Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: The UN Top Dog Shows Off Some Of His Ban-Chusa Chops (Or The Art of “The Bureaucratic Lingo”)

For most who have either met Ban Ki-Moon or who have seen him speak probably would not characterize him as a “vibrant,” “charismatic” or “over the top” individual.   As the U.N.’s top dog in charge, Ban Ki-Moon displays a detached, almost robotic, “yes sir may I have another” attitude.  This is not completely surprising, as Ban Ki-Moon was known by his former buddies at the Korean Foreign Miniban-ki-moon.jpgstry as “Ban-Chusa,” which literally means The Bureaucrat. 

You know you’re in government too long when you pick up a name like that.  It wasn’t The Dull Bureaucrat or The Horribly Uncharismatic Bureaucrat or even The Dry As All Hell Bureaucrat.  Just plain old, The Bureaucrat. When you pick up a name like that — and it sticks to you for years in different agencies — it’s either time to change jobs or become the Secretary General of the biggest bureaucracy of them all — the one and only United Nations.  I guess Ban Ki-Moon chose the latter. 

But don’t get me wrong. You don’t become the Secretary General by accident.  Ban Ki-Moon is certainly no exception to that rule.  He knows the art of ‘The Bureaucratic Lingo’ that lesser bureaucrats only dream of mastering.  In the meantime, these lesser bureaucrats answer questions directly. Can you believe that? How stupid can these lesser bureaucrats be? 

As the Ban-Chusa knows, the first rule of ‘The Bureaucratic Lingo’ is never under any circumstances answer a question directly, particularly if it’s a loaded question or one that will force you to make a conclusion. Remember, on the first day of Bureaucrat class, you are told that the only conclusion you should ever reach is to never reach a conclusion. Conclusions are what other people have. Bureaucrats can’t be seen to either have an opinion or a conclusion, unless it is commonly accepted by 99% Americans, 82% of Russians, and 36% of those from Saudi Arabia.  Otherwise, a bureaucrat is either being foolish or rash.  Don’t beleive me?  Ask the Ban-Chusa.

The second related rule is to do the first rule without being called out until you are at least five miles from the interview site.  At least then you have plausible deniability. Remember, being the Master Bureaucrat requires subtlety. You can’t buy or walk your way into the Bureaucratic clean up spot.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of practice to think inside the box and to say yes all the time.  Some say you either have it or you don’t. Ban Ki-Moon, the Ban-Chusa, The Bureaucrat, well, he was born with it. 

The Ban-Chusa knows instinctively you have to speak with a monotone and disinterested enough voice for an interviewer not to realize that what you are doing is the product of years upon years of practice. For Top Bureaucrats like the Ban-Chusa, he has mastered the very pinnacle of Bureaucratic Communication that only the chosen few have: ‘The Bureaucratic Lingo.”

In a recent interview with Interfax, Ban Ki-Moon worked circles around the interviewer without anyone realizing that what he was doing was Working Circles.  In response to a question of whether the European Union will replace the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, he deftly dodged the question with something approaching pure bureaucratic poetry:  proclaim established facts and undeniable truths as new, improved, and original ideas. “Wow, mind-blowing,” the interviewer must have said to himself after the interview. “No wonder he’s the Secretary General. The Ban-Chusa believes in Truth and Democracy and Law and That People Shouldn’t Be Murdered Needlessly.  Dammit!  I wish I could come up with those ideas on the spot like that!” 

In response to a question of whether Kosovo’s declaration of independence will cause a wildfire of separatist states, Ban Ki-Moon employed one of the hardest pieces of Bureaucratic Lingo to master:  the changing of the question in your head and then answering that question out loud without referencing the original question by the interviewer. The interviewer just thinks you’re answering a better question.

Beautiful work, Ban-Chusa.  You are The Bureaucrat.

Your position on Kosovo has not always been in agreement with the attitude of Russian diplomacy. Why do you think that is? Do you see any future for the UN in Kosovo, or will the European Union soon take up exclusive responsibility there?

Security Council resolution 1244 remains in effect. Pending guidance from the Security Council, UNMIK therefore continues to consider resolution 1244 as the legal framework for its mandate and implement it in light of the evolving circumstances. My overeaching objectives continue to be to ensure the safety and security of the population in Kosovo, with particular attention to the minority communities, to uphold international peace and security and the overall stability in Kosovo and the region, to ensure the safety of UN staff, and to safeguard the UN’s achievements and legacy in Kosovo and the Balkans.

Russia and a number of other countries have warned that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence might trigger a “parade of sovereignties.” In paraticular, prospects for independence are being openly discussed now in Palestine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Intentions to secede from Kosovo are being publicly stated in Mitrovica. Do you see such a threat? Is international recognition of the above-mentioned self-proclaimed entities possible?

I wouldn’t want to speculate about what may or may not happen throughout the world as a result of developments in Kosovo. Each situation needs to be examined based on its unique circumstances. Without commenting on Kosovo’s independence itself, I wish to note that Kosovo is a highly distinctive situation by the virtue of the fact of the international community’s intervention in the exercise of Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo since 1999. I wish to also remind you that recognition of countries is a matter for individual Member States – not the Secretary-General or the United Nations Secretariat.

This interview can be found here.


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