. . . For strictly political reasons
Now more than ever we need a strong voice at the United Nations. But petty partisan politics has deprived us of one of the strongest ever.
Most important is what the U.N. will or won’t do about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. An effective U.N. sanctions regime may be the only step, short of war, that can keep weapons Adolf Hitler only dreamed of out of their hands.
Push is coming to shove. The U.S., the four other permanent members of the Security Council, and Germany agreed in Paris Dec. 5 on the text of a U.N. resolution. This is not a time for the U.S. delegation to be leaderless.
Push is also coming to shove in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia backed by Iran and Syria, is trying to force the democratically elected Lebanese government to resign. The purpose of the Hezbollah putsch, many think, is to derail the U.N. inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in which Syria is implicated.
The Oil for Food and related scandals have shown the U.N. bureaucracy is rife with corruption. There will be no meaningful U.N. reform without vigorous U.S. leadership.
But the White House announced Dec. 4 that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton would leave his post when Congress adjourned last week.
This is not because of any shortcoming in Mr. Bolton. He has been the most effective U.N. ambassador since Jeane Kirkpatrick (1981-85) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1975-76). But he served as an interim appointee because he could not obtain Senate confirmation.
Mr. Bolton’s resignation “represents a tremendous blow to the effectiveness of U.S. leadership at the U.N., as it disrupts the continuity of our diplomacy at a critical moment,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, who in the expiring Congress chaired a subcommittee that investigated the Oil for Food scandal, in which Saddam Hussein bribed U.N. staff members and officials in France, Russia and Britain.
“Ambassador Bolton’s tireless diplomatic efforts yielded considerable results, including Security Council resolutions condemning North Korea’s nuclear activities and a call for U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur,” Mr. Coleman said. “He has built a consensus among our allies on the need to constrain Iran’s nuclear program and work towards reform of the U.N.”
It has been customary for the Senate to confirm a president’s nominees for executive branch positions — provided the nominee is qualified, and there are no issues of moral turpitude. (Federal judges, who serve for life, are another story.)
But most Democrats in the Senate — including all those on the Foreign Relations Committee — opposed Mr. Bolton when the president nominated him in January 2005.
There were enough votes on the floor of the Senate to confirm Mr. Bolton. But the defection of two liberal Republicans on the Foreign Relations committee sealed his fate.
Initially, it was Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. But after watching Mr. Bolton for a year, Mr. Voinovich changed his mind: “He has demonstrated his ability [. . .] to work with others and follow he president’s lead by working multilaterally,” Mr. Voinovich said in July.
Then the fly in the ointment became Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an initial supporter of Mr. Bolton, whose switch doomed hope the lameduck Senate would confirm him. “The American people have spoken out against the president’s agenda on a number of issues, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy,” said Mr. Chafee, who was defeated in the election. “At this late stage in my term, I’m not going to endorse something the American people have spoken out against.”
But Americans are unhappy about Iraq, not about Mr. Bolton’s stellar performance at the U.N. Ostensibly, Democrats opposed Mr. Bolton because he’d been an outspoken critic of the U.N., and because he had been said by some to be a difficult person to work with [. . .] a criterion which, if universally applied, would sharply circumscribe Hillary Clinton’s opportunities in public service. But I suspect much of the Democratic pique was derived from Mr. Bolton’s role in the Florida recount in 2000. When it comes to politics, Democrats have long memories, and hold grudges.
It’s appalling to me that Democrats would let partisan pique deprive America of as able a public servant as John Bolton at this critical time.
James Webb, the senator-elect from Virginia, made headlines when he snubbed President Bush at a White House reception last month for the new members of Congress. Some commentators described his behavior as uniquely boorish. But
I think he’ll fit right in.
Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.