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Bolton may offer tough love

Staff Reports

Senate confirmation hearings are taking place this week on the nomination of John Bolton to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Already there have been acrimonious charges and counter-charges.Senator John Kerry’s web site states that “Bolton’s nomination is another example of the Bush Administration’s determination to award high government posts to those who have been the architects of some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions of the last four years. Why should we retain, much less promote, those who have failed to make America more safe and secure?”Kerry is joined by a group of 67 former U.S. diplomats, State Department officials or officials of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency who claim that “John Bolton’s insistence that the UN is valuable only when it directly serves the United States, and that the most effective Security Council would be one where the U.S. is the only permanent member, will not help him to negotiate with representatives of the remaining 96 percent of humanity at a time when the UN is actively considering enlargement of the Security Council and steps to deal more effectively with failed states and to enhance the UN’s peacekeeping capability.”Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar, noting the controversy, said opponents have criticized Bolton as “abrasive, confrontational and insensitive” but commented “Some of these same statements have been celebrated by supporters as demonstrating a tough-minded, refreshingly blunt approach to diplomacy.”As an example of this refreshing approach, Bolton has said, “If the UN secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” He has stated “Diplomacy is not an end in itself if it does not advance U.S. interests.” And he has questioned the effectiveness and the very purpose of the United Nations; saying once “There is no such thing as the United Nations.” In a Weekly Standard article entitled Kofi Annan’s UN Power Grab, Bolton criticized the UN Secretary General for trying to limit warfare and to establish the supremacy of UN forces. “If the United States allows that claim to go unchallenged, its discretion in using force to advance its national interests is likely to be inhibited in the future.”This week, Bolton has been more diplomatic, saying that the U.N. has both strengths and weaknesses and that if confirmed he would try to help forge a stronger relationship between the United States and the United Nations, “which demands decisive American leadership.” But this comes from the man who was major opponent of the establishment of the International Criminal Court and called the moment that the U.S. signature on the ICC treaty was withdrawn his “happiest in government.” He was against a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, and has also been a vocal opponent of Mohamed El- Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and has led the effort to deny him a third term.Bolton has his supporters, including William Kristol, who has written that, “Republicans should welcome a discussion of whether the U.N. is just fine as it is, or requires tough-minded reform. In stimulating such a debate, Bolton would be doing yet another service to this country.” His allies see him as carrying out policies in line with Bush’s true vision. And Richard N. Perle, a former Pentagon adviser who has worked with Bolton at the American Enterprise Institute, commented, “He is very tough-minded and is not romantic about trusting promises, particularly promises of regimes that have a history of saying whatever they need to say to accomplish their purposes.”Opponents believe that Bolton’s emphasis on unilateral action heightens conflicts without offering the means to solve them and is in fact undermining the White House’s foreign policy goals. “John Bolton fails to recognize the value of setting clear standards through international agreements and would rather be righteous and lose a battle than engage, compromise and contain a proliferation problem,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.So, does Bolton have history on his side and is the UN in for some “tough love?” Even opponents agree that Bolton was successful in his efforts to create PSI the Proliferation Security Initiative whereby invited nations willing to work under U.S. rules agree to stop and search ships suspected of carrying weapons. This led to an interception of a shipment that helped uncover and eventually eliminate Libya’s nuclear weapon program. PSI was a response to UN failure to act effectively and was in line with Bolton’s philosophy that unilateral action or multilateral action outside the UN framework is fully justified if the UN itself lacks the commitment to back up its stated aims with effective action.It remains to be seen how effective Bolton can be in his new position, if confirmed by the Senate. VTPeter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears periodically in the Vail Trail.


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