Boutros Boutros-Ghali, for all his hauteur and condescending ways, had an absolute genius for driving people crazy, as if there were an Inspector Clouseau within him trying to get out. In 1993, he went to Sarajevo and told those who had lost their families and homes to stop their bellyaching. He “could name 10 places in the world worse off.” At a news conference for the beginning of the U.N.’s Year of Tolerance, he announced that Chinese dissidents would not be tolerated at the U.N. He barred them. At a ceremony at the National Archives, the Secretary General announced proudly that through quiet diplomacy, the U.N. had avoided “80 imminent wars.” Which ones were they, the press asked. Boutros-Ghali did not know. And on and on. You could dine out on Boutros-Ghali’s gaffes. Earlier this year the LLN.’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gave its human rights award to former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, certifiable lunatic and practitioner of necklacing, i.e., placing burning tires over the heads of political enemies. Boutros-Ghali may be gone, but as the UNESCO award indicates, his legacy lives on.

Last December, Boutros-Ghali was fired as U.N. Secretary General, and Kofi Annan of Ghana took over January 1. Last November, the Security Council had voted 14-1 in favor of a second term for Boutros-Ghali, but the United States vetoed that decision. Since Secretary Generals usually serve two terms and are selected on a rotating basis from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe, the person selected to serve Boutros-Ghali’s second term would also be an African, who would be chosen before the U.N. General Assembly adjourned in mid- December. The French, miffed at the United States dissing of the Paris-educated Boutros-Ghali, and sulking over the United States’ refusal to let France reenter NATO as a commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, wanted to be sure of another French-speaking Secretary General and supported the Foreign Minister of the Ivory Coast. The United States favored the English-speaking Kofi Annan, the U.N. Undersecretary for Peacekeeping who had been the answer to the Clinton administration’s prayers since taking over his peacekeeping role in March 1993. After several days of nasty fighting in the Security Council, the French blinked, and on December 13, Annan was in. “The French sold out easy,” according to one U.N. watcher, trading its support for Annan for the right to select the next head of U.N. peacekeeping.

Five years ago, Boutros-Ghali was hired as Secretary General to reform the U.N. The U.N. still needs the reforms he was hired to make. On the 50th anniversary of the U.N., Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum and Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, both UN. supporters, wrote: “Today the U.N. is accountable to no one. Despite thousands of pages of budget documents prepared each year, we don’t know how many employees it has, how funds are spent or which programs work. After a decade of ‘no real budget growth’ the budget was almost doubled.” As Senator Jesse Helms pointed out in Foreign Affairs last year, the U.N. bureaucracy proliferated during Boutros-Ghali’s watch, costs spiraled, and the U.N.’s mission expanded beyond its mandate while the U.N. itself changed from an organization of sovereign states into a quasi-sovereign state for which the United States pays $3.5 billion a year. Yet to hear Boutros-Ghali tell it, they done him wrong.

Boutros-Ghali had campaigned to he Secretary General by pledging to step down after one term. That was supposed to free him from political pressures to make radical reforms. But earlier this year Boutros-Ghali, who described himself to the New York Times Magazine as someone “who puts principle before diplomacy,” reneged on his promise. “Only stupid people don’t change their minds,” he argued. When the White House said no way, Boutros-Ghali replied that the United States’ rejection of him, as Egyptian and as the first African Secretary General, smacked of “racism.”

How African was this first African Secretary General? Well, he ignored Arab enslavement of black Africans in Mauritania and Sudan, failed in Somalia, failed in Burundi, failed in Rwanda, and the U.N.’s shameful certification of the fraudulent election results in Angola guaranteed the resumption of a bloody civil war. He even failed in his own backyard. North Africa, because he would not blow the whistle on his old pal King Hassan of Morocco, who was stealing the U.N. referendum in Western Sahara. As Ghana-born scholar George Ayittey pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, the only Africa Boutros-Ghali represented was the Africa of his cronies, the kleptocratic African dictators who “clink champagne glasses” at O.A.U. galas while their countrymen go without shoes and medicine. I actually saw this for myself in Western Sahara. Boutros-Ghali was feted by King Hassan’s representatives with whom he carried on in elegant French, but to the powerless local people whom Morocco was terrorizing, he used the most barbarous language, going so far as to respond to an inoffensive question by a local leader by saying “fermez la,” the way you tell a dog to be quiet. Yet appearing as an African martyr to gain a little sympathy is nothing new for Boutros-Ghali. When the British press punctured his ego a while back over Bosnia, he pouted in print about why Fleet Street was so mean to him: “Maybe because I’m a wog.”

Every Secretary General has one specific duty: manage the U.N. Not a glamour job perhaps, but an important one that Boutros-Ghali didn’t spend much time on. “I don’t think management issues are his favorites,” deadpanned Madeleine Albright, who described Boutros-Ghali’s U.N. as “elephantine.” Time called it a “swamp.” Australian Representative Richard Blitler believed the U.N. bureaucracy was “designed in Hell.” Even Sir Brian Urquhart, on most occasions a U.N. cheerleader, described the U.N. as “a ridiculous group of foreigners spending American tax dollars.” (A memorable and politically incorrect phrase-maker, it was Urquhart who said, when describing the savage beating he received from the Katanga forces in the Congo: “Better beaten than eaten.”)

Joseph Connor, the new (since 1994) U.N. Undersecretary for Management said: “The U.N. is not designed for management. It defies oversight because there is no person who is chief executive of the organization.” Connor ran Price Waterhouse before coming to the U.N. in 1994 to introduce the concept of management and is the one bright light at the U.N. He really has tried to phase out Who-do-you-know, the U.N.’s traditional method of hiring people, for a professional U.N. civil service; he tried to cut the workforce and reduce the U.N. budget, issues, as John Goshko reported in the Washington Post, “for which Boutros-Ghali did not have much enthusiasm.” The reaction within the U.N. to Connor’s reforms, Goshko noted, ranged from lip service to “outright foot-dragging from the top U.N. bureaucracy,” and it says a great deal for Connor that he had any success at all in Boutros-Ghali’s U.N. In 1993, his predecessor, Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania, gave Boutros-Ghali a report on waste and fraud within the U.N. and proposed ways of saving over $100 million. As Thornburgh told the Sunday Times of London, Boutros-Ghali suppressed the report and “remaining copies were confiscated and in some cases shredded. This is the kind of shoot-the-messenger mentality that inhabits the upper levels of the U.N.”

A good example of just how indifferent Boutros-Ghali was toward the wasting of American taxpayers’ money is his handling of the United States’ demand for a U.N. Inspector General with a free hand to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse within the U.N. Well, Boutros-Ghali did create an office with a long title, but it remains a joke. It cannot even make U.N. employees take it seriously; it cannot offer protection to those who do and cannot choose its own staff. How bad is it? In 1995, in the office’s very first inspection, the inspecting officer investigating mismanagement at a peacekeeping mission prefaced his interview with a mission employee, a U.S. national named Mara Hanna, by saying: “Keep your mouth shut if you ever want to work for the U.N. again.” She didn’t keep her mouth shut and has been blackballed at the U.N. ever since. Instead of the Elliott Ness the United States wanted, Boutros-Ghali provided a Barney Fife.

There is nothing new in U.N. Secretary Generals trying to expand their power, but Boutros-Ghali was the Michael Milken of diplomatic ambition. His 1992 Agenda for Peace proposed that the U.N. get involved in civil wars around the world. That is called “assertive multilateralism” in U.N.-speak, or as people used to say, war. To do that, Boutros-Ghali wanted his own 10,000-man army. In his Oxford University speech, he called for worldwide taxes on things like airplane tickets to support his U.N. so he would not be dependent on the contributions of meddlers like the United States, who “have no diplomacy” and “complicate my job.” Boutros-Ghali is, after all, someone who, despite the evidence of the 20th century, remains true to his socialist roots and still sees collective solutions to economic problems. Not surprisingly, his April 1996 Foreign Affairs article demonizes the market economy for driving large numbers of people around the world into “deeper poverty and despair,” and sees the Secretary General as leading the U.N., the mother of all collectives, to the rescue. He concluded his article with a Clouseau-like sentence that had to produce a few chuckles in capitals around the world: “Nothing is more precious to the United Nations than its reputation.”

You would think candidates for Secretary General would read like a top executive search for a Fortune 500 company, and that the U.N. might have appointed an Acting Secretary General for six months or a year in order to search out world-class candidates. Isaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea, the newest African state, quite properly called the current process for selecting a Secretary General “senseless and futile.” “The new Secretary General,” Afwerki said, “should be the best possible candidate, regardless of where the person is from. Even talking as an African, why should he be an African? Why can’t the candidate be the one with the most integrity who is qualified to make a lot of changes in the organization—whether that candidate comes from Europe, Asia, Africa, whatever?” Why not, indeed? Can you imagine IBM or EXXON deciding at Thanksgiving that its new chief executive had to be chosen before Christmas and only from a pool of candidates living in New England? Absurd as this sounds, this is essentially how the U.N. has chosen a Secretary General.

Kofi Annan, God willing, will serve as U.N. Secretary General into the next century. I have lived in Africa and gone to school in England and know a good many Ghanaians. I cannot think of one who is not a pleasure to be with, and Kofi Annan is by all accounts well liked and charming. But will he be the one at long last to put himself on record as standing for reform? Or will it be business as usual? For 50 years, Kofi Annan has worked in the U.N. with responsibilities for Planning, Budget and Finance, Personnel, and most recently Peacekeeping Operations, which means his fingerprints have been all over the most egregious failures in the United Nations. That is not encouraging. Nor is the fact that General Manfred Eisele, Kofi Annan’s deputy for the past few years, could not remember Annan ever reducing a budget or eliminating a single program. Secretary General Annan did promise “to work with all member states to redefine the objectives of the organization,” which would be fine if, as the U.N. Charter envisioned, the U.N. were an organization of peace-loving nations that protected human rights and the improved life for people around the world, but as former U.S. Ambassador Charles Lichenstein has pointed out, if those principles were taken seriously, two-thirds of the U.N.’s members would be expelled. We can hope and pray that Kofi Annan will experience a conversion like St. Paul’s, give full rein to people like Joseph Connor, become a no-nonsense manager and reformer, and that the member states will cooperate with him. But barring divine intervention, it looks as if the election of Kofi Annan, career U.N. bureaucrat, as U.N. Secretary General, means we will have five more years of management-challenged leadership at the helm as the U.N. spins out of control.