April 12, 2005

Some Context on Bolton

Read the opening statement on John Bolton's nomination to be UN Ambassador from the guy who should be Secretary of State, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar. It goes into depth on the one subject the next UN Ambassador will have to be our point man on, reform of the UN itself. It says little about Bolton himself and nothing at all of Lugar's opinion of Bolton.

You don't need an advanced degree in Lugarology to figure out that Bolton is not one of the chairman's favorite people (compare the tone of his statement yesterday to that of his statement opening the confirmation hearing of the last UN Ambassador, John Danforth). He'll back Bolton because he believes the President ought to have the executive branch appointees he wants, but if enough stuff about loose-cannon behavior at the State Department comes out, and is believed, to get Bolton in trouble Lugar won't exert himself to save this nomination.

I can't be the first person to notice, by the way, that Bolton's former boss Colin Powell is conspicuous by his silence on this nomination. Some of the things reported about Bolton's conduct with respect to, say, the North Korea negotiations reflect rather badly on Powell. They suggest a Secretary not fully in control of his own department -- not the first suggestion we had along those lines, of course, but still.

What do I think about Bolton? Well, like Greg, I tend to think of his being sent off to New York as a demotion for him. I also think it reflects Bush's preference for recycling familiar faces into prominent jobs, and the influence of the Vice President. Like Lugar I think a UN Ambassador should work on UN reform and otherwise do and say only what the Secretary of State tells him to, and if Bolton sticks to that he'll be fine. If he doesn't, and especially if he veers away from administration policy in public, he'll get fired.

Posted by at April 12, 2005 05:12 PM | TrackBack (8)

I don't think you can discount the idea that the appointment has shock value, and the administration is hoping to scare the UN into reforming. Whether anyone has throught about this appointment beyond the immediate impact... Well, one can hope. I don't think the UN is exactly priority one in this administration.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at April 12, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: Tommy G at April 13, 2005 12:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Darn ... I was just going to blog about that opening statement. I really do admire Richard Lugar.

Posted by: praktike at April 13, 2005 12:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I admire Richard Lugar in many ways, but does that mean he clearly deserved to be Secretary of State? I do not think so.

Given Rice's experience on the NSC, as the National Security Advisor, and close relationship to the President, she was clearly the favorite and I do not see how anyone can nitpick that.
Cabinet Choices are generally about choosing the most qualified person, under the assumption that the appointee will be loyal to the President. This President puts an even higher value on loyalty. In any contest involving loyalty, its hard to see how Lugar could beat Rice. If anything, Lugar has been a little bit too willing to criticize Bush. He has been conspiciously absent when it comes to supporting Bush on many issues and has taken some potshots along the way too.

Posted by: Dundare at April 13, 2005 04:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Washington Note post to which BD referred focused primarily on Bolton's negative characterization of North Korea as an impediment to US diplomatic efforts there, and construed this as Exhibit A in the Bolton as "loose cannon" meme. Thank God for all such loose cannons who are willing to call a tyranny a tyranny!

We must forgo all futher moves to appease evil in the world. Does this mean a crusade to stamp out evil regimes? By no means. Politics remains the art of the doable. But when we deal with a regime like North Korea's, we do it with pinched noses, acknowledging the stench in the air. We don't pretend that the air smells good.

So long as North Korea brays its provocative, false rhetoric, the US ought to maintain its own provocative, true rhetoric. We ought unyieldingly to portray the North Korean regime for the vile pigsty that it is, only toning down our rhetoric when the North Koreans tone down theirs.

To this end, I find the controversy surrounding Bolton to be a little mystifying. He merely remarked that people are starving under the brutal Kim regime. And for this he is criticized by the establishment as a "loose cannon." Something is wrong when the global hegemon acts afraid of a two-bit tyrant like Kim. Kim and his ilk throughout the world should fear the US, watching their words around us, not vice versa.

Our foreign policy goal towards the Kim regime should be the demise of same, plain and simple. Any deals cut with North Korea should come at their begging behest and not our own. I advocate ending talks with North Korea at once. Simply tell them we're no longer interested, and that any use of force on their part will result in the destruction of their country. Implement a stringent policy of containment, and, if need be, embargo. If at some point they want to beg us for a deal, we'll listen. Otherwise they can go to hell.

I understand that the implosion of the Kim regime will pose risks for all players. But we must also understand that the implosion of that regime is ultimately inevitable and necessary. A serious foreign policy with respect to North Korea will be formulated with this necessary outcome in mind. Meanwhile, any engagement with the Kim regime should be predicated on self-imposed behavioral changes from the regime itself, beginning with an end to the fire-breathing rhetoric that the North Koreans customarily employ.

Sorry for co-blogging!

Posted by: Arthur Ian Knight at April 13, 2005 07:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If he doesn't, and especially if he veers away from administration policy in public, he'll get fired.

Yeah, because if there's one hallmark of this administration, it's swift and decisive "accountability moments" for screw-ups in high places. What world do you people live in, and what color is the sky there?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at April 13, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

From every account I read, Bolton was forced onto Powell, who had to face a Cheney/Rumsfeld stooge as his number two in addition to having to constantly face Cheney/Rumsfeld. Has anybody ever suggested that Powell was ever fully in control at State? It seems to me that his integrity always came because he persevered in spite of such impediments as Bolton. But what does this all imply for Bolton at the UN? From all accounts Rice has had just as chilly relations with the Cheney/Rumsfeld faction as her predecessor. She does have considerably more sway with the president than Powell did, however, so she was able to refuse Bolton as her number two, and had him replaced with Zoellick. But if he acted completely independently of Powell, will Rice's connection with Bush be enough to keep Bolton under control? (As Djerejian says, the UN ambassador should "do and say only what the Secretary of State tells him to".) I'm highly skeptical.

Posted by: P Chaffee at April 13, 2005 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The UN amb. takes orders from the pres, and those delegated by the Pres to give orders. It seems to me that there will be many times where, with conflicting currents flowing through the Admin, and a lack of specific instructions, a Bolton would articulate a Cheney/Rumsfeld line, where a Rice line might be more diplomatic. Rice is a good soldier, though, and so we'll never hear about her annoyance when he does so.

WRT reform, it seems to me that a variation of good cop/bad cop is always the better way to get the UN to reform, and that by definition, the good cop ought to be the person in the amb chair. Thus, I predict that B will be no more effective at reform than D (or someone of similar stature and inclination) would have been, but much more energy will be expended, and political capital shifted (from general populace to Repub. base) than need be the case.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 14, 2005 01:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I continue to be stunned that the Bush team can't or won't find people who are more qualified and/or less controversial.

Is there really so little talent at his disposal?

Posted by: Mark-NC at April 18, 2005 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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