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May 31, 2005

Human Rights

Gitmo, Amnesty and the Theatre of the Absurd
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Now its no longer Newsweek, its Amnesty International.  Here's what President Bush had to say yesterday about Amnesty International's latest human rights report:

I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.

In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is.

More on the report hereThinkprogress has pointed out that when the Administration was making its case against Saddam Hussein, it repeatedly cited Amnesty reports on the Iraqi regime's human rights abuses.

The President's latest comments (and similar remarks made Sunday by Cheney on Larry King - the word "absurd" clearly featured prominently in the talking points) are yet more evidence of the White House's refusal to come to grips with the abuses in detention revealed in recent weeks.  It would be one thing if Bush lashed out against Amnesty but acknowledged the troubling revelations at Guantanamo and Bagram.  But he lashed out at Amnesty and left it at that.

Bush's swept those findings to one side countering that the U.S. is a purveyor of freedom, as if this should trump everything else.  Though her husband claims not to, Laura Bush seems to get the contradicition. 

During a recent trip to Egypt she told NBC: "We are an example . . . And that's why the photographs that have come out are so particularly damaging, because we are held to a higher standard than other countries because of our own history of democracy."

This is part of why when it comes to America's image in the Arab world, when it comes to America's image our role in helping advance democracy is at risk of being overshadowed by the prisoner scandals.  See here for a more thorough analysis of why.

One of the challenges faced by the progressive movement is making clear that both morally, practically, and politically indifference and denial won't cut it in response to the abuses in detention.   The moral case is clear.  The practical impact on our foreign policy is demonstrable, though the Administration is nowhere close to acknowledging that link. 

The political piece may be the hardest. 

Terrorism

Global Strategy for GWOE
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

OK, any post where I can link the war on terrorism/extremism to Elton John has GOT to be good.  Here goes:

Derek put up a nice post over the weekend summarizing what we know, and what we'd like to see, about the Administration's recognizing it needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new comprehensive and thought-through strategy for the Global War on Extremism, GWOE.  I'd like to spell out some more of the things the country needs to see in such an agenda, whether it comes from the White House, progressives, or anybody else.

Here's my five-part agenda:

I.  Diplomatic:  Redefine the war on terror in a way that our friends and partners can and will get on board.  We have failed dismally at this so far -- instead we have a rubric that our partners use to excuse massacres, mass detentions, and other actions that actually strengthen extremists -- and  further blacken our name and our legitimate security goals.

II.  Programmatic: Then, show the world that we are serious about this redefinition by following through on its non-military pieces -- fully funding the assistance programs we have announced with such fervor, for example, and stepping up to help end the festering conflicts that breed cynicism about whether the US and the developed world really give a damn about anyone else.  See democracyarsenal on darfur for one way to do that.  Dear old Bob Geldof is doing his best to gin up a major embarrassment for us at the next G8, where rock stars doing a LiveAid redux will get hundreds of thousands of Europeans to demand that the G8 "Make Poverty History."  Yes, this is where Elton John comes in, and his comment on his participation, embarrassing as it is, should stand for a whole lot of folks: 

"When the Live Aid concert happened 20 years ago I was pretty much a self-obsessed drug addict and, although I was really pleased to be part of a great day, I really wasn't adult enough or mature enough to realize the full consequences of what we were doing," John said. "Now I'm fully aware of what's going on and seeing the injustices going on."

C'mon, it doesn't get better than that.  Now back to serious foreign policy commentary.

III.  Domestic.  As Jim Hoagland pointed out in his column on Sunday, "confusion and drift mark public understanding of what the risks are here at home and what we should be doing about them.  Even Tom Ridge now admits that the color-coded system is confusing and was used dubiously during the election campaign.  A real strategy would:

-- focus on possible targets that could do the most damage, such as chemical plants, and squash industry objections to new standards that would make plants safer (and, by the way, make workers safer on a daily basis);

-- make sure first responders across the country have the tools they need to do their jobs, leapfrogging the appropriations process that has left Wyoming and Alaska first-responders better provided for than those in big urban areas if need be;

-- now that we've taken steps to fix ourr broken visa process and let foreign students back in, fix the broken process that has made so many immigrants and non-citizens feel like unwelcome suspects, and communicate to the American people that we don't need to be heedlessly afraid of foreigners in general and Muslims in particular;

-- while we're at it, some honest, non-inflammatory communication across the board would be in order.  This would require a non-aggression pact between the parties that would prevent dubious heightened security alerts on the one hand, and dubious critiques on the other.  Hey, I can dream, can't I?  Eventually, though, the politicization of the GWOE is going to discredit all sides.  (See under:  EU and its problem with getting its citizens to take it seriously.)

IV.  Military.  Confront the gap between our military ambitions and capabilities honestly.  During the Cold War, Americans who wanted to know understood that our military was keyed to being able to fight 2 1/2 wars simultaneously. 

An intelligent layperson -- and many specialists, for that matter -- couldn't tell you what set of contingencies our military is keyed to today, let alone whether they agree with it.  Having the experts debate that honestly will let us move to a more realistic discussion about military size, and where those people are coming from, as well as choices about technology, force structure, etc.  Opening a public discussion among experts would also be the best way of taking at least some of the politics out of this topic as well.

May 30, 2005

Africa

NATO to Darfur
Posted by Derek Chollet

Over the weekend Kofi Annan went to Sudan, where he visited Darfur.  It is amazing – no, appalling – that almost a year after then-Secretary of State Powell called what is happening in Darfur a genocide, that the situation remains, as Annan put it after his visit, “heart wrenching” and “not a situation that can be acceptable for long.”  Over 180,000 killed and two million driven from their homes?  In my book, that’s a situation that’s long past acceptable.

The world – and that includes the Bush Administration -- recognizes that Darfur is a grave humanitarian crisis.  But it still has not found the will or the way to stop the atrocities.  The African Union (AU) has several thousand peacekeepers on the ground and has pledged more, but these won’t be deployed for some time.  In the meantime, people are dying everyday.

Here at DA we have talked about the need to act in Darfur, and fast.  One proposal that has been floating around for awhile would be for NATO to intervene, at the least assisting with logistical support, intelligence, and airlift capacity for the African Union troops (which needs help in all these areas), as well as possibly inserting NATO troops as a “bridging force” until the AU troops can get there.

The case for NATO in Darfur is slowly gaining momentum.  The State Department has been quietly working on this for weeks.  And the effort got an important boost last week by a diverse group of former officials, including Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and former foreign ministers Robin Cook of Britain, Lamberto Dini of Italy, Lloyd Axworthy of Canada, Ana Palacio of Spain, Erik Derycke of Belgium, and Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand.  They wrote a statement that was published in the International Herald Tribune, calling for NATO to make a greater commitment to Darfur, including the possibility of troops on the ground.

The statement is worth reading in full, if nothing else for how it places the international community’s (in)action in Darfur within the larger context of UN reform and the emerging norm of the “responsibility to protect.”  But the key sections are these:

“….Because the AU force is currently too small to cover an area the size of France and lacks critical logistical capacities, the militias continue to burn villages and besiege refugees in their camps.

….NATO should immediately provide the AU with helicopters (already offered by Canada); command, control and support capabilities; and strategic and tactical lift. Drawing on its Response Force, which is now at its initial operational capacity of 17,000, NATO should put a brigade-sized element at the disposal of the United Nations to augment the AU force until it can build up sufficient strength of its own.

In addition, NATO should seek authority from the Security Council for a new Chapter VII resolution establishing a no-flight zone over Darfur, which NATO aircraft would enforce. Although some states on the Security Council, notably China, have opposed tougher measures on the grounds that the Sudanese government should be given time to resolve the conflict in Darfur through a new political process, it remains an open question as to whether these governments would vote against an action that was aimed at saving lives.

We applaud NATO's commitment to the ongoing crisis in Darfur but we also believe that this successful military alliance, strengthened by the warrant of Security Council legitimacy, could do much more to bring a halt to Darfur's horrific humanitarian crisis. The ever-popular mantra ‘never again’ has to mean more than expressing political sentiment and issuing lukewarm resolutions that fail to stop the violence. It is not too late for meaningful action.”

This is tough stuff, to be sure.  Last week the U.S. and European countries agreed to provide critical assistance -- including $300 million to fund a larger AU force, air transport, armored personnel carriers, troop transport trucks, and training.  These are very positive steps, but much more is needed.  For example, the money pledged still falls nearly $150 million short of what the AU says it needs.

With the U.S. military over-extended as it is, we would need to rely mostly on the Europeans for further support, especially troops -- although, significantly, as Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick explained last week, the U.S. has already agreed to airlift the Rwandan contingent of the AU force, help build communications facilities and assist with training.  But I believe greater American leadership could be decisive.  Zoellick has made Sudan one of his highest priorities -- he has already been to Darfur once, and is going there again this week.

Next month, the President will join other world leaders at the G-8 summit in Scotland.  One of the main items on the agenda will be Africa, which Blair has made a theme of the summit.  It’s guaranteed that they’ll be a lot of earnest talk.  But for a meaningful outcome, President Bush should make greater NATO involvement in Darfur his priority.   

Europe

The telephone is ringing...
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

My ten cents on Suzanne's post-referendum questions:

Will this amplify pro-US voices?  No.  It will distract pro-and anti- US voices alike by refocusing everyone internally, on questions like how do you salvage the chunks of the constitution that concern the EU's fundamental operating mechanisms.  So the problem will be getting anyone to answer, pro- or anti-, when we call.   

Then, too, this will weaken the governing parties in France and (after Wednesday, in all probability) the Netherlands.  The Dutch government has been quite pro-US, and it's not likely that a Socialist-led French government would be less inclined to play games at US expense than Chirac.  So that is not a plus for us.

Moreover, parties scrambling for position in those countries, plus the elections coming this fall in Germany, will provide endless temptation to play on popular hostility to the US.  So as long as the US is perceived as the source or cause for much of the existential globalization angst that I mentioned in my last post, this does nothing good for pro-US voices.

Are we better off with a single number to call?  Suzanne, you may have your own views about this from your time at the UN.  But my experience working with the EU at the OSCE, and then on the Balkans, is that the US loses more than we gain when the EU is disunited and thrashing -- because the thrashing itself gets in the way of getting anything done.  The ideal situation for us is one where we can work individual states early and influence the decision the EU makes -- and then have all the EU members committed to something that is either favorable to the US or at least less harmful.  Of course, that assumes a lot of forethought and coordination on our part.

It's also worth remembering that EU unity constrains negative urges as well as positive ones; as long as Europeans themselves want the ever-closer union, I believe the US should be quietly supportive.  Where the US should never let itself get (and Condoleezza Rice's Constitution endorsement last week came close) is seeming to endorse Euro-elites' ambitions when the citizenry is not ready to follow -- there's very little in that for us.

I also think that the "non" and "nee" votes matter less for Europe's foreign policy than one might at first think.  Opposition to the establishment of a permanent EU foreign minister and a desire to be more or less oppositional to the US were not high among the reasons for voting no.  Those developments toward integration are likely to continue apace -- and, as everyone who's had to deal with them knows, the reality is something less than an impregnable wall of foreign policy unity.

Which brings me to China.  This is a lose for China in one sense -- lifting the arms embargo is not going to be top of anyone's list for a while.  For sure China is exploiting confusion or inattention anywhere it can.  But on trade issues, and in terms of develoing relationships to counterbalance the US, China too needs someone to answer the phone. 

Where China is a clear winner is in the drift of European economies, and their difficulty in rebuilding competitiveness.  If these votes represent, as some have argued, continued angst and opposition to the economic changes necessary to compete, then that's a win for China.  But not because of the constitution or even the EU per se.

 

Europe

EU Constitution - Que Sera Sera
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There will be weeks and months of analysis over what's happening in Europe and why. 

By and large the progressive and modernizing forces in Europe were behind integration and the Constitution, and for good reason:  the Union has helped bring struggling European economies to prosperity and has proven a powerful liberalizing force throughout Eastern Europe and now approaching the borders of the Soviet Union and the Arab world.  It has strengthened Europe's role as a player on the world stage which, by and large, has meant another loud voice in support of values similar to our own.

The opposition movement ginned up the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen and was in some ways frightening.  I know less about this than Heather and Derek, but would love thoughts from them and others on a few issues:

Will this amplify pro-U.S. voices in the EU? One of Chirac's major fears with a no vote was lessening French influence in the EU.  This presumably means a larger role for Britain and the new members, all of which tend to be more in sync with U.S. policies.  Although the French no was a victory for the forces of insularity, these countries tend to be more outward looking. 

Though we've long sought it, are we really better off with a "single number to call" in Europe - I believe Kissinger coined the demand for a single number to dial for a coherent European foreign policy.  But solidly unified European positions are great only insofar as we agree with them.  When we disagree, or when a position is still under formation, it may be easier for the U.S. to have influence when its acknowledged that the Union's position is the sum of its parts.  That way, by lobbying individual countries, we can influence the whole.  It's a slow and painful process, but easier than bumping our head up against a wall.  A rock-solid, totally cohesive European policy-making regime would presumably be more resistant to U.S. influence.  A looser regime may be easier to work with.

China card - My guess is that in the coming months China tries to take advantage of confusion in the EU to extend and solidify their trade relationships and influence in their own region and in Latin America.   My guess is Beijing views this as a clear win.

May 29, 2005

Europe

Thud.
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

A resounding "non" from the French for the EU Constitution today.  We will have days of commentary about how much this was "an opportunity to say up yours to the government" (as a European diplomat said to me), "about the economy" (a German scholar of organizational behavior), about immigration and Turkey, the EU's democratic deficit, and so on.

I'll say "all of the above" and stay out of that discussion, because I think there's a larger lesson here for progressives.  In a democracy, when governing elites let themselves get too separated from the people they represent -- or allow the perception of separation to go unrepaired -- the people will eventually figure out a way to bite back in a tender place.

In a funny way, the EU Constitution seems to have become for the French and the Dutch (and the Brits and perhaps some others as well) the same bogeyman that the Republicans have managed to make the dread multilateralism here at home -- representative of all that larger forces are trying to cram down your throat in the name of modernity, globalization, the 21st century.

Why do the French think that the Constitution would threaten their social policy with dread Anglo-Saxon liberalism while the British think it would bring on too much Continental socialism? (This wonderful insight came from the Brookings discussion that Derek referenced a few days ago.)  Because those are the external bogeys each fears.  If the EU Constitution didn't exist, it would have had to be invented to express the angst of the moment.

What are we afraid of here?  Globalized terrorism, a changing economy where whole categories of job and the secure lives that went with them are vanishing, a future which is fast-moving and cosmopolitan, where jobs and diseases and the new neighbors next door come from places you can hardly spell.

All reasonable fears.  But progressives are stuck in the "there's no easy answers" stage, ceding the field to conservatives who have easy answers, if not good ones:  close the borders, cut off debate,  subpoena your library books and test our kids silly on a few skills while choking off funding for the rest.

Question is, will the Europeans figure out a better response?  The early indications don't look good -- all the considerable creative energy is likely to go toward figuring out clever treaty fixes.

So whatever this vote ends up meaning for the European project, and US-EU relations, and big issues we care about, etc. etc. -- and even if you think, as I do, that few tears need be shed over the constitution itself -- it should serve as another wakeup call, as if more were needed, that this new century is unsettling to people everywhere, and people are responding by refusing to buy in to new constructs policymakers come up with, however manifestly sensible they may seem to their creators.  Think about it as a disconnect between technology and end-user.

Terrorism

More on GWOE
Posted by Derek Chollet

The Washington Post leads this morning with more detail on the Administration’s slow shift from the GWOT to GWOE (global war on terrorism to a global war on extremism, for those who need a refresher).  There’s not much new scoop from what we already knew about this policy review, other than – surprise! – officials recognize the weakness of their public diplomacy and see that their efforts are being hampered by vacancies in key jobs (calling Karen Hughes!).  As one anonymous source admits:

"They recognize there's been a vacuum of leadership," said a former top counterterrorism official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "There has been a dearth of senior leadership directing this day to day. No one knows who's running this on a day-to-day basis."

Part of the problem is bureaucratic inertia; another is a loss of direction at the highest levels.  As we approach 4 years after 9-11, we lack any measure (or, as Rumsfeld might put it, metrics) on how we are doing in the fight against extremism.  We also lack any sense of direction if, god forbid, we get hit again.  As Jim Hoagland explains in his column today:

“Confusion and drift mark public understanding of how individuals, communities and the nation as a whole should respond to terrorist strikes on U.S. soil. Citizens can learn more about how cities would be evacuated or other responses to a future Sept. 11-type event from watching doomsday television dramas such as "24" than from the administration.

A refocusing of the war against terrorism needs to come in several forms, from high-profile presidential speeches to secret strategy documents that will shape campaign orders to troops in the fields.

The effort should start with Bush's public declarations during this year's commemoration of American valor on the battlefield. His visionary rhetoric about freedom and American values helped rally the nation during the shocks of the past four years. The reassuring approach, he can argue, has kept public anxiety to a minimum.

But the time for reassurance alone is over. It is time for details, for a sense of a blueprint, for a progress report that goes beyond listing what has happened to the top nine or 15 or 25 al Qaeda leaders targeted for capture or elimination. That simple, clear report should trace as well where the United States stands in fighting the Salafi extremist networks that intend to rule or destroy Muslim lands.”

Progressives should be demanding such a blueprint – and just as important, offering one of our own.

Capitol Hill

An Exit Strategy is Not a Timeline
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Last week, California Democratic Representative Lynn Woolsey offered an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that asked President Bush to develop a plan as soon as practicable to withdraw American troops from Iraq. Though the amendment was defeated 128 - 300, it drew majority support from Democrats. Here is the text of the amendment.

SEC. 1223. WITHDRAWAL OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES FROM IRAQ.

It is the sense of Congress that the President should -

(1) develop a plan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act to provide for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq; and

(2) transmit to the congressional defense committees a report that contains the plan described in paragraph (1).

While the amendment was only a sense of Congress asking for the President to provide a plan, it an excellent start. The Woolsey amendment drew majority support from Democrats, 122 - 79. In contrast, it was many years into the Vietnam quagmire before a majority of Democrats could be rallied to call for withdrawal.

Five Republicans bucked the President and joined the ranks of other critical Republican voices. The Kool Aid refuseniks who voted for the amendment included conservative Southerners Harold Coble (NC), Walter Jones (NC) and John Duncan (TN), plus moderate Jim Leach (IA) and libertarian Ron Paul (TX). Jones is the Member who, in 2003, renamed "French Fries" "Freedom Fries" in the House cafeteria. 

See the entire vote here.

The challenge now is to not let this vote get turned into a talking point by the Right--who will claim that the affirmative votes hurt our military because the intend to impose a "timeline" and therefore aid and abet the enemy.  This is a false claim.  The amendment does not require anything so specific, but does require some sort of acknowledged plan or conceptual exit strategy.  Even something as simple as a set of "freedom benchmarks" would be nice and whether or not a permanent American military presence is part of that scenario.

May 28, 2005

Europe

Oh Non!
Posted by Derek Chollet

Just to echo what Heather wrote yesterday regarding tomorrow’s vote in France on the EU constitution, to be followed by the vote in the Netherlands: for those who believe in a strong EU, it will not be a good week.  Having spent the past week in the Persian Gulf and UK (hence my extended absence), all anyone is talking about is how the French will vote “no” and expect the Netherlands to follow suit.  France’s leaders pretty much gave up hope a few days ago. 

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen after these votes derail the EU constitution, other than that this will set off a bonanza of business for European wonks and think tankers – for a good start, see this recent discussion among some American European specialists.  Another certainty is that we will be entering a phase of internal Euro-hand-wringing and navel-gazing that will make strong U.S.-European cooperation on a variety of important issues a lot more difficult.

Oddly enough, one person who is secretly happy about all of this is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has committed to holding a British referendum on the constitution sometime in the next few years.  The EU constitution is even more unpopular in Britain, and most consider a British “yes” even more improbable.  One of Blair’s fears was that all other countries would have approved the constitution and that the fate of the treaty would hinge entirely on Britain.  With a French no, he’s off the hook.  And in July, Britain takes over its six-month presidency of the EU (a rotation that the EU constitution would end), which gives Blair a chance to lead the effort to pick up the pieces from this mess – which is one way to work his way back from the Continental beating he has taken over Iraq. 

May 27, 2005

Proliferation, UN

Bolton - the Evidence on Effectiveness
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There's been an awful lot of speculative talk this week in the well of the Senate about just how effective John Bolton is going to be in representing the U.S. at the UN. 

But here's one piece of recent hard evidence.

Bolton is still Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control.  The UN's month-long conference on Non-Proliferation, an event that takes place only once every five years, just ended in unequivocal failure.  It's no wonder John Bolton did not achieve more.  He did not prepare and, from what I can tell, he didn't even show up, leaving the job of chief negotiator to someone else.  Bolton and his backers might argue that accomplish anything at the NPT is tough, but that's true of the UN as a whole.  If Bolton didn't make it happen now -- with the eyes of the Senate on him -- what basis is there to conclude that he will later.

Here's how excerpts from the New York Times article describe the debacle

A monthlong conference at the United Nations to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ended Friday in failure, with its chairman declaring that the disagreements between nuclear-armed and non-nuclear states ran so deep that "very little has been accomplished."

But in the months leading up to the meeting, it became clear that little progress was likely, and in the end the bickering between the United States, which wanted to focus on North Korea and Iran, and countries demanding that Washington shrink its own arsenals, ran so deep that no real negotiations over how to stem proliferation ever took place.

In the end, conference participants criticized, without naming them, both the United States for ignoring its commitments, and other nations for failing to grapple with the Iranian and North Korean problems.

Administration officials said in interviews that they had given up hope several weeks ago that the meeting would accomplish anything, and they defended their decision not to send Secretary Rice to press Mr. Bush's agenda. Instead, the American representative, Jackie W. Sanders, said the United States wanted to continue the discussion "in other fora," without describing when or where.

"The N.P.T. Conference was a missed opportunity to strengthen the foundation for global cooperation to reduce nuclear threats," said Sam Nunn, the former senator, who has championed efforts to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union. "We can't accept this as the last word. The U.S. must take a post-conference leadership role in bringing the international community together on this critical agenda."

American officials spent much of their time arguing that reductions in the United States nuclear stockpile, under an agreement struck in 2002 with Russia, proved its compliance with the treaty's requirement that nuclear states move toward disarmament.

That argument convinced few, and the Canadian representative, Mr. Meyer, appeared to be speaking when he said, "If government simply ignore or discard commitments whenever they prove inconvenient, we will never be able to build an edifice of international cooperation."

Before the meeting, administration officials said President Bush wanted to move the discussion to smaller groups where nations like Iran could not block a consensus. The officials, who did not want to be named because the negotiating stance was in flux, named the Group of 8 industrial nations and the obscure Nuclear Suppliers Group.

So the Administration's solution to how to resolve problems of consensus-building at the UN is to try to take problems out of the UN and into other fora.  One wonders how that would work on UN reform, purportedly to be Bolton's highest priority?

Newsweek published a thorough piece some weeks ago predicting precisely the failure that would occur, and pinning the blame on Bolton's lack of preparations: 

In a landmark speech at the National Defense University in February 2004, the president called for a toughened Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other new initiatives. “There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated,” Bush said. “Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action.”

By action Bush meant the hard work of diplomacy, John Bolton, the president’s point man on nuclear arms control, told Congress a month later. For one thing, America needed to lead an effort at “closing a loophole” in the 35-year-old NPT, Bolton testified back then . . .

But if the NPT needed so much fixing under U.S. leadership, why was the United States so shockingly unprepared when the treaty came up for its five-year review at a major conference in New York this month . . .

Part of the answer, several sources close to the negotiations tell NEWSWEEK, lies with Bolton, the undersecretary of State for arms control. Since last fall Bolton, Bush’s embattled nominee to be America’s ambassador to the United Nations, has aggressively lobbied for a senior job in the second Bush administration. During that time, Bolton did almost no diplomatic groundwork for the NPT conference, these officials say.

“John was absent without leave” when it came to implementing the agenda that the president laid out in his February 2004 speech, a former senior Bush official declares flatly. Another former government official with experience in nonproliferation agrees. “Everyone knew the conference was coming and that it would be contentious. But Bolton stopped all diplomacy on this six months ago,” this official said . . .

Diplomacy is just a fancy word for salesmanship—making phone calls, working the corridors, listening to and poking holes in opposing arguments, lobbying others to back one’s position. But “delegates didn’t hear a peep from the U.S. until a week before the conference,” says Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Bolton's supporters have said repeatedly that he deserves confirmation because his style and beliefs will render him an effective diplomat. 

But if he was this indifferent and ineffective in handling the UN in his current post, how can they be so convinced it will be otherwise when his entire portfolio consists of building support and making progress at the UN?   

Should Bolton's success in overturning the UN's symbolic (though by no means insignificant) Zionism is Racism resolution 14 years ago trump his failure on an issue of life-and-death importance to U.S. national security, and why?

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