March 17, 2005

Sid's Amen Corner

Er, Praktike. You are going have to do better than linking Steve Clemons, some Bill O'Reilly interview, Sid Blumenthal's Guardian hackery--and then declaring game over. Unfortunately, you haven't addressed any of my substantive points in your (quite underwhelming) post. In my piece defending Bolton, I was mostly reacting to Samantha Power's New Yorker piece the gist of which was that Bolton is incapable of making compromises and is constitutionally averse to international law and multilateralism. I acknowledged that, yes, Bolton has been a U.N. skeptic and doesn't get all warm and fuzzy as he muses on about the General Assembly's role in international affairs. But I defended him as a pragmatist that believes in effective multilateralism whether effectuated through the U.N. (like his support for the UNSC approved Gulf War I coalition in his writing that I linked) or outside the U.N. in other multilateral groupings (say, the Proliferation Security Initiative which he spearheaded). In addition, and like Andrew Sullivan, I pointed out that his strong voice could prove a boon to the world body. Sometimes brute honesty gains results--if delivered with high intelligence and moral integrity. So methinks you are coming up empty here, bandying about cheap caricatures worthy of sub-Beinart swaths of the 'liberals against terrorism' crowd. Not, alas, thoughts worthy of the ominipresent blogospheric entity whose mighty and pithy commenting we've all come to appreciate so.

UPDATE: I've raised the estimable Nadezhada's ire a tad, it seems. Let me explain what I meant by "sub-Beinart swaths of the 'liberals against terrorism' crowd." Namely that Praktike's cheap and too breezy caricature of Bolton, in my view, was not worthy of intelligent 'liberals against terrorism' types (ie, Beinart) but more of the Mooriean cartoonish wing of 'liberals against terrorism (ie, sub-Beinart swaths). In other words, some liberals against terrorism (Praktike, Beinart, Eric Martin etc) are smart, nuanced, intellectually honest. Others (Atrios, Moore, Kos) not. This time, however, I felt Prak ditched a truly honest appraisal of Bolton in favor of pamphleteering so as to bandwagon with Clemons and Blumenthal (it's a little party it seems!). But I didn't mean to impugn their very worthy website in any way.

Posted by Gregory at March 17, 2005 04:02 AM | TrackBack (3)
Comments

Er, except that he wasn't "skeptical" but rather explicitly denied the very points you tried gamely to make.

Whatever.

Posted by: praktike at March 17, 2005 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And those were, er, his words. Not Steve's or Sid's.

Posted by: praktike at March 17, 2005 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry Mr. Djerejian, but Praktike's winning this one. Arguments that Bolton is a multilateralist are tenuous at best. You would be wise to stop making them.

Bolton's entirely supportive of using multilateralism when it serves US interests. If multilateralism does not serve US interests, however, Bolton rejects it. He simply does not accept that multilateralism is a normative good in itself. Which is a perfectly defendable argument.

Unfortunately, if you're making that sort of argument, you're not going to get very much done at the UN. Other diplomats will reject you out of hand, just as you reject them. This doesn't lead to consensus-building or cooperation.

It would be better for the US to have an Ambassador who at least pretended that IGOs have a role to play in international relations. Such an Ambassador would be more likely to wrest concessions from other powers. Bolton, as Ambassador, serves as a non-starter for discussion.

It's a political appointment, not one intended to achieve policy aims. Bolton didn't get the job he wanted at State, now he's at the UN. Much like Wolfowitz at the World Bank. There are better candidates for both positions. Full stop.

Posted by: rdg at March 17, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

rdg: Bolton "simply does not accept that multilateralism is a normative good in itself". Well stated, and I think on this point we are all agreed.

Next, "Other diplomats will reject you out of hand, just as you reject them." This is an usupported assertion, and I believe it to be false.

Remember that diplomats are given assignments by their own countries. I would divide them crudely into two categories.

Diplomats who have the aim of pursuing national self-interest and world safety (within the UN framework) should have no difficulty in working with Bolton. He has made it clear that the UN is not good in itself, not that all its members deserve only scorn.

Conversely, diplomats who truly believe the UN is intrinsically good -- the true transnational progressivists -- will indeed see Bolton as a threat, and may well refuse to work with him. This is a good thing.

The upshot is that Bolton will be able to work with other nations within the UN framework. Rather than being isolated himself, he will be able to isolate the die-hard progressivists.

Posted by: sammler at March 17, 2005 09:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But Bolton rejects the UN framework, at least as it is currently constructed (see his comments on the security council). Why is he the best candidate to work within a framework he loathes?

If what you say is true, he'd be better off in a regular position at State. But Condi didn't want him.

I'm not saying he's a bad person, or unqualified for handling foreign policy. He's just not a good diplomat.

Posted by: rdg at March 17, 2005 12:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You could certainly have any number of folks that would aggressively push reform at the UN without doing so obnoxiously and getting everyone's dander up. Jimbo Baker, for instance, probably wouldn't relish the job, but he prefers the stilletto to the stinkbomb. With a better track record to prove it.

Posted by: praktike at March 17, 2005 01:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmm...

Praktike's last comment may have merit and we will have to see. The rest of he and rdg's case seems rather weak.

Bolton..."simply does not accept that multilateralism is a normative good in itself"

There are a lot of people, who appear to hold that view, but most do not really, and few of them are diplomats. Bolton is not unique in that respect at all. The French for example act unilaterally at least as often as we do. Their rhetorical infatuation with multilateralism has more to do with tying others, especially the US down. Most other nations act in much the same way; it suits their interests to force multilateralism. If it doesn't they will go against the UN as long as they feel they can get away with it. Most cannot just get away with it, so their main goal is to keep the UN tied up and unable to counter their own self interested acts.

Take Iraq. France and many other nations were defying the UN sanction regime. The main goal of multilateralism was to tie the US down and pursue their own goals. They wished for the US to be kept within the framework of official UN policy while they systematically undermined that same policy.

Maybe that was all a good thing; just don't ask me to believe that they believe multilateralism and international law are a normative good in and of itself. In addition it should be pointed out that even the few who might actually hold such a belief put many goods ahead of it. Iraq is once again instructive.

Both sides of the conflict (within the UN) represented many countries (most of the EU for example supported the invasion, at least officially.) A devotion to multilateralism therefore should speak to supporting the invasion as much as opposing it. If multilateralism is the ultimate goal then this ideal could have been fulfilled as easily by supporting the invasion as by having the US back down and going along with France and Germany. That didn't happen because both sides of the debate felt that other interests and values were more important than a united policy. I say this is unremarkable.

"He simply does not accept that multilateralism is a normative good in itself. Which is a perfectly defendable argument.

Unfortunately, if you're making that sort of argument, you're not going to get very much done at the UN. Other diplomats will reject you out of hand, just as you reject them. This doesn't lead to consensus-building or cooperation"

This is really off base. Whatever the philosophy on multilateralism, these diplomats have to try and work with each other. The Europeans are far more confrontational rhetorically than the Bush administration has been. They still work away despite that. I have never heard a Bush state department official or ambassador say anything more offensive than comments which come out regularly from Fischer or Villepin. In the end diplomacy is about identifying interests (which can be idealistic at times, it isn't all realpolitik) and finding how to trade and bargain with them. That the other guy has views on the UN you do not like is a low order issue. Diplomats have been working with people they disagree with forever. That is in fact the whole point of the field.

As for Bolton's views on the UN, so what? That he would like it to be something more useful to the US (the one permanent member example) means nothing. Are you telling me Villepin wishes it wasn't just France? It is a wish not a demand.

International Law? I can’t see that Bolton is wrong in his comment. It may be impolitic to say it, but is it not true? Do our potential adversaries give one whit about International Law? Saddam, China, Putin, whoever?

As for his temperament, well Praktike I hope you are wrong, but that is what we will have to see.

Posted by: Lance at March 17, 2005 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm reluctant to get into this because I don't really know how John Bolton plans to approach his new post at the UN and suspect I am in a very large company that may well include Bolton himself.

I would be most dismayed at the nomination to be UN ambassador of someone who did believe in multilaterism separate from the pursuit of American interests. The pursuit of American interests was the foundation of those institutions -- including the UN -- that today are the most prominent multilateral fora. No American statesman of the post-World War II generation would have countenanced subordination of American interests to multilateralism for its own sake: not Marshall or Acheson, not Dulles, or Kissinger, or Schultz. There have been some Democrats who have taken the other view, which helps explain why Democrats always lose Presidential elections when the public is focused on foreign policy.

My concern about Bolton lies in another area. I'd like it if the lines of authority from New York back to State were as clear as some people are assuming, but they never have been before in this administration and I'm not sure why we should believe that this has changed. I don't think Bolton stays in the administration without at least one big fan with input into the foreign policy making process, namely the Vice President, and I don't think this is just because Cheney thinks Bolton is a swell guy.

Posted by: Zathras at March 17, 2005 05:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bolton's entirely supportive of using multilateralism when it serves US interests. If multilateralism does not serve US interests, however, Bolton rejects it. He simply does not accept that multilateralism is a normative good in itself. Which is a perfectly defendable argument.

Unfortunately, if you're making that sort of argument, you're not going to get very much done at the UN. Other diplomats will reject you out of hand, just as you reject them. This doesn't lead to consensus-building or cooperation.

France only supports multilateralism when it suits French interests. Russia and China and Germany do the same. That is the real world of diplomacy. In terms of frequency, the US and China are sometimes multilateralist, Russia a bit more so, France and Germany much more so. Why? Because the weaker you are, the more likely you have to use multilateral means to further your interests. You use the tools you have. When you only have a hammer all you see is nails and all that. The idea that any of the major UN powers embrace multilateralism as a normative goal is very difficult to defend.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at March 17, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll bet Canada sees multilateralism as a normative goal, I just know they do.

Posted by: Blogosperic Entity: brb reporting at March 17, 2005 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sebastian,

I see you have said exactly what I was trying to say, only with more clarity and brevity.

Damn you!

Posted by: Lance at March 17, 2005 08:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Europeans are far more confrontational rhetorically than the Bush administration has been.

This is a joke, right? Find me anything comparable to, say, the "Old Europe" snub. I'd like to see it.

Whatever the philosophy on multilateralism, these diplomats have to try and work with each other.

Yeah. At my job, I have to try to work with everyone too. I prefer working with the polite people in my office than with the tactless loudmouth down the hall. I avoid him when possible. I'm more productive with others. I wonder why that is.

If Bolton is disliked (which is likely), people will bypass him and deal with others in the American delegation. At that point, there's no reason for Bolton to be there.

The idea that any of the major UN powers embrace multilateralism as a normative goal is very difficult to defend.

I never said that the major UN powers embraced multilateralism as a normative good. Most UN careerists and smaller countries, on the other hand, do. The UN is not just countries with veto power on the Security Council. It is not entirely comprised of realists, either.

I would be most dismayed at the nomination to be UN ambassador of someone who did believe in multilaterism separate from the pursuit of American interests.

I would as well. But I would also prefer, as Ambassador to the UN, someone who doesn't shoot his mouth off about how much he hates the UN. Someone who doesn't make inflammatory statements in the middle of negotiations. Someone who knows how to represent his country diplomatically, at all times.

Posted by: rdg at March 17, 2005 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

rdg, actually the "Old Europe" thing was deliberate, as it was US policy in Bush43.1 to try to strangle the EU in its cradle by dividing Old from New Europe. Now the new approach is to encourage EU enlargement so that the entity becomes unwieldy to the point of collapse. It's all laid out in Frum/Perle with eagerness.

Posted by: praktike at March 18, 2005 05:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Praktike: "Frum/Perle"? Can we have a link?

Posted by: sammler at March 18, 2005 08:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rdg,

"'Europeans are far more confrontational rhetorically than the Bush administration has been.'

This is a joke, right? Find me anything comparable to, say, the "Old Europe" snub. I'd like to see it."

I guess you are right. All this talk I have been hearing about how hated in European capitals this administration is, is based on them never having said anything confrontational, or derogatory about Bush, this administration or America in general. We know we are despised because despite the long love poems Gerhard has been publishing twice weekly in the Post we have found his diaries giving us the inside scoop on the secret meetings of the SDP.

Anyway I didn't find the "old Europe" comment all that bad. I don't have time to find the more off the cuff remarks which are rarely published here, especially by lower level figures, so these are not the most pugnacious, but they will do.

Gerhard Schroeder- "I didn't expect that from a nation with a mature democracy."

-See, we are immature!

Hubert Védrine -“We are currently threatened by a simplified approach which reduces all problems of the world to the mere struggle against terrorism,”

-Simpletons!

“The Americans are acting on a unilateral basis, without consulting anyone else, and their decisions are guided exclusively by their own individual views and interests.”

-Selfish, incommunicative and we don't play nice!!

“we are threatened today by a new 'simplism' which consists in reducing everything to the war on terrorism... That is their approach,”

-Still simpletons and warmongers at that!

Chris Patten- “absolutist and simplistic” “I find it hard to believe that's [i.e. the 'axis of evil' designation] a thought-through policy... I still hope that America will demonstrate that it has not gone onto unilateralist overdrive....”

-Absolutists! George Bush and Louis XVI. Our policies are not thought through, not just wrong, they haven't even been thought through! Unilateralist again! Britain , Australia, Italy, Poland and the others I assume are to find it comforting that they don't count.

Ludger Vollmer- accused Bush of using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to “settle old accounts” with Iraq.

-Bush has psychic demons driving him!

Unnamed foreign official- “We've got to stop thinking that the only policy we can have is one that doesn't get vetoed by the United States."

I think many feel we should rephrase that.” We’ve got to stop thinking that the only policy we can have is one that doesn't get vetoed by the French (or substitute recalcitrant security council member of the moment.)

I list these not to show that any of these are untrue, so please no long missives about how justified the comments are. Just that they are tough comments which all diplomatic corps and governments partake in all the time. I could if I felt like taking the time find comments about how we were really invading out of avarice and greed, desire for empire and all kinds of neoconservative scaremongering and often open anti-Semitism. Maybe the comments are fully justified, it is not however all that kind and gentle. “Old Europe” is not only accurate, but not all that offensive.

“ ‘Whatever the philosophy on multilateralism, these diplomats have to try and work with each other.’

Yeah. At my job, I have to try to work with everyone too. I prefer working with the polite people in my office than with the tactless loudmouth down the hall. I avoid him when possible. I'm more productive with others. I wonder why that is.

If Bolton is disliked (which is likely), people will bypass him and deal with others in the American delegation. At that point, there's no reason for Bolton to be there.”

That is a rather silly way to view serious work. As I said before his temperament could be a problem. His views on the UN are not. Nevertheless diplomats are employed specifically to work with people they find unpleasant. The UN is full of them. They will work with him to the extent he can convince them it makes sense for them to do so. I have seen nothing in his career so far to show me that he is unable to work with people if he feels it makes sense to do so.

“‘The idea that any of the major UN powers embrace multilateralism as a normative goal is very difficult to defend.’

I never said that the major UN powers embraced multilateralism as a normative good. Most UN careerists and smaller countries, on the other hand, do. The UN is not just countries with veto power on the Security Council. It is not entirely comprised of realists, either.”

Well, I also said, if you read again, that the UN is not all about Realpolitik, interests can be idealistic and noble, but they are the perceived interests of those governments nevertheless. However most UN careerists and smaller countries do not hold the view either, which earlier in the post I had also said despite your implication that I was referring only to major powers. Your argument that I was addressing was the idea that because Bolton doesn’t hold that multilateralism is a normative good then he wouldn’t be able to conduct business effectively. My issue with that is that it is not unique and if other countries, especially the major powers, are not bothered by it then how are we anymore hamstrung than France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany and on and on?

They rail against our unilateralism because we didn’t agree with them, not that we didn’t want to be multilateral, or that we didn’t have allies or any actual evidence of unilateralism. Big surprise.

Once again, if he is in fact intemperate and shoots his mouth off about ongoing negotiations in his new post that would be an issue. Though the same might have been said of Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Patrick Moynihan, but some good came of their presence.

Posted by: Lance at March 18, 2005 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rdg,

and now you say;

"Oh...those rhetorically confrontational snubs. I stand corrected - my apologies."

...and we all go on about our business.


Posted by: Tommy G at March 19, 2005 07:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by