Clinton and the UN

With the return of suggestions that Clinton will be the next U.N. Secretary General, I thought it might be worth pulling this out of the archives of the way-back when portion of COAPJ:

Kerry &#8230 risks &#8230 the disruption of a longterm rule of diplomatic etiquette.

Reports are circulating that Bill Clinton wants to be the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. Here’s why that is not going to happen.

The United Nations has several unwritten rules, precedents, and traditions that keep the peace within the organization (not that Clinton considers such things sacred). One of those traditions is that the appointment of the Secretary-General rotates around the world. Right now it’s Africa’s turn. It is widely considered to be Asia’s turn next. China is reported backing, along with US support, a Thai diplomat.

Another even more important unwritten rule is this:

Past secretaries general have come from various regions of the world, but it is an unwritten rule that they never should come from one of the most powerful countries. This tradition is a response to concerns that a secretary general selected from such a country would not be perceived by other nations as objective or neutral. There is also a fear that such a selection would give the world’s most influential nations that much more power.

While Clinton has shown little regard in the past for tradition and unwritten rules, this rule has been fairly rock solid. Popular former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was rejected for the role because Africa demanded it’s turn. After the US vetoed Butro-Butros Gali’s second five year term, Kofi Annan was chosen to honor the tradition of having one region keep the Secretariat for two terms.

Even without the unwritten diplomatic rules of the United Nations, there is another reason this won’t happen. While Kerry might want to use the idea for political value during the campaign, it is doubtful he would want Clinton upstaging him on the world stage, likewise with Bush.

All in all, this is most likely just a political ploy to put Clinton’s name out front, build good will for the former President, and link him to Kerry for Kerry’s benefit. In the end, however, Kerry, should he embrace the idea for political gain, risks showing his lack of international statemanship by advocating the disruption of a longterm rule of diplomatic etiquette.

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Erick Erickson

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