Reporter at the United Nations: ...would you invite here (Hizballah chief) Hassan Nasrallah to go to come and discuss directly with him the issues of prisoners?
Ambassador Bolton: I have zero desire to discuss any issues with leaders of a terrorist group...
- From a Press Conference in New York on August 7, 2006
If the ongoing war in the Middle East has shown us anything about the United Nations, it is that the organization is really something of a joke. Anyone who thinks that the UN is in 2006 a force for good in the world should take a second look when the Secretary-General can condemn in the harshest terms an accidental Israeli shelling of a UN position in Lebanon and call it “apparently deliberate”, then later make no condemnation of Hizballah when the Islamic terrorist group attacks a UN position where Chinese UNIFIL observers were stationed.
More than a few countries of the world – including our own United States of America – stand to benefit from stability and prosperity in certain regions. Yet the UN currently tends to allow those who would stand to benefit from undermining regional stability to get away with doing so. Today’s United Nations cannot be counted on to be a consistent or trustworthy moral arbiter…just as France and the US agreed on a draft resolution to try and end the fighting here, France up and decides to join the Arabs in abandoning the very draft resolution it worked with Washington to create.
The New York Times recently argued, as it had in the past, that John R. Bolton is the wrong man for the United States at the United Nations. But the Times didn’t back up its argument against him with any real substance. In fact, the editorial piece about Ambassador Bolton noted that he’s followed his orders from Washington faithfully, informed us that his confirmation is more likely with current support from his former foes in the Senate such as Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and even said Ambassador Bolton was correct in rejecting a reformed, yet still grossly flawed (i.e. corruptible), human rights committee for the organization.
Yet, despite John Bolton’s record since his “recess appointment” by President Bush in August of last year (which ends in January of ’07 after the Senate goes into recess this year) thanks to a Democratic filibuster, the New York Times insisted – after noting his accomplishments – that American interests have suffered at the United Nations because of Ambassador Bolton, and only briefly – and weakly – asserted that Ambassador Bolton’s temperament is wrong for “traditional diplomacy”, UN-style.
Apparently, John Bolton’s ability to do what so many said he could not do – work with others – has not impressed those who would see the UN continue to be not simply an irrelevant, but an often malevolent, force in the world.
Is “traditional diplomacy” at the United Nations really good for America? The UN is plagued by anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Should the United States play the game by the UN’s rules (which are largely unspoken or unwritten), or hold the United Nations accountable for its many dangerous failings? As America finances 25% of the UN budget, America deserves fair treatment by and accountability from the UN. The United Nations should be reformed, but with its financial contributions Washington shouldn’t have to needle or cajole smaller, or less powerful, or undemocratic countries to get things rolling.
As far as inside scoops by American officials go, Pedro A. Sanjuan’s book “The UN Gang” was an enlightening glimpse into the inner workings of an organization that – let us be frank – long ago moved away from even thinking about trying to uphold the lofty ideals and democratic principles which are enshrined in its Charter. The United Nations, where in addition to all of its other problems it is alleged that criminal activities are sometimes carried out under diplomatic cover in parking garages, is hardly a forum where democratic countries are given the benefit of the doubt.
As Israeli diplomat Abba Eban noted about the General Assembly, “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the Earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”
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The United Nations was at one time a good idea. The organization, and its Charter, remains a good idea...and the UN does some good in the world. But overall, the organization hardly deserves the pedestal many would set it upon in reality.
At the UN, genocide in Africa doesn’t get the sort of immediate, unyielding attention from the Security Council that Arab-Israeli wars do. There are two separate United Nations standards for refugees: one established just for the Palestinians (UNRWA) and one for everybody else (UNHCR). The current UN system, which time and again has been shown to be corrupt or ineffectual (look at the Iraqi Oil-for-Food program, and UNIFIL’s impotence and failure in Lebanon), is not one that we should be rushing to support.
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I believe that American interests would suffer at the UN if even the most polite, genial, Geneva Conventions-hugging person was the American ambassador. During the Cold War, the UN was basically a base of operations for Soviet espionage against the United States (the Russians controlled a lot more of the UN’s various offices and operations than I previously ever imagined). These days, as Pedro Sanjuan related in The UN Gang, to walk into the UN cafeteria is to walk into a room where jihad is discussed freely – not fighting it, but praising it. If there can be a more anti-American bastion in the United States other than Berkeley, California, it is at Turtle Bay, Manhattan, New York.
As long as the UN is a place where a weak-willed American presence is seen as preferable to a tough, assertive American presence, the organization – which has undeniable potential and value – will never truly change. Such a situation harms US interests more than anything else at the UN. At this moment in time, America needs an ambassador in New York like John R. Bolton, who sees through the smokescreens and games that dictatorships and developing nations put up and play when they use the United Nations’ open, “democratic” system for their own designs even as they deny their people democratic freedoms at home.
This time around, John Bolton deserves an up-or-down vote in Washington. The United States Senate would be wise to keep Ambassador Bolton in place - whatever an individual Senator's opinion of President Bush. Why?
An American ambassador to the United Nations in New York City who rightfully dispenses with utopian delusions, who can work with allies and negotiate with foes, and who does not view the UN in its current, very flawed form with rose-colored glasses, is a great asset to America, not a liability.
From that previously quoted Press Conference in New York on August 7, 2006 -
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, how do you evaluate the Lebanese request? Do you consider them really serious and essential or they will not affect any final draft resolutions you are discussing now?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, let me just say it's not as though we drafted this resolution in a closet somewhere and suddenly sprang the text on any member government.