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The Nuts Get Bolton

By David Warren

Perhaps the best ambassador to the U.N. that the U.S. has had for a generation, has resigned rather than put his country and the Bush administration through the spectacle of being retroactively "Borked" by a soon Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. John Bolton was detested by many senators (and admired by a few) as much for his robust personal qualities, as for his proven ability to advance U.S. interests through the chambers of the world's most ponderous, cumbersome, and therefore thankfully ineffective, anti-American institution.

As I have written before, with understatement, the United Nations is at the black heart of contemporary international arrangements. It was founded at cross-purposes, presented to the world as a beacon for peace, when it was designed as a prize ring for realpolitik manoeuvring. It became, by increments of Communist propaganda, the embodiment of a shining crackpot aspiration towards world government. When in reality it was the diplomatic cockpit for the Cold War between the Western democracies and the Soviet Empire -- where the betting took place in the bloody flutters between their respective third-world proxies. Today, it is simply "on the other side".

At its best, it has at least been a clearing house, to avoid war through the unpublicized backroom transmission of credible threats and deadlines to the world's most depraved exponents of misrule. But its membership reflects the plurality of the depraved. The General Assembly is permanently stacked against the interests of all constitutional democracies. It provides a karaoke chamber to enhance the babblings even of despots as tone-deaf as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

But it is there, and until the Americans finally take up Jesse Helms's suggestion, to "throw it brick by brick into the East River" -- or remove it to a more appropriate host city, such as Mogadishu -- it will continue to undermine the security and freedom of people everywhere, by its machinations, while its barbarous "peacekeeping" troops rape and pillage defenceless women and children, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Liberia, Haiti, and seemingly any hot spot to which they are sent.

John Bolton understood the reality; yet he was also grittily determined to undo the reality, and make the U.N. focus on the few things it could actually accomplish to ameliorate pestilence, war, famine, and death. His ability to speak in coherent English sentences was, like Donald Rumsfeld's, among the qualities that would be held against him. Both acquired the reputation of leading from the chin.

There is a deep principle at work here, contradicting what is embraced as "diplomacy" today. It is that reasonable ideas can invariably be communicated in clear language. For the reasonable assertion has nothing to hide. "Doublespeak", as Orwell defined, is the substance within which ideas are hidden, that would be rejected if they were stated plainly. "Diplomatic doublespeak" goes a step further. It is the language in which such dubious ideas are absorbed and accepted; by which Western diplomats seek to fool themselves.

Jacques Chirac, the President of France, has recently said a very clear thing: that the Syrian regime, currently re-arming Hezbollah in Lebanon (under the noses of French "peacekeepers"), is beyond talking with. That he persists in talking with exaggerated civility to the regime in Tehran, belies his sincerity. But he is right in making a subtle point against the dreamworld proposals now emerging from the Baker-Hamilton "Iraq Study Group" -- the ludicrous idea that America could win the cooperation of Syria and Iran, in extracting herself from Middle Eastern commitments.

That very remark from President Chirac was, I strongly suspect, a testimony to the effectiveness of Mr Bolton's work at the U.N., in consistently confronting not only U.S. enemies, but unreliable allies, with hard facts. A large part of his effort consisted in retrieving facts shoved under the table, and putting them back on view. He almost single-handedly "ran interference" for Israel's self-defence against Hezbollah rocket attacks, in this way. He kept nominal U.S. allies in the region out of the controversy with adept diplomacy of the better kind: reminding each of national interests, actually at stake, and of the consequences of indulging anti-Israeli emotions. So much of what a U.N. ambassador does is behind the scenes.

Condoleezza Rice, the inaptly chosen U.S. Secretary of State, though her heart may be in the right place, shows herself overwhelmed by the complexity and danger of the current international situation. Mr Bolton is, or rather was from the moment he announced his resignation, the sharp and solid component of U.S. foreign policy that now falls off. Removing and replacing him with another soft touch leaves the whole American position in mush.

Why did he quit, when President Bush had said he wanted Mr Bolton's appointment renewed? Because he was a team player. From the moment Democrats in the Senate announced themselves prepared to filibuster, to smear his renomination into the next term, Mr Bolton's tenure became counter-productive. It would have done even more damage to U.S. credibility to have a man struggling at Turtle Bay, whose legs were being cut from under him in Washington, than to put in a bipartisan wimp.

otiosus@sympatico.ca

© Ottawa Citizen


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