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Well, It Was a Good Idea in '46

On Kofi Annan, violence, occupying powers, and making matters worse.

12:00 AM, May 3, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
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"Violent military action by an occupying power against inhabitants of an occupied country will only make matters worse."

--Kofi Annan, April 28, 2004

NOW THAT MAY NOT BE the undisputed, going-away, hands-down, dumbest thing ever said, but you have to admit it's close.

In fact, there's so much lush stupidity in it, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. So let's examine them that way. As a bonus, it actually shows us everything you always wanted to know about the United Nations but were afraid to ask.

"Violent military action . . ." As opposed to what? Non-violent military action? What kind of military action would the distinguished secretary general prefer? Saddam et Fils still in charge? Since they're not (at no small loss of American and Coalition life), what would he like our forces to do? Leave the country immediately? To whom? The hundreds and thousands of Syrians and Yemenis and Saudis and Iranians who have spent the last year pouring over the borders and getting ready to joyously kill everyone they see?

Or should the Army and Marines stay to direct traffic, hand out blankets, learn how to say "Have a nice day" in Arabic, and let themselves get picked off two, five, and ten at a time for forever? (Like a poker game in Vegas, where the dealer keeps taking part of each pot, until the players realize no one has any money left, and the house has it all.)

The thing that's driven me nuts over the last year is the thought that our leaders weren't pressing the way they should, winning the way they should, making each precious loss count the way it should. Because being for or against this war may be an opinion, but here's a fact: Either do this, or don't, but if you do it, don't do it halfway. As Napoleon said, "If you're going to take Vienna, take Vienna."

Ah, but you see, half measures are, in fact, exactly what Mr. Annan and the United Nations want, because that's the way they work. Remember, this is the organization that literally and figuratively pulled its trucks over to the side of the road in Rwanda and let the jeeps full of machete-wielding murderers roll from town to town until they had hacked up all the screaming people they could find. Apparently, the U.N. follows some goofy Star Trek Prime Directive of "Never get involved."

Hey, bonehead, the only reason there ought to be a United Nations in the first place is so that you do get involved, so that every so often you put your baby blue helmets in between the bad guys and the screaming people before they get chopped up. That's the reason you have such a big, tall, pretty building in Manhattan, you know, not to go to cocktail parties on the Upper East Side and chat up the local, needy blondes.

SO WHAT'S HE SAYING? Is all military action involving violence wrong? How about the invasion of Normandy? That was pretty violent, but it made us the occupying power, which brings us to the next part of the opening quote . . .

What is an "occupying power"? Are there any good ones, or is Mr. Annan saying they're all the same? The answer is, to contemporary relativists, yes, all occupying powers are the same: Bad. German occupation of Poland was the same as Allied occupation of Germany. One is not better or worse, and the only reality is that someone has put their army someplace other than the barracks back home.

Now, in addition, your friendly, neighborhood relativist would almost certainly say, "Oh, stop it. American occupation was good, German occupation was bad. Everyone knows that." Here's what you get to say back: Why? Doesn't that call for an objective judgment of good and evil? Who gets to decide when the rulers of a country are so bad they deserve invasion and occupation? The United Nations? Because if that's the case it will never happen anywhere, ever.

Lumping "occupying powers" together without objective morality is fatuous on the order of "All killing is bad." All killing is not bad. If a rapist jumps out of an alley and kills a woman, that's bad. If a cop walks by and kills the rapist, that's good. And it's even better if the cop shoots first. Does anyone not understand this?

If it sounds like I'm talking to second graders here, forgive me, but that's how you have to talk to the United Nations, and they still won't get it. Which brings us to . . .

"Inhabitants of an occupied country . . ." Okay, who would that be today in Iraq? The potentially decent people who might someday raise their families to change the entire way of thinking in the Middle East? Because they're not the ones dismembering charred bodies and dancing with severed heads.

The barely-formed councils that are going to take far longer than June 30 to even start to stand on their new-born colts' legs? Because they're not the ones subverting every millimeter of progress by sniping from mosques.