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March 15, 2005

Bolton and his predecessors
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

One question that I have not seen raised is what the choice of Bolton says about the other two people who have held the post of Ambassador to the UN during the Bush Administration.  The White House is now saying, in essence, we need someone as tough-minded (and even hostile) as they come to hold down the fort at the U.S. Mission to the UN, so we don't let this organization of rogues run roughshod over American interests.  But neither of Bolton's predecessors - Amb. John D. Negroponte and former Senator John Danforth were remotely in that mold.   Since the Administration can hardly argue that the challenges at the U.S. Mission have gotten any tougher than during the bitter split over military intervention in Iraq that unfolded in late 2002 and early 2003, its hard to see how the nomination of Bolton is not in some sense an indictment of the type of representation that Negroponte and Danforth provided.  If they did the job well why would it be so important to appoint someone with Bolton's hard-hearted attitude toward the world body?  If Bolton-style toughness is essential, the implication is that Negroponte and Danforth somehow fell short.  Yet although Danforth seems to be heading forth to retirement, Negroponte - who in fact presided over the Iraq impasse - has since been promoted twice to positions that could not be more important, and that require at least as much mettle and determination as the UN job.  He has served as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and was nominated last month to become the country's first Director of National Intelligence.  The upshot:  there was nothing fundamentally wrong with either Negroponte or Danforth's brands of diplomacy, and nor is there any reason why - as a matter of style or steeliness - that we need Bolton.  In fact, the Administration was so happy with the job Negroponte did that they've promoted him to literally the most sensitive jobs they have to fill (part of the reason is, of course, his confirmed confirmability, but they must also have confidence in him).  Bolton's nomination is in fact simply a sop to the right, not motivated by any reasoned analysis of how the U.S can be effective at the UN.



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