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January 15, 2009

Rice Vs. Bolton
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So, I thought it would be interesting to go back and compare John Bolton's opening statement when he was brought up for Senate confirmation as opposed to Susan Rice's testimony today.  The differences demonstrate the substantive disagreements in policy between the Obama and Bush administrations.  But even more than that they demonstrate that unlike the Bush administration the Obama folks seem to understand a basic tenant of diplomacy - if you want to get things done you have to focus not only on your own interests but on the interests and concerns of your allies.  

Rice names four top priorities: 

improve the capacity of the United Nations to undertake complex peace operations...provide strong leadership to address climate change...preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons...invest in our common humanity.

Compare this to Bolton's testimony where the focus was on the Israel-Hezbollah war, Iran, North Korea, Darfur, and UN reform. 

Rice's priorities are top priorities for the United States but they are also top priorities for much of the world and many of our allies.  They are by their very nature inclusive.  Bolton's priorities are much more narrow.  They are U.S.-centric and show no desire or inclination to signal to other UN members that we are in fact interested in listening to their views.

Take some examples.  On the question of nuclear proliferation Rice addresses unsecured nuclear material around the globe, the NPT, Iran and North Korea - all things that are critical to our interests as well as those of most of our allies.  Bolton looks only at North Korea and Iran and fails to mention international treaties.  You're much less likely to get cooperation on Iran and North Korea if you are seen as acting as an obstructionist on the NPT.  Obviously the priority that Rice puts on global warming is one the Bush administration ignored because of ideological and policy disagreements, despite its importance for the rest of the world.  And the broad framing on the question of foreign and humanitarian aide is another example of trying to be as inclusive as possible.  And while Rice does acknowledge that the UN can often be an inefficient and messy place where action is not as effective or speedy as it should be, she doesn't go out of her way to tweak the institution but focusing so heavily on UN reform.

Basically, Rice's testimony reads like that of someone who actually cares about what the rest of the world thinks - Bolton's does not.  Pretty much a microcosm for the differences in how the Bush and Obama and administration's approach diplomacy.


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That conclusion is incorrect.

Ambassador Bolton believed the UN ambassadorship should be used to advance American interests.

The verdict is still out on Dr Rice - though careful examination of her writings and speeches may actually make a case that she is a neocon in humanitarian clothing.

Great point! Now our representitive will be all about pulling the UN together as a team and working for the common good. Of course, we know that all of the member countries (especially the security council ones) check personal (i.e. national) interests at the door and exclusively work to make the world a better place. The world can't help but become a better place now, right?

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