogged on the High Level Panel report before, essentially to say that it is a non-starter for many, many reasons, not least of which is that it proposes to strengthen the role of the Security Council in approving the used of armed force. That reflect neither reality nor good sense; it is, however, fully restated in Annan's report.

In general, Annan's reform proposal is a supposed grand bargain between rich countries and poor countries; poor countries crave aid but instead export terrorism, while rich countries crave security while refusing to export needed aid. The answer will be to implement the .7% aid solution for rich countries, funneled through the UN and various aid agencies, and poor countries will thereby be bought off. It is a fantastically wrong understanding of aid and security worldwide. The best characterization is given by the Belmont Club, here:

"Kofi Annan's proposals are a recipe for disaster for two reasons. His entire security model is philosophically founded on a kind of blackmail which recognizes that the only thing dysfunctional states have to export is trouble. He then sets up the United Nations as a gendarmarie with 'a human face' delivering payoffs to quell disturbances. This is the "bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries' security concerns." Second, his model flies in the face of the recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire democratizing upheaval in the Middle East. It is by making countries functional that terrorism is quelled and not by any regime of international aid, inspections, nonproliferation treaties, declarations, protocols, conferences; nor by appointing special rapptorteurs, plenipotentiary envoys; nor constituting councils, consultative bodies or anything else in Annan's threadbare cupboard. "

From both a security and development standpoint, the issue is not flows of aid per se. Vast flows have been undertaken, both at the official and NGO level. And to be sure, very large flows of aid will be needed even in an efficient and progressing development program. But the fundamental problem of aid and development is the question of governance. Countries in war, civil war, armed conflict, or disssolution cannot use aid - all that can be done is humanitarian relief on a purely band-aid basis, and understanding, as in Sudan, the aid itself can become a valuable commodity in the structure of conflict itself, an actual reason why fighting goes on. Countries that are emerging from civil wars, or in which the structures of governance are so weak that the may collapse into disorder cannot effectively develop - aid must be thought of as purely humanitarian, maintenance, not development.

You can only get development in places where the structures of governance are sufficiently developed that aid is not siphoned off in massive corruption at the official and unofficial level, where there is sufficient rule of law that private investors will invest - ultimately, the largest poverty reductions in the world have taken place through private investment, in India and China. Massive aid investments in public infrastucture - public health, education, and so on - have an important role to play, but what finally takes people out of poverty is private investment to produce private income. The Bush administration's view that you reward the societies where those conditions are met is the right response.

But this frankly has little to do with the questions of terrorism and security. The suicide bombers came out of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco - and the Western European welfare states. They did not come out of the poorest countries of Africa. That might happen in the future, but the reality is that the suicide Islamofascist terrorists are the product of a extreme reading of Islam combined with Western ideologies of resentment, victimization and colonialization - they are the product of badly educated, but still educated, alienated middle class Islamists. They are not the products of physical desperation, but rather of the profound spiritual malaise of their misgoverned countries, sending their alienated to attack the West rather than their own rulers, and their lack of assimilation in a post-Christian Europe that on the one hand despises and fears them but on the other depends on them to pay the social security bills of the aging and highly leisured indigenous Europeans.

Annan's grand bargain thus does not coincide with reality - either with the reality of poverty and development, or with the reality of security and terror. It does coincide, however, with the UN's desire always to be the essential middleman - in this case linking one phantasm to another, with the UN as the gate-keeper and rent-extractor in the middle.

Annan's proposal's should be rejected out of hand as not reform, but, astonishingly, even more chutzpah than he's ever shown before.

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