THE SPINE OCTOBER 10, 2006
It is the handwriting on the wall. One hour on Sunday we find out that Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean foreign minister, will be approved on Monday as the United Nations secretary-general. A few hours later on Sunday we find out that North Korea has just become a member of the nuclear club, in defiance of everyone including its most powerful neighbors China and Japan. According to The New York Times, Ban had some criticism for his outgoing predecessor: "Secretary General Kofi Annan has never visited North Korea during his 10-year term." So he will go. But the U.N. is not a cruise ship, and its secretary-general is not a cruise captain. I can't count how many times Annan traveled to the Middle East, and each time he went the situation got worse. Like now.
Ban Ki-moon talks softly, but he doesn't carry a big stick. He's big on dialogue, consensus, yaddi-yadda. Or,as the Times points out, "Mr. Ban is familiar with the United Nations, where he served for four years early in his career as first secretary at the South Korean mission, beginning in 1974." But the world was a less dangerous place then. The big players were the U.S. and the Soviet Union, reasonable powers with much to lose. Iran is an apocalyptic place, and Korea a reckless one. And, as we see, Iraq is a country where each side has no limits to how many people on the other side it will murder.