March 08, 2005

A "Nixon Goes to China" Move

So describes an aide to Condi Rice explaining hard-boiled, occasional U.N. skeptic John Bolton's appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. I'm not hugely estatic about John Bolton's appointment. That said, I think he could be a pretty decent pick all told. As Condi Rice put it, some of his predecessors with the "strongest voices" (Moynihan, Kirkpatrick) have been some of our best UN Ambassadors. He will, if confirmed by the Senate (probably approx 80% sure), push U.N. reform assiduously--but not like some messianic lunatic. And while Bolton is often skeptical of multilateralism merely for multilateralism's sake (and why not?)--he is well capable of working within such frameworks--as he was at pains to say in his remarks accepting the nomination today. Finally, and especially with the U.N. job no longer enjoying Cabinet status, I think that Bolton at the U.N. is less powerful than he would have been as Deputy Secretary of State. Both Zoellick and Bolton, of course, will both be reporting to Rice. But Zoellick, especially when the Secretary is on the road, has a big building on 21st and C behind him. Bolton doesn't. The U.N. job may be sexier (though the Waldorf isn't what it used to be!) but it doesn't have the policy heft of DepSec. Bolton's mandate, quite simply, is more limited. Still, it's an important job. After all, he needs to help steer the U.N. through its time of troubles, not by doting on Turtle Bay or hand-holding Kofi, but by energetically helping (in collaborative fashion) prod the U.N. through the painful reforms that must be effectuated if that organization is to be of real utility going forward. Best of luck to him assuming he gets the Senate nod.

P.S,. Here are some previous thoughts I had re: Bolton after hearing him speak last year that may still be worth your time.

UPDATE: Matt says my take on Bolton is "foolish in the extreme." He'll be filling us in on why in due course...

Posted by Gregory at March 8, 2005 03:51 AM | TrackBack (24)
Comments

The UN needs some tough love right now.

Some VERY tough love.

My prediction: Bolton will bring it strong on the "VERY tough" front, and the UN will then face a choice: Either feel the love or "smell the glove" (w/ apologies to Spinal Tap).

Posted by: David St.-Hubbins at March 8, 2005 06:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How do you feel about having an agent of the Taiwanese government as UN ambassador?

Posted by: praktike at March 8, 2005 02:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.globalpolicy.org/unitedstates/unpolicy/gen2001/0409twan.htm

Posted by: praktike at March 8, 2005 02:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the next Daily Show (or should be) - Picture of Rice nominating Bolton - "you know, international community, we thought about being a kinder, friendlier participant in the international community - ahhh, never mind, we didn't mean it. Here, take Bolton, I don't want him in the State Dept."

I think B.G. confuses the Bush administration's intent to "energetically help" the UN with flipping the community off. Let's see, couldn't get Kofi kicked out as the head, couldn't get ElBaradei kicked out as head of the IAEA, so let's really screw over any chance of international collaboration unless it's what the US wants. Good policy, guys! Good luck storming the castle! (Appologies to the Princess Bride).

Posted by: J. at March 8, 2005 02:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Praktike,

I have no idea what I think of Bolton's appointment at this point, however am I really supposed to get exercised by his writing of these papers for Taiwan? Maybe this is just one of those many places where I am being dense and just don't get it, but $30,000 which he disclosed? Is that what it means to be a dirty foreign agent? It was Taiwan not Red China. If it had been Red China my concern wouldn't be the $30,000, but what he was doing for them. Arguing for recognition for Taiwan is arguably unwise and the realists amongst us are undoubtedly all atwitter, but is it immoral? Is it a sign of treasonous impulses? I guess I just do not get it, not that that is all that unusual.

Posted by: Lance at March 8, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, it's about time the Republic of China had an ambassador on the UN Security Council again.

Posted by: Mitch H. at March 8, 2005 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Hey, it's about time the Republic of China had an ambassador on the UN Security Council again."

Heh.

Posted by: praktike at March 8, 2005 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Supporting Taiwan sounds fine to me!

Of course, as a Taiwanese-American, I'm probably a little bit biased.

Posted by: fling93 at March 8, 2005 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
Why aren't you cheering about the pro-Syrian demonstrations that are taking place in Freedom Square, Lebanon, today? You would be if you were really interested in DEMOCRACY for the Middle East. My friends over there tell me that the crowds today are much bigger than those who were chanting for Syria to pull out.

Could it be that the situation is more complex than you think?

If you were really interested in democracy for the Middle East, rather than a pro-US regime pretending to be for democracy, you would have posted some thoughts on this subject.

So, come on, Greg, just a little something?

Posted by: bruhl at March 8, 2005 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

bruhl,

So if large people take to the streets expressly to end democratic reform and continue the rule of a fascist state over their land it is democracy in action? What an Orwellian viewpoint. I guess Nazi Germany was democratic because Hitler got big crowds.

So I gather you believe if a large group of people demonstrated in the US (possibly a majority) to end free elections and impose a religious rule by Jerry Falwell over us, that would be a democratic movement we should support? If they claimed it would be democratic to install this regime indefinitely with Chinese troops that would be democratic? Just because a lot of people staged rallies?

The democratic demonstrators are not democratic because they are demonstrating, but because of what they are demonstrating for, elections free from the terror of the Baathist state. Fascists and terrorists demonstrating are to be condemned. Maybe allowed, but condemned.

My guess is that Greg understands that distinction, you obviously do not.

Posted by: Lance at March 8, 2005 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lance,
What I find most striking about your remarks is that you assume that these half a million people are all fascists, Nazis, fundamentalists, terrorists (did I leave anything out?) Your arrogance - combined with your ignorance - is breathtaking. What do you know about the complexity of the situation on the ground? Nothing.

All you need are your parochial coordinates: "Nazis", "Falwell" etc. and you think you know how the world works. You may want to consider the possibility that these people also want a democracy, they are not all terrorists etc. But they want loudmouthed ignoramuses like you to stop dictating terms to them!

That's the distinction that you and Greg need to understand.

Posted by: bruhl at March 9, 2005 01:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruhl is absolutely right. The only thing Hezbollah and the Nazis have in common is a passion for exterminating Jews. Other than that, they are completely different, mostly. Lance, you parochial boob, you!

If we could return to the topic, there is something to be said for sending someone with expertise in nonproliferation issues to the UN. I just wonder whether with Bolton we are running into the limitations of President Bush's circle of acquaintances. He prefers to give important posts to people he trusts, but he does not trust easily, and does not know all that many people in the foreign affairs field. So the same people keep getting recycled into different jobs: Zoellick to State, Bolton to the UN, Armitage (maybe) to Defense next year or whenever Rumsfeld decides to go.

Bolton's appointment may not mean any more than that. There are some people convinced that it means more -- that it's a sign of the realists bringing the neoconservatives to heel or of the neoconservatives outflanking the realists, of a "Nixon going to China" moment or of a signal of contempt for the UN. Well, maybe. But the basics are that Bush, like Clinton before him, knew very little of foreign affairs upon assuming the Presidency, and unlike Clinton likes predictability and routine in the conduct of his office. These are both factors that would lead him to prefer familiar faces whenever possible.

Posted by: Zathras at March 9, 2005 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruhl I judge people by the associations they keep. A bunch of people show up with burning crosses and bedsheets over their heads, I figure they're Klansmen. Who deserve to be shot.

Hezbollah organized the rally. Hezbollah? Remember them? Bombing the Beirut barracks? Hijacking planes? Bombing the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 92; the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires in 94? Total dead 124? In those two attacks alone?

Do you agree with Hezbollah that it's enough for people to be JEWISH and living in a country not party to anything with the Middle East to be blown up? I guess you do.

Hezbollah is akin to the Middle East KKK; they are noxious, horrible, and no matter how many "reformed Kleagles" they have ala Byrd of West Virginia, they should be opposed by good people everywhere.

Bruhl by celebrating the Hezbollah rally you celebrate murder, terror, and death dealt out to innocent people in places far away from any conflict because thats what Hezbollah DOES. I guess the people murdered in Embassies and cultural centers were all "little Eichmans" to you, that's the problem with the Left. Ward Churchill is the rule, not the exception.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at March 9, 2005 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yikes... this comments thread is going to the dogs pretty fast!

Anyway, I think that it's probably a mistake to dismiss today's rally -- Hezbollah may be a terrorist organization, but it really does have a lot of popular support among Lebanese Shia. I think it confirms what a lot of people have suggested -- without pulling Hezbollah on board, or at least keeping them neutral, or somehow mobilizing another major source of Shia support, it's going to be hard for the opposition in Lebanon to accomplish their goals.

I thought Abu Aardvark and Jonathan Edelstein have good analysis on what happened today. Also, Kevin Drum posted the results of a Zogby poll today and it's pretty striking -- 53% of Lebanese Shia believe that Rafik Hariri was killed by Israel, way more than any other major confessional group.

Posted by: Guy at March 9, 2005 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Taiwan is a democracy and a U.S. ally. I have no problem with somebody who has worked--entirely legally, as far as I can see--for that country serving as U.S. envoy to the UN.

Now, about Lebanon and the Hezb'Allah demo the other day:

Hezbollah took a long time making up its mind to come down on Assad's side. The interesting question for U.S. policy and the Lebanese opposition is: Did Hzb (which btw has been a highly top-down organization not noted for anything resembling internal democracy--had its leaders said otherwise all those marchers might well have been carrying signs for the opposition) really want to take this position, or have its leaders been arm-twisted by their sponsors in Damascus and especially Tehran?

If the latter is the case, then we shd be asking how to heighten the tensions w/in the Hzb/Damascus/Tehran axis. The very hesitancy w/ which Hzb's leaders have seemed to act suggests that they may fear not only tensions w/ those capitals but also the prospect of strains w/in their own so-far-highly-disciplined camp. Any chance for US or opposition maneuvers to encourage splits between Hzb and its sponsors (or even w/in Hzb) over the "Beirut Spring" shd be seriously explored at the very least, and hopefully exploited for the maximum political leverage possible.

"Break like the wind," in other words.

As the old Middle Eastern political order continues to spring leaks, the US shd keep looking for opportunities to politically cross-pressure and internally divide bad actors like Hzb. Maybe Hzb is still too solid to crack on this go-round, but keeping on the pressure may make a split or splits more feasible down the road.

Posted by: David St.-Hubbins at March 9, 2005 12:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Zathras,

A boob yes, parochial no! Thanks.

Bruhl,

I am glad to know you are so familiar with my background. Such well informed speculation helps me a great deal in evaluating your position.

Still, whatever the motives of the people marching they are objectively asking for Syria to stay, Syria is a fascist dictatorship, ergo they are asking for fascism. The situation may be complicated, but saying that people who wish to enshrine a fascist dictatorship are fascists is not that hard a call to make.

Does that mean that every person there is some awful murderous terrorist? That they do not have normal human concerns, fears and reasons for supporting fascism? That every person there is a person who if I met in a bar I would hate? No. Fascism and totalitarianism have always attracted people because they feel they provide for basic human desires we all share. What you do not get to claim is that it is democratic.

If you want to say that many people in Lebanon want fascism; that they do not want democracy and we should give their views credence, we need to have another discussion. Greg however is not to be expected to call a fascist demonstration a real democratic expression. It is an anti-democratic expression.


Everybody,

Sorry for responding to the troll, as has been pointed out it has led to a hijacked thread.

Posted by: Lance at March 9, 2005 03:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David St.-Hubbins: Hezbollah took a long time making up its mind to come down on Assad's side...have its leaders been arm-twisted by their sponsors in Damascus and especially Tehran?

I'm not well-versed on the politics of Lebanon and Syria, but another possibility is that Hezbollah saw this as an opportunity to flex its political muscle to get some leverage, perhaps foreseeing a more democratic government in Lebanon and wanting to make sure that they get as strong as possible representation within it. Just a thought.

If anything, I think the lesson to take is that most situations have more than two sides. Particularly in regards to foreign policy.

And for the requisite cheap shot, if Bush deserves any credit for the benefits following the deaths of Arafat and Hariri, does he also deserve any blame for Hezbollah's decision to back Syria?

Posted by: fling93 at March 9, 2005 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

me!: another possibility is that Hezbollah saw this as an opportunity to flex its political muscle to get some leverage,

Ooh, maybe I was onto something!

After years of campaigning against Hezbollah, the radical Shiite Muslim party in Lebanon, as a terrorist pariah, the Bush administration is grudgingly going along with efforts by France and the United Nations to steer the party into the Lebanese political mainstream, administration officials say.

The administration's shift was described by American, European and United Nations officials as a reluctant recognition that Hezbollah, besides having a militia and sponsoring attacks on Israelis, is an enormous political force in Lebanon that could block Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw its troops.

Wow, I'm not often right on anything.

Posted by: fling93 at March 10, 2005 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fling,

I think you have a point. Of course the question is if the US goes a little soft on Hezbollah to help midwife possible democratic progress here, is that insufficient devotion to democracy or canny pragmatic politics? Inquiring minds want to know!


As for who gets credit, I would assume we should say that any move away from Syria by Hezbollah would be shocking. Unlike previous discussions I would say this is one where Bush can get credit regardless of the outcome if you are trying to do so. Praise for driving Hezbollah deeper into Syria's embrace and starkly illustrating who they really serve (or at least claiming it does) or if they cooperate praise for their skillfull maneuvering. My baseline is that Hezbollah will throw the country into bloody chaos if they can, anything better than that and people can sing Bush's praises all they want. If they disarm and fully join the political process then....I will not say it because bile will rise and I also might jinx the guy taking the last second shot.

Posted by: Lance at March 10, 2005 04:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I suspect Hezbollah chose Syria purely for opportunism, and that they will be willing to abandon Syria, now that they made their point (assuming they get what they want). And in this case, I think devotion to democracy means honoring what the Lebanese people want, even if it means including Hezbollah (disarmed or otherwise) in their political process. Something that we disagree with, obviously. I think Hezbollah's demonstration of power showed that we don't have much of a choice, but I'll give credit to Bush for recognizing that.

And I think another thing to learn from this case is the limitations of a WoT approach that treats terrorism purely as an evil to be fought at all costs -- instead of recognizing it as a tool used by radicals or when there is no other recourse.

Posted by: fling93 at March 10, 2005 07:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fling,

"I think devotion to democracy means honoring what the Lebanese people want, even if it means including Hezbollah (disarmed or otherwise) in their political process. Something that we disagree with, obviously."

Actually we do not disagree. Ideally they would disarm, a goal but I never said that they should be excluded without it. If a freely and democratically elected government chooses to disarm them and they do not, then that is another matter. I am not sure where you get the idea I wouldn't allow them a place in the political process, but maybe I was unclear.

I do believe that we should decry the emergence of fascists in the political process, but almost by definition if they allow democracy to flourish they cease to be fascists. If that comes about then we should all grab hands and sing We are the World or similar sappy nonsense. I am not holding my breath. They demonstrated specifically against democratic reform and for Syrian domination. Maybe I shouldn't take their statements at face value, but the history and ideology of both Syria and Hezbollah say I should. As I said before, if they fully disarm and embrace a fully democratic polity that would be a fantastic result. I hope my pessimism is unwarranted, and Hezbollah sticks to a role as a democratic party supplying medical care and food relief.

It has happened before to fascist and totalitarian parties, so I am not without hope.

As for their power, yes they have a lot, though I am unsure how much of what we saw was genuinely un-coerced Lebanese support and how much was forced or foreigners trucked in or already present. We will have to see.

Overall I think our views are rather congruent. Well except for Hezbollah choosing to back Syria due to opportunism. They may drop them, but that would be the opportunistic move. I hope they do. Syria and Hezbollah's history is long and bloody, it is not a choice they have made in the heat of the moment, but a core reason they are so powerful to begin with. Similarly Syria has gained much influence in Lebanon by working with them. A symbiotic relationship in my view.

By the way I have begun visiting your blog and enjoy it immensely.

Posted by: Lance at March 10, 2005 09:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lance: Actually we do not disagree. Ideally they would disarm, a goal but I never said that they should be excluded without it.

I didn't think we did. Yes, ideally they disarm.

Lance: As for their power, yes they have a lot, though I am unsure how much of what we saw was genuinely un-coerced Lebanese support and how much was forced or foreigners trucked in or already present. We will have to see.

Learned from Praktike (but forget which blog) that Hezbollah also supplies a lot of services normally provided by the government, so I suspect that they are genuinely popular among the Lebanese people.

Lance: Well except for Hezbollah choosing to back Syria due to opportunism.

Just my suspicion. Would also explain why they talk so long to decide.

And thanks, I'm glad you enjoy my blog. I think you might be the only one. :)

Posted by: fling93 at March 10, 2005 09:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

fling93: I think devotion to democracy means honoring what the Lebanese people want, even if it means including Hezbollah (disarmed or otherwise) in their political process. Something that we disagree with, obviously.

Lance: Actually we do not disagree.

Oh, I see. You misunderstood me. I meant "we" meaning the United States, which has historically viewed Hezbollah as nothing but a terrorist organization to be fought against, not bargained with. But trying to simplify reality doesn't make reality any more simpler. Hezbollah is a lot more than that, at least to the Lebanese.

Posted by: fling93 at March 10, 2005 09:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fling,

I agree that Hezbollah is a lot more than a terrorist organization, which is what I was referring to by medical care and food relief. I know it is even more than that, but I hoped everybody got the point. Still, I have questions about how broad their support is. Hezbollah’s relief comes with lots of expectations and strings.

Of course despicable ideologies and its leaders have always catered to its constituencies needs in some form or the other whether we are speaking of Stalin, the Nazi's, the Baathists, Mao, the Taliban and even the Khmer Rouge prior to taking power. I tire (and I am definitely not referring to you here) of people explaining their admiration for genocidal maniacs, vicious thugs and various other authoritarian and totalitarian regimes because they “provide milk for babies,” “free medical care,” and so forth. I suspect I am speaking to the choir on that, but I think it applies to Hezbollah, at least in the past. Maybe things will change.

As for why we haven’t negotiated with them in the past, a large part of that can be explained by noting that we have in the past had little need or opportunity to negotiate with them. That is outside of the issue of Israel, and there we cannot negotiate, or at least haven’t been able to, because the destruction of Israel is their bottom line. Arafat, for all his mischief, at least gave the appearance of a willingness to negotiate, however insincere that may or may not have been. Hezbollah and Hamas have made it quite clear that the only negotiation is over how Israel is to be dismantled, not whether it will be dismantled. I am not sure what we can negotiate?


Posted by: Lance at March 10, 2005 11:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lance: Of course despicable ideologies and its leaders have always catered to its constituencies needs in some form or the other

Yeah, and don't forget the liberals. :)

As for negotiation, you can still negotiate while having things that are off the table (destruction of Israel clearly being one of those things). But somehow, I doubt this was the reason they decided to support Syria. I still think their goal here is more calculated and self-serving.

Posted by: fling93 at March 11, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Structurally, the problem of getting a double-sided group like Hezb'Allah to drop its violent, terrorist side and embrace the opportunities on its unarmed, political side resembles the problem of getting politically overweening 3rd-world militaries to "go back to the barracks."

What one hopes to see in looking closely at such groups is a split or at least tensions between (in the latter case) soldiers who want to play politics, and those who are more interested in professional activities and opportunities (such as the prestige and career benefits of being invited to take part in international peacekeeping missions, etc.)

In the case of HB, this means hoping to see a split between the parliamentary/political types and the "let's shoot rockets at Israel and train suicide bombers" types.

As best I can tell, HB at this time does not exhibit much in the way of such inner tensions or splits, but I take it the group is pretty opaque to outsiders, so who knows?

The IRA is the grand-daddy of such double-sided groups. Looking at the history of Sinn Fein/the Provos, how successful have been efforts by outside agents (principally the British govt) to promote peaceful parliamentarist tendencies over "armed wing" violence w/in the IRA camp? Have the Brits leveraged and intensified any tensions on that score, or have Gerry Adams and the "hard men" played the built-in ambiguity of the Sinn Fein/Provos relationship to their own cynical advantage over the years?

If the answer is "fairly successful," then one might ask if there are any lessons to be learned from the Irish case that might apply to how we deal w/ a group such as Hezb'Allah, which has the "double-game of politics and terrorism" built into its structure.

Thoughts, anyone?

Posted by: David St.-Hubbins at March 13, 2005 02:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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