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April 03, 2005

Weekly Top 10 List - Top 10 Reasons Why John Bolton Should Not Be Confirmed As U.S. Ambassador to the UN
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Bolton’s confirmation hearings start Thursday, and its not too late to weigh in, particularly with Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.  While the chances of flipping any conservatives on the SFRC to vote against Bolton are slim, Chafee is thought to be the best prospect.  For more on Bolton check out the Arsenal archive, the CAP website, and especially the washingtonnote.com which is on the forefront of this battle.

Top 10 Reasons:

10. He hates the UN. He’s said that the U.S. should be the only country on the UNSC, that the UN building could be shaved of 10 stories without it making a difference, etc.  Check here for direct quotes.

9. He doesn’t believe in paying U.S. dues to the UN. And has said so.  A big part of the job of UN envoy is working with the Hill to get U.S. contributions paid.  Withholding dues in the ‘80s and ‘90s led to a diplomatic debacle that took years to put right.  We don’t have the time, energy or goodwill to waste on such battles.

8. He won’t enjoy the support of U.S. diplomats around the world. 60+ ex-diplomats have signed a letter opposing Bolton. Current envoys feel the same way.  But Bolton will need the embassies to back him in capitals to succeed in pushing through U.S. proposals (see Retail Diplomacy).  Personal views about Bolton will undercut this support. 

7. He and the Secretary of State are not on the same page. Insiders seem unanimous that Bolton was foisted on Rice.  This is a recipe for tension between USUN and the Seventh Floor, a fissure that other countries will try to exploit. 

6. His statements on China are reckless.  He clearly enjoys the role of provocateur vis-à-vis China and Taiwan.  At a sensitive point in relations, we cannot afford to have a flamethrower in the mix.

5. The damage will not be confined to the UN.  Bolton is not a team player.  He has  a track record of breaking rules and exceeding his mandate (including by setting an unauthorized deadline for Russian acceptance of US conditions for remaining in the ABM treaty).  The UN post touches on a wide range of issues, and is notoriously difficult for the State Department to control.

4. Denying confirmation would signal the world that the foreign policy opposition is alive and kicking.  If they see an active progressive opposition, the world will continue to distinguish between their view of this Administration and their view of America at large.  With Bush’s reelection and supposed mandate, the separation gets harder -- and more important -- to sustain. 

3. He will not change his spots.  Some, including progressives, have argued that Bolton may change his ways once at the UN.  But this is the man with whom Jesse Helms wants to stand at Armageddon.  Can you imagine, if the roles were reversed, conservatives giving the “benefit of the doubt” for a nominee they saw as weak on security (“well, once he gets to the Pentagon, that may toughen him up”).

2. He is a proven opponent of arms control.  Bolton has blocked a slew of arms control agreements, from the CTBT to a small arms accord and a biological weapons agreement.   With proliferation, terrorism and the combination thereof topping of the list of threats against the U.S., arms control belongs at the forefront of U.S. national security strategy.  Bolton will stand in the way of that.

1. He will be ineffective in representing U.S. interests.  And this is most important of all.  Promoting U.S. interests at the UN is an art and a science.  A hammer is an essential part of UN diplomacy.  But Bolton is missing the rest of the toolbox.  See my article on Retail Diplomacy (PDF) for more on how the US can get its way at the UN through crafty diplomacy.

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Comments

Suzanne -

Thanks for your excellent list of reasons to oppose Bolton's nomination. I think it's also important that you look closely to the question of what Bolton's record of *effectiveness* has been in the past four years. Many of your arguments end up falling deaf ears when they compete with the idea that Bolton has been an "effective diplomat." His record as Undersecretary of State disproves this notion decisively. For more information, see my article at:
http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=477

"He will be ineffective in representing US interests"

I believe this is by far the strongest argument to be made with Sen. Chafee and other Republicans. And I wrote to Sen. Chafee last week saying so.

We have soldiers struggling with peace-keeping and nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and UN cooperation on Iran, Syria and North Korea is needed. Each of these issues trump Bolton's personal agenda.

These top ten lists are a great idea. Thanks for all your hard work.

Good top 10. Here are the predictable wingnut responses:

10. Good for him!
9. Good for him! I don't want my hard-earned money going to those tinpot tyrants at the UN!
8. Guess we better get us some new diplomats who won't undermine him, then.
7. Sounds like we need him to keep that wimp Condi in line.
6. Aww...did he hurt poor widdle communist China's feelings?
5. Great! He can have a positive influence beyond the UN!
4. A victory by the anti-American faction would be an open invitation to the world to take advantage of us, because our homegrown subversives won't let us act in our own interest.
3. Good for him! We need someone who stands for something, unlike those pussies in the Democrat party.
2. He won't let our hands be tied by...y'know...treaties.
1. Oh yeah...because maybe if we had just talked to al Qaeda they wouldn't have been so mean to us.

Which is greater--Bolton's anticipated performance at the UN, or the UN's known performance?

The argument I've heard most often used by Bolton's supporters is the Nixon-China argument that because he was such an critic in the past he'll be most able to reform the UN. If by reform they mean undermine, they might be right on. But #s 8 and 9 of your list especially show why he's unlikely to provide any good reform, much less be a good diplomat.

in the spirit in which you appear to have written this, and to safeguard our vital but abjectly corrupt & failing multi-national forums such as the UN, we eagerly await your "top 10 reasons why kofi annan should be replaced immediately."

in the spirit in which you appear to have written this, and to safeguard our vital but abjectly corrupt & failing multi-national forums such as the UN, we eagerly await your "top 10 reasons why kofi annan should be replaced immediately."

Tell you what: once Bush has been impeached for the same sort of cronyism Annan has been accused of, then let's work on replacing Annan. One thing at a time.

If you think Bush's cronyism amounts to a drop in the bucket compared to what's going on at the UN... Wow.

Not to mention that we're in a position of relative power right now with the U.N.: Getting reform to happen within the U.N. is more likely than shifting the course of the Bush administration while it's riding high in international-affairs terms.

good ole tom representin for the moonbat wing. of course we arent talking about W, now were we? were were talking about the UN, and the relative usefulness of this ambassador-designate or that secretary general.

it must be tuff to wear those "Chimpy McHilterBurton and the rovian death toads are guilty of everycrime" glasses day in and day out.

ill tell you what, tom: you can have bolton's head on a plate if thats what boils your rabbit, if you give up Annan cooked with the same recipe in exchange...that would be like sending greg ostertag out to punch kevin garnett in the nads and start a fight: they both leave the game but which one is more valuable to his team.????

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