April 05, 2005

The Thermidor Has Arrived

You won't read this in the serried ranks of much of the left blogosphere--but some judicious lefty observers are pointing out the obvious. And, again folks, Bolton at USUN is not Bolton as Deputy Secretary. It's not the job he wanted, it's not the job Cheney wanted for him, it's less powerful than Zoellick's gig by far, and it won't imperil the prospects of a sane American foreign policy going forward (even within the limited precincts of Turtle Bay where, with all due respect to the hyper-ventilations of people like Steve Clemons who seem to care so passionately about the U.N., there are, you know, bigger fish to fry of late if you care about said institution's future...).

P.S. For my (relatively lukewarm) take on Bolton just put his name in the search engine to the right.

Posted by Gregory at April 5, 2005 05:19 AM | TrackBack (3)

You are right -- Bolton at USUN is preferable to Bolton as State - D. But, remember, the odds are in favor that both Iran and North Korea's cases will both be referred to the UN Security Council at some point over the next three years, assuming the current talks for both cases collapse. And Mr. Bolton will be waiting there, ready to scuttle any meaningful chance at a diplomatic settlement.

It's also about the message this appointment sends -- the UN Ambassador position carries a prestige and aura that outweights its actual power in the Washington policymaking circuit. Signals matter, especially when the world is watching.

Posted by: j at April 5, 2005 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Strange; you must not have noticed that the same website also opposes the Bolton nomination.


Posted by: praktike at April 5, 2005 02:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

j said: "And Mr. Bolton will be waiting there, ready to scuttle any meaningful chance at a diplomatic settlement."

This criticism appears to be predicated on the belief that "a diplomatic settlement" is a good in itself -- which I join Mr. Bolton in roundly rejecting.

Let's try it this way: Mr. Bolton will be waiting there, ready to scuttle diplomatic settlement altogether rather than accept a settlement unfavorable to the U.S.

Posted by: sammler at April 5, 2005 03:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to agree with sammler

It sounds j, like you're worried that Bolton will prevent the issues of Iran and North Korea, after the potential collapse of current talks, from forming a never ending 'process' similar to that over Palestine, an outcome which is extremely undesirable.

Clinton's efforts to 'contain' North Korea were achieved through what I think you're describing and look at the outcome there.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at April 5, 2005 04:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I also find the assumption that Bolton is opposed to any agreements at all a caricature. Argue someone else might be better and maybe I might find the comment worth considering. This however flies in the face of the mans actual career.

Posted by: Lance at April 5, 2005 05:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An administration that let any UN Ambassador scuttle an important negotiation would have much bigger problems than who headed its delegation in New York.

I've commented previously that John Bolton's nomination appears due most to President Bush's preference for familiar faces in important posts and to Vice President Cheney's patronage. If there is a potential problem in the future with Bolton, it seems to me likely that it will have less to do with Bolton himself and more to do with Cheney attempting to exercise foreign policy influence through the office of the UN Ambassador. This couldn't happen with a strong Secretary of State and a President vigilant against anything that might appear to undercut his Secretary of State's authority. Whether one believes that is what we have now depends on whether one prefers to be guided by hope or experience.

Posted by: Zathras at April 5, 2005 05:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Democracy Arsenal post only furthers the argument against Bolton--if Bush and his advisors can appoint that many people to relatively high-level positions who are widely respected and uncontroversial, then why do they need to piss so many people off by trying to send Bolton to the UN? Why not just find another widely respected and uncontroversial person?

Posted by: Haggai at April 5, 2005 06:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The State and Defense posts discussed at Democracy Arsenal are high level, but with the exceptions of the Deputy positions at each department are not publicly visible. Bush has tended to fill prominent positions with people he is familiar with, and Bolton is one. Zoellick and England, of course, are two others. Zalmay Khalizad, the ambassador in Kabul slated to go to Baghdad, is yet another.

I should make clear that I hope and rather believe that Greg is right: Bolton is being given the UN job to get him out of Washington to a place where is role will be to implement policy devised by someone else. So, I will be guided by hope to some extent, rather than the experience that suggests the "someone else" devising policy may not always be the Secretary of State.

Posted by: Zathras at April 5, 2005 11:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given the recent news that a lot of power has been coalescing around Condi in her shop, and that Bush has been allowing it, I strongly advise that it would be wise not to underestimate this SOS.

Condi as NSA had neither patronage nor institutional power. Greg was constantly pulling his hair out on this board about her, pining for the return of "the Scowcroft Model." My take was that Greg always misunderstood the situation: Rice had a constituency of one guy, Bush. That's the way Bush wanted it. What power she had revolved around her ability to get the last word in. He wanted a private advisor, not a head knocker. What he got was the Principal's Committee version of the Great Leap Forward ("let 100 Schools of Thought Contend"). It almost turned into the Cultural Revolution. It worked great for Condi, but Powell, Rumsfeld, and Cheney were at each other's throats.

Which suited Bush fine, btw.

Now Rice has institutional power (aka, a beuracracy that is feeling its oats for the first time since the Jimmy Baker days) AND the ear of a President who is actually a close friend and confidant to the Secretary. This is great for her, aside from the Woman's Wear Daily writeups and the comparisons with Hillary, she has the chance to leave a real diplomatic mark before either returning to academe or entering politics, which I believe to be just as likely (denials notwithstanding).

I'm sorry, I don't worry about John Bolton doing an end run in that circumstance. I also believe that Don Rumsfeld is a tad preoccupied these days, stripping Dick Cheney of a potential ally. This isn't to say that Dick Cheney can't have fun when he wants to; however, it's 2005, not 2002 and the relative power positions have shifted somewhat in Condi's favor.


As an off-topic aside; does anyone seriously believe that the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the rest of the meme-laden MSM would have given Condi Rice a pass had she been caught trying to smuggle classifed documents out of the National Archives Building in her control-top pantyhose? Cause I know that Sandy Berger is getting away with murder.

Posted by: Section9 at April 6, 2005 01:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can we agree that Bush is a guy who wants to solve problems and get things done? Call him a cowboy, a dreamer, a lucky fool or whatever - Bush wants results, no? If we can agree that Bush is proactive, then Bolton is one part of his plan to fix the UN.

Those concerned that Bolton not a team player must have overlooked his roll in the formation, tasking, and activities of the Proliferation Security Initiative. According to Bolton, the PSI was necessary because "proliferators and those facilitating the procurement of deadly capabilities are circumventing existing laws, treaties, and controls against WMD proliferation." Unlike the existing UN proliferation-prevention regime, "PSI is not diverted by disputes about candidacies for director general, agency budgets, agendas for meetings, and the like."

In other words, the PSI was intended to act, not socialize. Shipments of WMD, piracy in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the like violate international law. No need to meet in New York, caucus in Geneva, and study the matter further in Paris – just get your ships and reconnaissance resources out there, coordinate with each other, and start picking up the criminals. It was through PSI procedures that the US, working with Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, was able to divert a ship carrying banned uranium centrifuge equipment for Libya. The Jamahiriya noticed and authorized revolutionary leader Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi to give up the nation’s nuclear program.

Does Bolton play well with others? If his record with the PSI is any indication, he does a fair job. He was able to recruit ten allies for the core group: Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Other nations have provided support on an ad hoc basis.

To borrow a comparison from the late, great Douglas Adams, the UN (and the DA folks are naturals for this role) operates like a fire development committee that over years and years develops great plans and superb promotional ideas for the concept of “fire.” Meanwhile, folks like Bolton and Bush are lighting them.

Bolton is a great choice. My only fear is that his best work in reforming the UN will be behind the scenes and ms-reported by the MSM. But I don’t think that either he or Bush will care.

Posted by: The Kid at April 6, 2005 03:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rather amazing that at this stage of the game, there are people who still have no idea what this administration is all about.

Case in point: that Bush should have hired someone "uncontroversial" and "respected" to the UN? To have won back the trust and backing of those working at what by all accounts is a severely tarnished, disfunctional, tyrant-coddling and in many respects criminal organization? To work together with it? Well, dream on.

(The only way the US mightl be able to work together with the UN is if the US blusters, threatens, cajoles, strong-arms (no not, implores) the UN to do what is necessary. Not a sure bet, not at all. )

Yes, there are still a few problems out there begging for solutions. And if, perhaps, the UN might still be capable of being a force for good (but then, let's sit around and discuss what "good" is, why don't we?), it won't happen unless that organization is reminded of the high(er) ideals for which it once supposedly stood.

(Of course we're all for problem solving. But if it has to be done "unilaterally," well, we'd much prefer the problem to fester, thank you very much? It's the principle of the thing?)

For many in the status quo crowd (aka 9/10ers)---wise, thoughtful, considerate, reasonable, attuned, nuanced, pious---the whole idea that one can solve such problems is laughable and reeks of American hubris; or if problems are, in fact, solvable, the only way to solve them is to work with demonstrably unworkable organizations; and/or to declare those problems complex and not readily solvable unless one truly makes an effort to get at their root causes; and/or to label those problems as really America's fault to begin with and not really solvable unless America reforms itself, or if she (and/or preferably Israel) disappears entirely.

And/or to constantly repeat the mantra that it is Bush himself who is the problem.

Moreover, the people making such arguments continue to express surprise---to be miffed---that their opinions are not taken into account by the Bush administration, and constantly remind us why they should be heeded.

Why should they be, exactly?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 6, 2005 07:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent post Barry, I'm chuckling as I type.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at April 6, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey Kid, reference the PSI, that's a nice way to do business as long as you don't mind breaking a few international treaties on how to conduct legal seizures on the high seas. The US Coast Guard pointed this out to DOD, to no avail. Oops I forgot, we're Team America, we don't do no stinkin' treaties!

Bolton's a horrible choice. But don't worry Kid, the so-called liberal media died several years ago. Faux News, CNN and MSNBC will all make sure that Bolton's screw-ups and shouting matches never get into the headlines.

Posted by: The other J. at April 6, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The other J,

Could you cite the treaties you're talking about?


Posted by: just wondering at April 7, 2005 04:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

just cause someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean that they can't do the job that they inted to do.

jimmy carter is a horrible person to have running the US if you want us embassies to be secure and the economy to grow strongly. but he intended to make nicey nice with his future bosses in moscow!

if you don't believe that other countries are just looking for progress, i.e. you have the temerity to actually listen to what they say to their own people, you might not be all that in love with diplomatic process.

did dpm love the UN as it then existed? did he love welfare as implemented? was he wrong?

but sure, keep telling me about the "reality based community" amidst the child rape by peacekeepers, theft of money by sg's son...

and i do love how the whole idea of reality based community misses the entire point of the quote. but then "a secure status quo for genocidal tyrants and corrupt frenchmen community" doesn't poll nearly as well!

Posted by: hey at April 7, 2005 07:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just wondering - Organization of American States has a number of international water transportation multilateral agreements for instance that clash with the implementation of the PSI. Coast Guard brought this up to the NSC but was blown off.

Posted by: J. at April 8, 2005 03:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J and others on the anti-Bush end seem distressed that the PSI seems to have cut new orders for participating naval forces when it comes to intercepting and inspecting ships suspected of carrying WMDs. Now, I'm not an expert in Maritime Law but I suspect any treaty or "water transportation multilateral agreement" entered into by the U.S. has a smokin' big exception that permits nations to act in their own security interest.

Of course, if said agreement was executed while Clinton was prez, all bets are off.

Posted by: sf at April 11, 2005 04:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Belatedly it has occurred to me that Bolton's nomination is also a flypaper strategy against Democratic Senators blocking judicial confirmations.

Posted by: sammler at April 12, 2005 08:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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