Opinion column: Welcome Mr. Bolton

By Elie Dvorin

On March 7, President Bush sent a strong message to the United Nations by nominating John Bolton to the post of U.S. Ambassador to the UN. Bolton, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control & International Security, is the administration’s most vocal critic of the corrupt organization. And while critics of Bolton claim that his contempt for the United Nations makes him a horrible choice for the post, I believe it makes him the best choice. To clean up an organization with as many problems as the United Nations, somebody with a “take no prisoners” approach is needed.

Welcome, Mr. Bolton.

This nomination is contentious because of the perceived importance of the United Nations in addressing current international struggles and crises. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories are housing fledgling democracies, genocide is underway in Rwanda and Sudan, and diplomatic ties between Europe and the United States are in a state of turmoil.

The only problem is that the UN can’t fix any of these problems, in part because its image has been shot to hell. The United Nations denies Israel membership in any of its five regional groups, while it appointed a despotic regime like Libya to the Chair of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The United Nations continues to do nothing about the genocide in Sudan (a U.N. report actually denied that genocide was taking place), while U.N. “peacekeepers” are raping women and young girls in the Congo. All the while, the Oil-for-Food scandal hangs in the midst.

At worst, the United Nations is a criminal organization. At best, it is simply irrelevant. John Bolton knows this. As he once said The Secretariat (United Nations) Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. He may be blunt and a bit insensitive, but he’s right, and anybody who can see beyond the internationalist rhetoric knows he’s right.

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Bolton is willing to speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular. The United States makes the United Nations work when it wants it to work and that is exactly the way it should be, because the only question for the United States is “what’s in our national interest?” The United Nations needs the United States to survive, both financially and in terms of international legitimacy. That being the case, the United States needs to exert its force to initiate a process that will revamp the United Nations. For too long, we’ve been bankrolling a world body that would like nothing better than for the United States to fall off the face of the Earth.

Naturally, the internationalists that cling to the United Nations like it’s a lifeboat in the ocean oppose the nomination of John Bolton. Fifty-nine former American diplomats sent a letter to Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging the Senate to reject his nomination. “This is just about the most inexplicable appointment the President could make to represent the United States to the world community,” said Senator John Kerry.

It appears likely that all the Senate Democrats will vote against Bolton after the Apr. 7th hearing, which could put Bolton’s nomination in jeopardy if a few of the left-leaning Republicans join the Democrats in the vote. If the Republicans are unable to get any Democratic support for the nomination, it would mark the first time a Bush nominee has received no Democratic votes.

John Bolton won’t destroy the United Nations, nor will he work to pull the United States out. Bush won’t let him completely alienate the United States, given the recent push to strengthen ties with Europe after the Iraq War. What Bolton will do, however, is work to stop the traditional routine of the United Nations spitting in the face of the United States, while propping up dictatorial regimes and demonstrating its corruption in handling world affairs. Bolton’s confirmation won’t be a cure for the ineptitude of the United Nations, but it may help to establish some level of much-needed accountability.

And that’s a step in the right direction.