Former UN delegate John Bolton, the object of attention of the friends of the enemies of US interests, was tapped by President George Bush to serve in the State Department as undersecretary for arms control and international security. His appointment as UN delegate was opposed by US Sen Chris Dodd, among others, and the opponents were able to prevent the nomination from coming to a vote in congress.
Writing in National Review, Jay Nordlinger tells us, that Bolton’s most notable achievement in the State Department “was to lead the diplomatic effort to establish the Proliferation Security Initiative, which has been useful in slowing the spread of nuclear weapons. (It got Qaddafi in Libya, for example.) Bolton is often faulted for being a diplomat lacking in diplomacy; repeatedly, his record contradicts that impression. What trips people up is Bolton’s strict pursuit of American interests; they think of diplomacy as multilateralism for its own sake.”
Using the seat in the UN as other nations invariably do – to project and promote national interests – was the fly in the ointment of those who think that the UN should always and everywhere represent international interests, too often defined at “turtle bay” as interests that subvert the foreign and national interests of the United States and its allies. Such people have never read any of the lengthy highly partisan speeches of its members.
Bolton’s opponents – who, unsurprisingly, were Bush’s opponents, most prominently Democrats such as Sen. Chris Dodd and their allies in the media – “… contended that Bolton was utterly unfit to work at the U.N. A reporter for the Washington Post said a lot when he said that Democrats had ‘assailed Bolton’s knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve.’ Many of us responded that that was exactly the problem: These Democrats thought that the purpose of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. was to serve the United Nations; in fact, his job was to serve the United States, in the arena of the U.N. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, said of Bolton, ‘He’s been contemptuous of the U.N.’ Many of us pointed out that there was much to be contemptuous about: Saddam Hussein’s chairmanship of the nuclear-disarmament committee; Bashar Assad’s chairmanship of the human-rights committee. The presence of the Cuban, Sudanese, and other monstrous regimes on that committee. And so on. Democrats clearly wanted the U.S. ambassador to be a U.N. advocate; they also clearly cherished the international body as a check on Bush foreign policy.”
“Once at Turtle Bay, Bolton worked with his usual alacrity and skill. He tirelessly presented the American position, whatever it was, on any subject. A Washington Post article put it well after he resigned: Bolton had “recast the role of ambassador to the United Nations, a post traditionally filled by prominent Americans who helped explain the organization to Washington.” This ambassador had been more interested in explaining Washington’s views to the organization. His critics liked to paint him as a “rogue,” a wild ideological animal — but he certainly never veered from the president. As he put it to a group of journalists last summer, “Some people may find it unfortunate, but I actually follow my instructions.” And you were seldom unclear where Bolton, together with the president, stood. When Bolton left, the ambassador from India said of his counterpart’s frankness, ‘It made it easier for us, because we knew exactly what his position was.’”
Few of Bolton’s detractors, especially Dodd, spoke of his record in the UN when they signaled that they were prepared to block his appointment yet a second time. Nordlinger outlined some of Bolton's chief accomplishments as UN delegate:
“You might point to a flurry of resolutions, passed in the Security Council between July and October of this year: No. 1695, on North Korean nukes; No. 1696, on Iranian nukes; No. 1701, on the Hezbollah–Israel war; No. 1706, approving a U.N. force to Darfur; and No. 1718, again on North Korea. All of these resolutions were passed unanimously, except for the one concerning Iran, which Qatar opposed. Of course, you might ask what these resolutions mean if there is no follow-through — no consequence — as Bolton himself has long and eloquently asked. The Security Council acts on Iran, and Tehran thumbs its nose — to which Annan, the Europeans, and the U.N. at large say, “All right.” The Security Council acts on Darfur, and Khartoum says, “Nothing doing” — to which the U.N. blob says, “All right.” Hezbollah and its allies in Syria and Iran are happily violating Resolution 1701, and hardly anyone cares. No wonder the world’s tyrants disregard and snort at the U.N. Security Council. But if you are interested in resolutions and count them as a good, Bolton has succeeded.”
“Best about Bolton was the spirit he brought to his work, the clear relish he took in it. He was idealistic and hardheaded in equal measure. He talked to the press constantly, about anything they wanted to talk about. And he was almost always on the record. With the “gaggle,” he was informative, entertaining, caustic, charming. His briefings were one of the best shows in town. He felt that public diplomacy was part of his job, so he made sure to be heard on al-Jazeera, the BBC, Japanese television — all over. Some other U.N. diplomats resented his dealings with the press. But they talked too, only off the record, or in leaks and such.”
Those opposing Bolton’s appointment as a UN delegate had an opportunity to ground their opposition in Bolton’s record in office, but they chose not to do so. It’s tough to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.