The Next UN Secretary General: Holbrooke Surveys the Field
· Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand's deputy prime minister, has been running openly since last year and has visited dozens of capitals around the world. He has the formal endorsement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a solid base from which to launch a candidacy.
· Ban Ki Moon, South Korea's impressive foreign minister, has excellent relations with both Washington and Beijing. But would China accept a secretary general from a treaty ally of the United States, and a diplomat who is deeply engaged in sensitive six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs?
· Jose Ramos-Horta is foreign minister of East Timor -- the newest nation in the world and, until recently, itself a war-torn half-island in the South Pacific administered by the United Nations. Ramos-Horta is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and is well known internationally, but his country is tiny, with only 800,000 people.
· Jayantha Dhanapala, a respected Sri Lankan, served as U.N. undersecretary general for disarmament and as ambassador to the United States. He has been openly campaigning for over a year, but some question the selection of another U.N. bureaucrat right after Kofi Annan.
Holbrooke notes that other possible candidates include former prime minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore, Prince Zeid Raed Hussein, the current Jordanian ambassador to the UN, and Kemal Dervis, who is Turkish and the current head of the UN Development Program.
Does the outcome matter?
A weak S-G means a weaker United Nations, and although that may please some die-hard U.N.-haters, the United Nations has been an important part of American foreign policy on many issues since the end of the Cold War. Right now, for example, the Security Council is about to become a major focal point for the Iranian nuclear issue. The secretary general can play an important role on such issues, and it is in the American interest, more often than not, to have a strong secretary general exerting pressure on reluctant or rogue states. The same may not be true of China. The drama coming up, especially between Beijing and Washington, will be interesting to follow, and will tell us a lot about both the future of the United Nations and the long-term intentions of China on the world stage.