June 16, 2006
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is putting the United Nations in grave danger. Last week at a conference sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation, UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown offered a "sincere and constructive critique of U.S. policy (PDF) towards the UN by a friend and admirer." While the Bush administration dismisses the global body in public, "quietly and out of earshot of middle America's favorite talk radio channels" it acknowledges that it needs the United Nations for operations in Haiti, Darfur (PDF), and other parts of the world. President Bush needs to reign in its top diplomat. Continuing to ignore Bolton's bullying and threats will undermine U.S. interests by making the nation "more isolated than ever."
- Malloch Brown’s comments were a sincere and constructive critique. In his speech, Malloch Brown recognized the important role that the U.S plays at the UN, saying "the UN's ability to respond is being weakened without US leadership (PDF).” As Kofi Annan states, Malloch Brown’s message was that the “US needs the UN, and the UN needs the US, and we need to support each other." Other speakers at the conference delivered the same message, including Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), who called the Bush administration's approach to geostrategic issues "entirely parochial (PDF)." Bolton’s attack on Malloch Brown was unconstructive and vitriolic. The day after Malloch Brown made his remarks, Bolton issued a statement not only calling on Annan to "personally and publicly repudidate this speech," but threatened that "the victim, I fear, will be the United Nations."
- With Bolton as the U.S. representative, the U.S. continues to lose friends. Bolton “was notorious, even before arriving at the United Nations last year, for having said that 10 stories of the U.N. headquarters could be demolished without much loss; he had described the United States as the sun around which lesser nations rotate — mere 'asteroids,' he'd branded them." Since that time, he has had a "rich history of losing friends and failing to influence people" at the United Nations. He opposed a new Human Rights Council in a lopsided 170-4 vote, and more recently he skipped a high-level U.N. Security Council delegation trip to Sudan to pressure the government in Khartoum to accept a UN peacekeeping mission. Instead, the United States was the only country out of 15 to send a number three UN diplomat.
- The Bush administration must do more to reign in Bolton. In public, the Bush administration has continually bashed the United Nations. In 2002, Bush asserted that the United Nations would become "irrelevant" should it fail to join the U.S. in disarming Iraq, and the administration remains silent while the right wing consistently attacks the organization. But in private, the administration sings a different tune. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "met with Annan and thanked him profusely for organizing a peacekeeping force in Haiti and elections in Iraq, neither of which the White House could have done by itself." At times, Bush has even had to break with his ambassador in public. Unfortunately though, these repudiations have been few and far between. Continuing to let Bolton run amok will do damage to both the United Nations and the United States, hurting any possible cooperation on issues such as Iran and Darfur.
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