Tuesday, March 29, 2005

From what I've read of the man, I am a big fan of John Bolton:

During that time, and during his early tenure in the second Bush administration, Bolton's first priority appears to have been to roll back public international law so it isn't used against us by other nations as they battle for power in a dark, Hobbesian world. At its most extreme, this view has led him to say that "if the U.N. Secretary Building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," and to support former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet against the international courts that hope to bring him to trial on charges of gross human rights violations.

More generally, four years ago, Bolton said: "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so -- because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States."

I couldn't agree more, and find myself relieved that at least some members of the current Administration are not clueless on this front. So while I would prefer to have the man in the State Department and not wasting his energy on the UN, I can at least enjoy the spectacle of diplomatic teacups shattering on the floor, as all kinds of notables faint from the idea that this utterly gauche man will be the U.S.'s face to the world. The latest to turn pale and reach for the smelling salts are fifty-nine former professional placators:

Fifty-nine former US diplomats have written to the chairman of a key Senate committee in protest at the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

Chief among the objections was Mr Bolton's stated view that the UN "is valuable only when it directly serves the United States".

This is a stunning revelation into the mind of the professional diplomat. Their job is to serve the interests of the United States. That's why they get the nice house overseas and the big bucks. But heaven forfend someone actually demand that the UN do this!

In addition, Mr Bolton was criticised for his record as US arms control supremo.

He had an "exceptional record" of undermining potential improvements to US national security through arms control, the diplomats complained.

This is somewhat ambiguously phrased by the BBC, but what they mean is, Bolton is generally against useless paper "arms control" agreements. From the Salon article:

But his competence has ultimately allowed Bolton to do much harm, scuttling the international agreements and treaties that make up much of the legal basis for international order and security. With Bolton's tireless leadership and assistance, the Bush administration has undermined the International Criminal Court, the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, and a potential international treaty on small arms trafficking -- while also opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

One would think that with the arms-control agreements having been proved worthless in a string of humiliating and flagrant violations -- hello? North Korea? Iran? -- the old diplomats would have enough sense to, well, diplomatically neglect to mention them. Oops.

The usual suspects feature prominently here:

Among the most senior signatories was Arthur Hartman, former ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Richard Nixon.

Princeton Lyman, a former ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria, Monteagle Stearns, US representative in Greece and Ivory Coast, and Spurgeon Keeny Jr, Jimmy Carter's deputy director of arms control, also signed the letter.

And, finally, this part:

But the former diplomats insist his hard-line views on states such as Cuba and Syria, as well as previous paid employment for the government of Taiwan, make him an unsuitable candidate.

This statement is so awe-inspiringly stupid, I am tempted to let it stand without comment. Apparently it's all right for former diplomats to receive paychecks from the Saudis, but anyone who doesn't sing Castro's praises, pretend the Assads are legitimate, or -- horrors! -- has worked for the government of a friendly nation, is "unsuitable."

You have to hand it to the Bush Administration -- whatever their many flaws, on the foreign policy front they have managed rattle quite a few cages, with results that are simultaneously distressing and hilarious.

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