Monday, August 01, 2005

Bolton Appointed

President Bush has appointed John Bolton in a recess appointment. CNN's story is here. The BBC has a report here.

While President Bush has gotten his way with the Bolton nomination, despite not being able to muster the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster, this is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory at best. With the looming free-for-all this fall over Security Council reform, the last thing the U.S. needs is an envoy who doesn't seem to even have the support of his domestic government. And, coupled with scepticism as to whether Bolton can even make the type of bargains that will be necessary, the President has sought a path that may win him plaudits from U.S. conservatives, but is unlikely to lead to effective U.S. foreign policy.

This is particularly sad given recent Washington whispers for other possible candidates for the post of U.N. ambassador that had suport from both sides of the aisle. Perhaps the most interesting name floated was Newt Gingrich. But this was the road not taken.

This is also particularly troubling given the gravity of issues facing the U.S. and the U.N. come the opening of the General Assembly this fall. Between Security Council reform, the ongoing Iraqi situation, and nascent crises such as the possible collapse of Haiti's government, we need someone in the U.N. who actually wants the U.N. to succeed in its tasks, who understands the mechanisms of international organizations, and who has the diplomatic clout to rally support behind U.S. interests.

No one has ever made a credible claim that John Bolton is that person.


I edited this post to weed out a typo caught in the comments.


Blogger Chris said...

"[T]wo-thirds of the Senate needed for confirmation"? You mean, majority of the Senate required to change the rules on filibusters of nominations, or 60 votes required to end a filibuster.

8/01/2005 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"While President Bush has gotten his way with the Bolton nomination, despite not being able to muster the two-thirds of the Senate needed for confirmation."

First of all, one requires a bare majority of 50 to confirm. The Democrats, without precedent, were subjecting Bolton to a filibuster which requires 60 votes to break.

If Democrats wanted to play procedural hardball, President Bush one-upped them.

And by the way, two-thirds of 100 is 60, not 66; no wonder you're a lawyer and not a whip.

8/01/2005 3:44 PM  
Blogger Julian Ku said...

Hey Everyone,

Let's play nice here. Blogging is a dangerous activity- no editors, instant publications, typos and errors are inevitable (I have committed far more than most). So cut Chris and myself (and all other bloggers) a break for small typos like this. Corrections are welcome, but snarky comments are not.

8/01/2005 7:38 PM  
Blogger Chris Borgen said...

Fair enough. You caught my typo. But what of my argument?

8/02/2005 1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right: sorry. I posted the second snarky comment. As it turns out, I made a math error as well: "And by the way, two-thirds of 100 is 60, not 66; no wonder you're a lawyer and not a whip." I should have switched the 60 and 66.

I think Newt would have been a horrible pick; he'd use it to jumpstart a Presidential run. He'd be representing himself, not the United States. Plus, compared to Bolton, Newt knows nothing about the UN or international law: he'd get frustrated and try shutting the UN down, methinks.

"[1] We need someone in the U.N. who actually wants the U.N. to succeed in its tasks, [2] who understands the mechanisms of international organizations, and [3] who has the diplomatic clout to rally support behind U.S. interests."

As for [1], I agree with your use of language. We need someone who wants the UN to succeed in its tasks, not just someone who wants the UN to suceed. Bolton's criticisms of the UN are that it doesn't live up to the ideals of the Charter. Who but him will better hold the UN accountable for its failures and show it the tough love it needs if it hopes to succeed?

As for [2], I think, unique among conservatives, John Bolton truly has a learned, strategic outlook on the future of the UN and international law. He has written and spoken a great deal about it. Sure, his views are probably diametrically opposed to your own, but his views are, to be honest, almost identical to what Bush's would be if he cared to think a bit about the issue: He represents the President, which is his job. John Bolton may be slightly extreme, but he understands his role very well.

As for [3], this is a serious problem. I fear that many at the UN will see Bolton as someone who doesn't have the backing of America (because of the recess appointment thing) and will not take him seriously. Does this make him unqualified? No. It means the Democrats should have been more careful with their Bolton attacks; by smearing him, all they did is hurt the US' potential to represent its interests at the UN.

That said, I think Bolton is particularly qualified and understands the job well enough that he will overcome his supposed "illegitimacy."

Also, John Bolton has been very succesful as working with allies. My two favourite achievements of Colin Powell's State Department were the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Article 98 agreements for the ICC, both of which had Bolton's name written all over them. He knows how to rally support behind his view of the way things should be.

I've spoken to Bolton once about an essay I was writing about a rather quaint topic: the law of the sea and piracy as a way of combatting terrorism: Let's just say that he knows his international law (he even quoted Dolliver Nelson to me).

8/02/2005 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I'm hoping that John Bolton will turn out to be a "Nixon-going-to-China" kind of guy. That is to say, no one expected the fiercely anti-Communist Nixon to ever open diplomatic relations with China. But when he did, other anti-Communists had to fall in line.

Maybe John Bolton will surprise us, too. Who knows. But I also read that lots of the groundwork for U.N. reform has been somewhat set. So perhaps John Bolton will not be able to cause too much damage (even if he wanted to cause any damage).

Let's just hope for the best.

8/02/2005 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand Prof. Borgen's position. Bush got his way... so? That's a bad thing? He's the president, he appointed his ambassador to the U.N... there's absolutely nothing Pyrrhic about it.

Rather the democrats obstructed with false arguments and now lost. If there are officials at the U.N. who plan to respond to Bolton as someone without the backing of the U.S., they do so at their own peril.

As for security council reform, are you serious? Nothing will happen -- no countries will be added, unless it takes the form of a nebulous "we plan to add countries ten years from now" resolution.

Finally, as for understanding the mechanism of the IO's -- perhaps what we don't need (assuming arguendo that Bolton does not understand the IO mechanisms, which I dispute) is someone too comfortable with the current workings of the IO's, but someone to take a fresh look into the corridors.

Further, the entire argument that such is such is the wrong person, that X has the wrong temperment, that Y hasn't proven himself is so out of line with the American experience as to be nearly dangerous. In U.S. history it's precisely those people who weren't ready, but who rose to the occasion and served magnificiently that fill the pages of our history books, and that appear on our currency. A quick look at any handful of the founding fathers and leaders in the Continental Army highlight overwhelmingly they weren't arguably ready for the duty they were called to perform; a further look at history reveals however how many rose to the occasion with magnificience.

So when Biden, my own detestible Senator Schumer, Dodd, Levin and other senators on the left, whose own individual temperments more resemble rabid canines, complain about Bolton's temperment or judgment I'm very inclined to brush them off with dispatch.

8/02/2005 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Had the privilege of watching the video footage of Bolton's most controversial comments on the UN from 1994.

It seems quickly forgotten that the terms on which we were with the UN then, and the terms on which we are with the UN now, are drastically different. A primary reason was the work of the CLinton Administration, especially of Ambassador Holbrooke in the later years, who became close to annan. Strong relations with the UN was a priority for that Administration.

But the worldviews of the Bush and Clinton Adminstrations are drastically different. The Utopianism of the Clinton Administration saw the UN and international law as an engine, where as the Hobbesian views and acts of the Bush Administration see the UN as a convenient tool for diplomatic purposes, but far from an engine, and certainly not a trusty engine at that. The UN, for all intensive purposes, seems to fit both niches in US foreign policy.

The crossroads we are witnessing right now is whether the UN is one or the other. Or at least, that is how UN diplomats and media members who subscribe to the global community utopianism that CLinton once propounded, and continues to propound. Really, it is a question of the engine that the UN can be - certainly it can be a driver in a Clinton global utopia, or it can be an engine of diplomacy. In either instance, the engine needs upgrading and repair.

Bolton represents the archetypal Hobbesian anti-utopian. As bold as his words were, It is not that he was or is wrong - the engine does need repair, and Bolton's approach is an approach to engine repair. Will we have the final say? unlikely, but nonetheless, perhaps we should have some concern for the virulence of his past words, but back in 1994, the UN had been far from reliable. Lest one forget, Boutros Boutros Ghali had been its Chief, had provided little funding to prevent or investigate war crimes, and left it mired in scandal. Hence, in 1994, there were many reasons to argue that 10 floors of the UN building were being needlessly occupied, or at the very least, certainly mismanaged.

Might the virulence of his words then have been fueled by the mismanagement of Ghali? By Srebenica? Only he knows, and certainly no accounts (to my knowledge) of his prior testimony have hinted at this. But when faced with the bureaucratic corruption and inadequacy in the face of pure evil and genocide, if not failure in its core mission, what might you have said about the UN in 1994?

A bridge exists between the US and UN because of the work of the Clinton Administration. It's been beaten by the war of words over Iraq. But there is an opportunity here to improve a vital organization. Bolton's opinions, though likely to ruffle a few feathers, aren't without substantive justification.

8/02/2005 3:44 PM  
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