. . . For strictly po­lit­i­cal rea­sons

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

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.

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