Home / Bolton Nomination is About Direction of UN

Bolton Nomination is About Direction of UN

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Bolton narrowly passed the committee today, and he’s likely to be confirmed unless the Democrats block it.

Part of this isn’t really about Bolton, though, it’s about what we think the UN is, and what we think it can become. The Democrats tend to think more idealistically on international relations. They figure that the UN is going to deliver us to a new age of peace, prosperity, and cooperation. When confronted with the problems in the UN (oil-for-food scandal, inefficiency, etcetera) they will generally acknowledge that problems exist, but that they can be fixed.

Those who support Bolton think that the UN is broken and that it’s not really possible to ‘fix’ it in the way that liberals have proposed.

I tend to fall in with the latter camp. The UN bureaucracy can come out with all the thousand page plans it wants. It can call for each country to donate a trillion dollars, whatever. But unless they have a standing army, they’re just a body with no appendages. And they’re not getting a standing army.

What we need is a man that will not be taken in by idealistic ideas that the UN is part of a sacred Brotherhood of Man, and that resolutions and agreements passed there should be held sacred. We need a man that will acknowledge the true balance of power.

We need a man that won’t raise a fuss when we happen to break some pottering resolution about World Awareness Day, or whatever.

I don’t know if Bolton is the best man that fulfills that requirement, but he’s the only one that’s being put forward. The charges that he’s a mean guy are irrelevant. He looks and acts like a mean guy in public life, he’s probably mean in private as well. The charges that he’s tried to spin intelligence are equally irrelevant, and I’ll tell you why.

The only situation where such a thing would really come into play would be if he pulled a Colin Powell, and explained the ‘evidence’ that he had of some activity or other. Even if Bolton did do one of these, it wouldn’t matter, because:

1) The US does not have any intelligence credibility with the UN community anyway.
2) Bolton is/would try to to reduce the importance of the UN. He wouldn’t care nearly so much about getting the consent of Zimbabwe. Thus, there is considerably less motive to attempt to twist intelligence.
3) Bolton would not ask the UN’s permission.

Some of the editorial treatment Bolton has been getting also annoys me. From the New York Times:

In 1999, for example, Mr. Bolton ridiculed the notion that the Security Council is the only body that can legitimize one country’s use of force against another when it has not been attacked, which, of course, the Council is.

Alright, fine. To the extent that a war can be legitimate anyway. What does it mean for a war to be ‘legitimate’? Does it mean that everyone agrees (on a purely moral level) that this war is good for the world and that this (or that) side is right? Bolton is perfectly correct: the UN cannot legitimize a war. The only way a war can be legitimized is for other countries to ally.

What I’ve read from the MSM on Bolton with regard to this intelligence-twisting issue has been frustratingly vague. A lot of hear-say, a lot of unverifiable connections between events. Perhaps I’m overlooking the relevant material, but I’d like to see what Bolton said or did compared side by side with what actually happened.

If there is hard and fast evidence that Bolton knowingly lied and distorted data, then by all means he should be removed from consideration. If there’s evidence that he actually assaulted someone or something, then take him out and banish him to Siberia. But if all anyone has got is a bunch of fired staffers complaining about him in various ways, then no one has got all that much.

In the past, the UN ambassador has been almost entirely invisible. It was not the UN ambassador that mounted the stand to address the assembly on the WMDs, it was Powell. Who was the guy? Does anyone know? I think it’ll be wonderful to get someone in there that can throw some weight around and shake the place up.

I’m tired of constantly being moralized at about all the high ideals and opportunities we’re missing out on by not fully participating in the UN’s bureaucratic black hole, and if Bolton can inject a dose of reality, then let’s inject Bolton, despite the initial shock.

Also, see Uriel‘s article, right before this one, on what mystifies me about some of the Bolton coverage. A detailed and very interesting dissection.

Cross-posted to Leoniceno’s Corner

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  • Sam Jack

    Looking back on this several years later, I’d just like to note for posterity that John Bolton is a blowhard who seems emotionally stunted, and who lacks any semblance of thoughtfulness. I don’t have to time to review and assess the arguments I made in the above article, but I was mistaken to support his UN nomination. More broadly, I was unwise to try and spew political opinion articles at such a speedy clip.

  • Good article.

    You know, the UN has had 60 years to try to do something worthwhile. It hasn’t got a terribly good record in all that time.

    Maybe it’s had enough of our money and enough second chances. Maybe it’s time for some accountability.


  • Well, our Armed Forces are stretched pretty thin. If another regional hot spot rises up that needs troops, can we supply them all by ourselves?

    If you believe so, then it’s true, we can pick any belligerent yahoo to any diplomatic post we want.

    But if there is an off chance that we might want to address a need for troops without automatically going to the draft, we might consider that we need the help of other countries.

    There are issues with the UN, just as their are issues with any large organization. Does it seem reasonable that the way to fix them to our liking is to put someone into the organization who is reluctant to work with others? If your kids Little League organization was dysfunctional, would you try and fix it by appointing as its commisioner the most argumentative person you could find? I am amazed how common sense seems to be so unconnected from how we consider our government.

    It’s no crime to be an obnoxious jerk, but it’s NOT a recommendation either. Is this really the best person that America can come up with? If he’s not, why are we settling for less when we need to get back onto the same side as the rest of the world? If Bolton is the best person we can come up with, well, that is sad.

    I sometimes think that the Republicans have slipped into a heavy case of low self-esteem. They seem to believe that America doesn’t deserve the best people to represent it.

    On a more particular point about Bolton, you dismiss the complaints about him as disgruntled underlings. But how do you address those ABOVE him who were disgruntled as well? When Bolton had to be cut out of the loop by his superiors in more than one instance, what does that say about his competence as a public servant.

    Voinivich is right, if Bolton was in a private company he would have been canned for insubordination to superiors AS WELL as for harrasment of those under him. Even a Republican might think we could do better (but then again, a Republican doesn’t allow themselves to ask for much, just take whomever Bush sends and be quiet) .