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3/07/2005

Bolton Nominated for UN Ambassadorship

This is crazy. Bush has nominated John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton's take on the UN:

At a 1994 panel discussion sponsored by the World Federalist Association Bolton claimed "there's no such thing as the United Nations," and stated "if the UN secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
For more on Bolton, see:

Council on Hemispheric Affairs: John Bolton's Appointment Would Destroy State Department Credibility, 12/15/04.

FUGOP: John Bolton and Arms Control, 9/3/04.

Update, 5:14 PM EST: A thicker AP write-up is out. Kofi Annan has a typically diplomatic response to Bolton's nomination:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was alerted in a telephone call from Rice in advance of the appointment, said through a spokesman he looked forward to working with Bolton.

"I don't know about what previous biases he may bring here," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "We have nothing against people who do hold us accountable. On the contrary, I think we do want to be held accountable."
Meanwhile, thinkprogress.org has been Bolton-blogging all day, noting Bolton's admiration of war-profiteers, his ideological and personal affinity with Jesse Helms, and his asinine hostility to the UN. An updated version of Brooke Lierman's bio of Bolton is available at www.americanprogress.com. It's important to remember that Bolton was a shock troop in the 2000 election recount fight.

Mark Goldberg of Tapped argues that Bolton's nomination would doom the already precarious possibility of the International Criminal Court presiding over the Darfur war crimes. Mark might be operating under a false assumption, though; Bolton has been nominated, not appointed - he will need to be confirmed by the Senate. 43 Democrats voted against him in 2001, which is enough for a filibuster (though we've lost 4/5 seats in the Senate since then). There may even be some decent Republicans who would recognize the folly of confirming Bolton [not holding breath].

Atrios argues that Bolton's appointment is counterproductive, regardless of what ends you think the UN should serve. His appointment only makes sense if you believe the UN should serve no end.

The New York Times article on the nomination carries a lot of "A says/B says" reaction, including Senator Reid's:
Mr. Bolton's confirmation hearings appear sure to generate controversy, possibly even among some Republicans, although few expect the nomination to be blocked. Mr. Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, said Mr. Bolton would have "much to answer for" during confirmation hearings.

"At a time when President Bush has recognized we need to begin repairing our damaged relations with the rest of the world," Mr. Reid said in a statement, "he nominates someone with a long history of being opposed to working cooperatively with other nations."
Again, I'm not so sure that Bolton's confirmation is a fait accompli. Raw Story has more details on Reid's comments, as well as excerpts from Senator Kerry's blistering reaction.

David Corn provides more background on Bolton, including his entanglement in a "fizzled" scandal involving a $100 million Taiwanese slush fund used "influence activities within the United States." Bolton got some undisclosed dough from Taiwan. Perhaps this fizzled scandal can sizzle in the confirmation hearing. I don't mean to quibble with Corn's nomenclature, but I think it's misleading to call Bolton a neoconservative. He doesn't fit the archetype - there's no evidence he was once a liberal, there's no ideological affinity for the Scoop Jackson tradition - there's merely Jesse Helms and his truculent isolationism.

On the other side, David Keene of the American Conservative Union applauds the nomination of his "good friend" Mr. Bolton, recipient of "the Courage Under Fire award at the 2004 Conservative Political Action Conference." Swift Boat Veterans for Truth received the award at the 2005 CPAC.

Via Reuters, Danielle Pletka also comes to Bolton's defense:
"It is very important that John remain a public voice. While John's approach may at times be abrasive, the principles he represents are clearly those of the president," said Danielle PLetka, vice president of the pro-Bush American Enterprise Institute, where Bolton once worked.

"Speaking softly and carrying a big stick has many virtues, but there's a still a role for loud and clear (especially) in an institution that needs to hear things loud and clear before they'll do anything," she told Reuters.
It looks like the debate over Bolton is going to break down like this: Republicans will falsely attribute to "some people" the idea that Bolton is unacceptable because he is "plain spoken." They will mercilessly beat this straw man, arguing that we need tough talk against evil regimes and feckless institutions.

Democrats will respond by noting that Bolton has affirmatively hurt our national security. He has hampered efforts, tacitly endorsed by the administration, to pursue diplomatic solutions to both the Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation threats. He has scuttled important treaties that would secure nuclear fissile material because of an ideological, Helms-inspired, objection to verification and inspection regimes. He delayed, at great risk to the country, efforts to control Russia fissile material stocks because he didn't want the U.S. to insure the program against accidents. Imaginary mushroom clouds in Iraq were worth $300 billion and 1500 lives and counting, but actually existing nuclear weapons in Russia weren't worth insurance premiums.

Republicans will counter these charges by accusing us of wanting tyrant/terrorist molly-coddlers to run the world.

Update, 3/8/05, 12:05 PM EST: Susan Rice has an oped in the Post criticizing the Bolton appointment, yet holding out a meager hope that "[Bolton] will have to be for the United Nations what Richard Nixon was for China: a hard-liner who effectively forged groundbreaking change." Rice discounts by silence the admittedly slim, but still real, possibility of defeating Bolton. Steven Weisman of the New York Times seems to think that Hagel is down on Bolton, and there is evidence that Lugar is as well.

Fred Kaplan in Slate argues that Bolton's appointment is a sign of administration contempt for the United Nations. This is evident, but the real question is if it does any marginal damage to our international standing. The 2004 election was the ultimate sign of contempt for international cooperation, but it came not from the administration, but from a subset of he American people. Appointing Gonzales to AG was more evidence, but once a case is proven, piling on does little additional damage. Bush's "conciliatory" tour through Europe last month is revealed as a farce by the Bolton appointment, but I doubt many were naive enough to believe it was sincere to begin with. However, Julian Borger at Salon disagrees about the extent of European naivete, and he probably knows more about this than me.

AP's Anne Gearan has more on Bolton's "tough talk." Remember, but for John Bolton, the threat of nuclear terrorism would be dramatically lower. Russian nuclear materials would be more secure, the fissile materials control treaty would be in force, and that idea of inspections and verification would be more legitimate.

 

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