If you're among the 80 percent of Americans with no opinion/have never heard of the U.N. Secretary General, you're forgiven.  As all eyes are on the U.N. rogues gallery this week, many may indeed be wondering who is the man standing off to the side?  He is Ban Ki-moon, United Nations chief. 

When Mr. Ban won election to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary General in 2006, I wrote in a Washington Times oped ("No U.N. Panacea") that "This career diplomat is known in South Korea for never saying much of anything."  Half-way into his five-year term, Ban has affirmed my words.  About the only thing he has said of note was his characterization --to Members of Congress, no less-- of the U.S. as a "deadbeat" over U.N. dues.  (He apologized). 

I'm not the only one trying to watch Ban.  A recent article in Foreign Policy ("Nowhere Man") noted that, "Even in this unimpressive company" of former U.N. Secretary Generals, "Ban Ki-moon appears to have set the standard for failure." It called him "an accidental tourist, a dilettante on the international stage."  A Norwegian diplomatic memo (Norway plays a large role at the U.N.) leaked this summer calling the S.G. "spineless," "charmless," and "incapable" of setting an agenda.  Ouch!  As cold as an Oslo winter. 

Ban has tried to defend his record.  In a Wall Street Journal interview in July ("The U.N.'s 'Invisible Man'") Ban took credit for persuading Ahmadinejad not to deny the Holocaust in a U.N. conference speech earlier this year.  (He only called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime."  And he repeated his outrageous Holocaust claim last week.)  Ban's staff has described him as a "master of quiet diplomacy."  I've always considered "quiet diplomacy" to be lying down to thugs.  Indeed, Ban visited the military junta in Burma earlier this year, but failed to win a visit with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Yet at the end of the day, Ban's low voltage doesn't really trouble me.  The SG's main job is administration.  So getting a political non-entity was "exactly what we asked for," according to former Ambassador John Bolton.  I'll take an invisible man over a self-aggrandizer or world leader.  To the Norwegian's point, we can work with our friends to set the agenda.   

The administration grade looks to be low, though.  In the Journal interview, Ban spoke of reform efforts in the past tense.  One observer alleges that Ban has "continued the old tradition of cronyism and nepotism."  Same old U.N.  We'll see if the Obama Administration backs a second term, should Ban want one.   

U.N. update:  Last week, I posted ("Book Burning") on the contested election to head UNESCO.  The Egyptian candidate, Farouk Hosny, the initial front-runner, came under fire for having said he'd be willing to burn Israeli books.  I joined the attack.  The voting went five heated rounds, with representatives from Madagascar, Nigeria, Lebanon and Pakistan thought to have been replaced because they did not want to vote for Hosny.  Reports surfaced that Hosny, once an Egyptian diplomat in Rome, helped to organize the 1985 escape from Italy of the Achille Lauro hijackers.  In the end, Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian, came from behind to win.  I'm no friend of UNESCO, but I'll celebrate her victory.  The Egyptian's response?  Yup, he blamed the Jews.  (AP: "Egyptian minister blames Jews for UNESCO loss").