John Bolton gets no thanks from the Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Suzanne Fields

With the ink still not dry on my col­lege diploma, I struck out for New York City in search of my first se­ri­ous job. Work­ing at the United Na­tions was at the top of my list. I car­ried with me a glow­ing let­ter of ref­er­ence from Sen. Hu­bert Humphrey, for whom I had been a cam­paign vol­un­teer, and in my naivete I was sure I would get an im­por­tant desk job where my per­for­mance would soon catch the eye of the sec­re­tary gen­eral.

I was told that I could be a tour guide on week­ends, show­ing the tourists at Tur­tle Bay the ba­sic at­trac­tions, which flags be­longed to what na­tions, what a great or­ga­ni­za­tion the U.N. was, how it im­proved on the failed League of Na­tions. Sav­ing the world on the week­ends didn’t quite fit my ex­pec­ta­tions, and I looked for “other op­por­tu­ni­ties” in Man­hat­tan.

To the lib­eral Demo­crat I was then, hav­ing grown up in a de­vout New Deal fam­ily, the United Na­tions was the great hope for hu­man­ity. In our Utopian imag­i­na­tion, the United Na­tions would be the place where dif­fer­ent coun­tries with dif­fer­ent kinds of gov­ern­ments would put fac­tion­al­ism aside, dis­card tribal loy­al­ties and ev­ery day in ev­ery way Make Nice.

We soon watched in­no­cence and ide­al­ism swamped by greed and cyn­i­cism, as the United Na­tions be­came a fat and in­ef­fi­cient bureau- cracy, riven with strife and anger, a mouth­piece for the most cor­rupt and in­com­pe­tent lead­ers in the world. As if in a satire by Eve­lyn Waugh, the United Na­tions Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights be­came a plat­form for speeches by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of na­tions with the worst record of hu­man-rights abuses.

Our am­bas­sadors to the United Na­tions have of­ten been forced into iso­la­tion, to de­fend the United States from at­tacks by na­tions whose only con­tri­bu­tion to the de­bate is in­signif­i­cance, envy and hypocrisy. The likes of Ad­lai Steven­son, Jeane Kirk­patrick and Daniel Pa­trick Moyni­han were pow­er­fully elo­quent de­fend­ers, and their rhetor­i­cal flour­ishes have re­cently found voice in John Bolton, whose re­cess ap­point­ment ex­pires in Jan­uary. Pres­i­dent Bush has re­sub­mit­ted the nom­i­na­tion, but de­spite what ev­ery­one says is his good job, he’s un­likely even to get an upor-down vote in the new, kin­der, gen­tler Demo­cratic Se­nate.

If the sen­a­tors were to re-ex­am­ine his record in the spirit of what we’re told is the less parti- san Demo­cratic Congress, in­stead of preen­ing with out­dated cyn­i­cism, they could demon­strate that they mean what they say about elim­i­nat­ing cheap and thought­less par­ti­san­ship.

His elo­quent ar­gu­ments against the re­lent­less at­tacks on Is­rael, while the United Na­tions ig­nores the na­tions that could use such at­ten­tion to their bru­tal­ity, de­mon- strates his abil­ity — and his will­ing­ness — to dis­play tough­ness with good sense. He shows how U.N. bias re­veals a fun­da­men­tal lack of se­ri­ous­ness about solv­ing the Is­rael-Pales­tinian cri­sis. Even Kofi An­nan, no par­tic­u­lar cham­pion of the West, ac­knowl­edged the other day that the United Na­tions’ ob­ses­sion with per­ceived hu­man-rights abuses in Is­rael, to the ex­clu­sion of other abuses even in Dar­fur, en­cour­ages the pub­lic to see the United Na­tions as un­fair. (Imag­ine.)

The re­port by the Euro­pean-led U.N. In­terim Force (UNIFIL) on what’s hap­pen­ing in Le­banon ex­poses how the U.N. suf­fers de­struc­tive my­opia. “UNIFIL was so ob­sessed with the Is­raeli re­con­nais­sance flights above,” writes Benny Avni in the New York Sun, “that it to­tally missed 720 Is­lamist fight­ers be­low who came from So­ma­lia to join Hezbol­lah in its holy war.”

Bias against the West in gen­eral and the United States and Is­rael in par­tic­u­lar is not an iso­lated is­sue, but demon­strates clearly what’s wrong at Tur­tle Bay. “Mem­ber states must choose,” says John Bolton. “Do we de­sire a vi­able United Na­tions sys­tem, com­posed of agen­cies re­spected for their role in con­flict res­o­lu­tion, hu­man rights, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and cul­ture, or will we con­tinue to ac­qui­esce to a nar­row agenda of bias, stale­mate and polemics?”

Many of Mr. Bolton’s for­mer crit­ics con­cede now that he has “no horns.” He’s a lot bet­ter than that. He of­fers in­sight with a mod­er­ate tone, and works dili­gently with other coun­tries in pub­lic and be­hind the scenes to fo­cus on the se­ri­ous prob­lems, such as the nu­clear-weapons pro­grams in North Korea and Iran and the deep­en­ing hu­man-rights catas­tro­phe in Dar­fur.

Most of all, he has been force­ful in ar­gu­ing that if the United Na­tions wants to be taken se­ri­ously by se­ri­ous peo­ple it must re­ex­am­ine its mis­sion: “Mem­ber states must demon­strate the will to break with the past and make the United Na­tions a rel­e­vant voice not only for the Is­rael-Pales­tinian con­flict, but for all the con­flicts and is­sues world­wide that are equally in need of the U.N.’s at­ten­tion.” What a pity — for the United States and for the United Na­tions — if John Bolton him­self isn’t around to guide in con­fronting those chal­lenges.

Suzanne Fields, a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times, is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

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