15 December 2004

Some American papers claim he is. And some Americans would believe it is not just desirable but possible. Very few amongst the general public know of the standing arrangement that no candidate from any of the five permanent members could be seriously considered. The former President certainly knows that. During his administration there was talk that First Lady Hillary was intereseted in a senior U.N. posting like UNICEF. It was just talk -- table talk during a dinner party for the visiting President of Ghana, at which Kofi Annan was present. But that speculation ended there and then as the New York senatorial seat was available.

No doubt, William Jefferson Clinton could salvage the U.N. out of the abyss and thrust it into the mainstream of relevance. His political brilliance is almost unparalleled and his commitment to human causes is unquestionable. He will be a gem to bring into a U.N. sponsored venture like peace in the Middle East. However, there are valid reasons why the founding fathers agreed that none of the permanent five was entitled to field a Secretary General. Political balance, geographical spread, and a politically neutral perception were among several other essential requirements. Particularly with the unprecedented power of the United States, which is also the host country, it will be most unlikely for at least France, Russia and China to go along. Even Tony Blair's Britain which may welcome a Third Way comrade would find it awkward to go along. The majority mermership will feel honoured by the interest but for practical political purposes would hesitate to give more power to the most predominate power in the only forum left to harness it. Although he will be glad to leave it to other countries to object, President George W. Bush would approach that candiditure with great caution. He warmly welcomed his predecessor to the White House for the hanging of his portrait and graciously joined the ceremony opening the W.J. Clinton Library in Arkansas. He and his First Lady talk very warmly about the personality and commitment of the Clintons. But handing over "the world" to a heavyweight Democrat with the stature and acumen of the former President? In these days of "Red and Blue" states that is almost impossible. One way out: give him a U.S.-initiated U.N. sponsored tough assignment like solving the Arab Israeli conflict. That will teach him not to volunteer again.