Monday, January 03, 2005

Kofi, the U.N., and the Dot.Com Bust

One wonders how the world gets by without Richard Holbrooke as part of our government. With an ego the size of Kojo Annan’s Swiss bank account, the Democrats’ favorite diplomat has put on his mask and cape and is riding to the rescue.

After arranging for a “secret gathering” at his Manhattan apartment, Holbrooke and his out-of-work pals at the Council of Foreign Relations gave Kofi Annan a confidential pep talk with the goal of saving his position as Secretary General and improving relations with the U.S.

Then he promptly went public with the New York Times to tout his heroic efforts:

"(I) care deeply about the UN and believe that the UN cannot succeed if it is in open dispute and constant friction with its founding nation, its host nation and its largest contributor nation."
Needless to say, the actual results of this “internal” diplomacy are nowhere to be found. And that’s because the U.N. resembles more and more the failed Dot.coms of the technology bubble.

That’s right. The U.N. model is akin to the failed Dot.com business plans drawn on the backs of napkins throughout the Silicon Valley in the late 90s. Those plans were showered with venture capital funds based on Powerpoint diagrams and the belief in the limitless application of technology. But then, just like the U.N. in the tsunami relief effort, reality kicked in.

The failed Dot.coms believed that all the nuts and bolts of value creation could be seamlessly outsourced to other entities through the magic of system integration. The Dot.com would be the Integrator, getting the fees and margin with little capital expended, while sub-contractors did the dirty work.

Just like the Dot.coms, the U.N. is trying to skim the political capital in the relief operation while the member states do the heavy lifting, and it’s not clear what value it is bringing to the party.

With no significant assets, poor performance monitoring, a history of graft and un-accountability, no generated cash-flow, no long-term strategy, no "products", and the reliance on outsourcing partners for execution (i.e. U.S., India, Australia, and Japan), the U.N. is on the path to becoming a Dot.Bomb.

It's the bricks and mortar countries like the U.S., Australia, India, and Japan that have chosen to execute through partnership, not outsourcing, that are having success loading the vessels, flying the helicopters, manning the warehouses, delivering the goods, and saving lives. Now if Richard Holbrooke could just get Kofi Annan to liquidate. . .