James Traub on the United Nations

Citing Ban Ki-Moon, James Traub says we need to choose a secretary general for his "confidence not for his harmlessness."
  • Transcript


James Traub: Well, I wrote “The Best Intentions” at an unbelievable low point in America and UN relations.  It is an immediate period after Iraq and so forth and that things are better than they were.  But I also think that UN has gotten marginalized in a lot of ways.  Partially… You guys… So tell me when I should start talking again.  Good.  I also think that UN has gotten marginalized in a lot of ways and partially because of the Bush Administration.  I think we sent an ambassador there, John Bolton, who was very hostile to the institution that reduce America’s own role there, America’s own standing there.  We also had the chief hand in choosing the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.  Now, Ban Ki-Moon is not quite two years into his 5-year term and it is possible that he will prove to be a more forceful figure than he has so far, but, certainly, the impression one gets is that the United States chose him ‘cause they thought he would be an inoffensive pro-American figure and that’s what he’s been.  He’s been an inoffensive pro-American figure.  But if we actually want the UN to matter, then we have to choose its Chief Executive for his confidence not for his harmlessness.  And so, it’s just troubling that we have not sought to use this institution in the way that it can be used and I would hope that Obama will take it more seriously.