The Case for Boutros-Ghali
In the opinion-page article "UN Reform, a la Carte," Aug. 6, the author castigates the UN as "synonymous with waste, fraud, and abuse," holding UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali responsible. The UN, in his view, will remain "a bit player on the world stage," though some limited peacekeeping operations may be useful. Its founders, he argued, "never imagined that they were planting the seeds for today's overgrown bureaucracy." He called for a new secretary-general who "certainly should not possess the grandiose visions of Boutros-Ghali.
The author is mistaken, I think, about the intentions of the UN's founders. When they charged it "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," this implied being far more than "a bit player on the world stage." It did not envision waste - which Boutros-Ghali has recently taken strong steps to combat - but it implied a level of activity requiring a much bigger bureaucracy than the UN has now. We have expected the UN to play a starring role on a bit player's salary -and have even defaulted on a sizeable share of that. Actually, Boutros-Ghali's "grandiose" vision, which so alienated the big powers when set forth in his well-considered "Agenda for Peace," is that of a United Nations adequately empowered and funded to do much of what its founders intended.
The fault lies not in the vision, but in this country's lack of support for it - which could prove a short-sighted blunder that dooms the world's chance for lasting peace. I foresee Boutros-Ghali going down in history as a tragic hero crushed by powers beyond his control.
At a 50th anniversary luncheon last October, President Clinton toasted Boutros-Ghali for his leadership. This June, faced by vociferous UN-bashing, Clinton let it be known that he would not only oppose Boutros-Ghali's reelection, but would veto it.
I think Boutros-Ghali deserves reelection; but whether one should support him or some other candidate is a legitimate matter of choice. A veto threat is not.
Everett L. Refior
President, Campaign for UN Reform