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May 01, 2005

Weekly Top 10 List: Top 10 Things at Stake in the Bolton Nomination
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Top 10 Things At Stake in the Fight to Defeat the Bolton Nomination – I don’t want to overstate this because I think there’s something to the notion that had Cheney won out in his quest to name Bolton Deputy Secretary of State, the influence of both the man and the hard-line flank he represents would have been far greater than it will be at the UN. But there is more at stake here than one man with a mustache. There’s a reason why this fight has consumed so many of us for months, garnering the UN Ambassadorship more attention than its had in a long time, maybe ever. He’s a stab at some of the larger reasons why this matters.

1. The U.S. Relationship To the UN – We are at a cross-roads as the UN’s supporters and detractors both know. The road to the Iraq war alienated the U.S. from the UN and vis-versa to a degree never before seen. Neither John Negroponte nor John Danforth had the mettle or the mandate to repair the relationship. Bolton, with his avowed “America first” perspective (see the last line of today’s NYT profile) seems inclined to widen rather than bridge the rift.

2. The Prospects for UN Reform – It is high noon for the UN when it comes to reform. But judging from his past, John Bolton’s concept of reform consists of punishing the world organization when it doesn’t hew to American interests. Condi Rice, her principal reform adviser Shirin Tahir-Kheli and other State Department officials appear to be advancing a reform agenda not unlike that of Secretary General Kofi Annan. Rice’s decision to appoint Tahir-Kehli to a newly created reform post within days of Bolton’s nomination was announced suggests that, despite deafening protests to the contrary, she too has misgivings about reform Bolton-style.

3. The Choice of a Successor to Kofi Annan – Annan’s term ends at the end of 2006. According to the UN’s rotation system, his successor should be from Asia. While current handicapping favors Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, its far to early to call the race. Iran has proposed its President, Mohammad Khatami, as a candidate. In recent years the U.S. has had a strong hand in trying to sway the selection of UN leaders’ that have our trust. But if the next ambassador fails to repair U.S. relations at the UN, we may lose influence over the choice.

4. The U.S.’s Commitment to Intelligence Reform – I have made this point before, but given the credible accounts of Bolton’s efforts to retaliate against intelligence analysts for refusing to kow-tow to his worldview, I don’t see how Bush can credibly claim to be fighting to reform intelligence while elevating Bolton. Failure to take adequate account of dissent in the ranks was one of the premier intelligence failings cited by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb Commissions. Confirming Bolton would sanction such behavior.

5. The U.S.’s Position in the Multilateral Order – Bolton’s candidacy has evolved into a kind of referendum on the U.S. approach to multilateralism, going beyond the UN itself. At the start of Bush’s second term, a series of trips and statements seemed to signal rapprochement. In choosing Bolton, Bush seemed to shift into reverse. The world took it as a sign that hardliners indifferent to world opinion and prospects for cooperation were still very much in charge. Bolton’s appointment suggests that Bush may drift even further away from allies and agreements during his second term. Meanwhile, institutions like the ICC and Kyoto Protocol move on without us.

6. The Culture of the State Department – The openness of diplomats who have come forward to describe Bolton’s track record of thwarting protocol, undermining his superiors, and mistreating underlings is unprecedented. As even his supporters would have to privately acknowledge, Bolton’s behavior is something more than just bad temper or caprice. Rewarding Bolton with the UN post after everything that has been revealed will send the message that abusiveness, insubordination, and circumvention of the norms of diplomacy are acceptable behavior at Foggy Bottom.

7.                 The Integrity of Moderate Republicans – Thus far several moderate Republicans have shown an admirable degree of independence in this debate, searching for facts and refusing to buckle under pressure from the White House. But given the doubts raised at the last Senate hearings 10 days ago, and the new witnesses and revelations that have surfaced since, its hard to imagine how any of the Senators would have found their misgivings put to rest on the merits.

8. The Direction of Bush’s Foreign PolicyLaura Rozen makes an important point about how Bolton’s pattern of behavior amounts to an effort to single-handedly implement a set of extremist positions - for example regime change in Iran and North Korea - that are at odds with the President’s stated policies. The UN will offer Bolton ample opportunity to continue his mischief, since the Ambassador interacts daily with representatives from dozens of foreign nations in encounters that are too many and informal to be scripted or controlled. The result will be continued confusion and tension in policy areas where Bolton opts to play.

9. The Energy of the Progressive Foreign Policy Opposition – Let’s face it, Bolton’s helping us get our groove back. And that’s a non-trivial reason why the Administration is loathe to back down. Defeating Bolton will be a shot in the arm for progressives, a jolt of momentum we badly need to wage the other, more important, battles lie ahead.

10. Bush’s Momentum – Though Bush’s thrust hinges more on the dwindling prospects for social security reform, the prospect of a defeat over Bolton is among the setbacks that together could render Bush a lame duck a lot earlier than he expected.


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This is great.
I have an idea for one of DA's next lists:
Top Ten Things the UN does Well (or "Top Ten Things Americans Should Know the UN Is Good For").
Particularly successful missions, trends, agencies....

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