Thursday, March 17, 2005

Samantha Powers on John Bolton

In this week's New Yorker Samantha Powers takes a look at George W. Bush's latest one-finger salute to the world- the nomination of John Bolton to become abassador to the U.N. (via the Gadflyer)
Barring a sudden and improbable outbreak of independent judgment in the Senate, John Bolton will soon be confirmed as President Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations, an institution he openly disdains. “It is a President’s prerogative to name his ambassadors,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan meekly told reporters last week. When he was asked whether he saw the nomination as a hostile act, he laughed and said, “I’m not sure I want to be drawn on that one.” At U.N. headquarters, staffers walked around in a daze of disbelief. They had hoped that Bush’s congenial European trip—combined with the U.N.’s moves toward internal reform and its indispensable role in pulling off the Iraqi elections—would spawn a U.S.-U.N. détente. Then came word that Bush was sending them Bolton.

“I’m pro-American,” Bolton says, as if that required him to be anti-world. He dismisses the U.N.’s tools for promoting peace and security. International law? “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so—because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.” (Never mind that such laws might have “constricted” the torture of detainees.) Humanitarian intervention? It’s “a right of intervention that is just a gleam in one beholder’s eye but looks like flat-out aggression to somebody else.” Negotiation as a way of dealing with rogue states? “I don’t do carrots,” Bolton says.


Bolton is also a longtime skeptic of tools that are increasingly part of the Bush Administration’s arsenal. Nation building is a “fallacy,” he thinks. “The U.S. is still engaged in nation building here two hundred and twenty-five years plus after the Declaration of Independence, and we still have a long way to go,” he said in 2002. “The idea that we can nation build for somebody else is just unrealistic.” When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Bolton’s nomination, last Monday, she said, “We who are on the right side of freedom’s divide have an obligation to help those who are unlucky enough to be born on the wrong side of that divide.” But Bolton, who stood stoically next to her, has never believed that spreading freedom is America’s business.

It is unclear what the Bush Administration has in mind by shipping Bolton to New York. The appointment has been spun as “Nixon goes to China.” Nixon, however, actually went to China: the visit was compatible with his world view. Bolton, by contrast, seems averse to compromise, and is apparently committed to the belief that the U.N. and international law undermine U.S. interests. If he is to be an engine for U.N. reform, he will have to jettison his core values. He will have to work on expanding the Security Council, even though, in 1997, he said, “Leave the veto alone, and leave the Security Council’s membership alone.” (More recently, he suggested shrinking membership to a single state: his.) He will have to work with European states, even though he believes that “some Europeans have never lost faith in appeasement as a way of life.” He will have to coöperate with China, even though he has called for full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. And, if the Administration is serious about prosecuting the perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur, he will have to allow the Security Council to refer the case to the I.C.C.
Bolton may not "do carrots" but he does do screaming. If you'd like to get a taste of Bolton's style of "diplomacy", check out this video of him screaming at other diplomat types. So at a time when Generals such as Zinni and Clark are pushing for greater cooperation with the rest of the world, the Bush Administration keeps heading down the lonely and dangerous path of unilateralism.

How much longer can we head down this path before our leaders realize that we need international cooperation to ensure our own security?