Kofi Annan breezed into Philadelphia this week to pick up an honorary degree
from the University of Pennsylvania. Despite presiding over one of the most
corrupt and hypocritical institutions in the world, Annan still gets the
celebrity Nobel Peace Prize-winner treatment virtually everywhere he goes.
Scandals come and go at the United Nations. Anti-Semitism thrives in its
halls like the ivy on the walls of Harvard and Yale, but Kofi Annan is still
treated like a scholarship student by the chattering classes.
But while Annan continues on his lifelong champagne-and-caviar tour of
international diplomacy, in Washington, D.C., John Bolton has been getting Bork-ed
by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international
security, is President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations. But if
you've been following his ordeal by fire, it seems more like he's been
assigned the role of designated piñata.
After weeks of innuendo, leaks and senatorial grandstanding, the worst you
can say about him is that Bolton is not the cuddliest bear in the zoo that is
our federal bureaucracy. By all accounts, he's a hard case who supports his
president's policies, and he isn't shy about butting heads with those in the
"permanent government" who don't get with the program.
INSULTING THE LUNATICS
To the shock of some in the State Department, he has also had the effrontery
to "insult" the lunatics running North Korea, and has publicly questioned the
efficacy of the United Nations itself.
In other words, he sounds as if he's absolutely perfect for the job of U.S.
ambassador to that glass-encased nuthouse perched on Manhattan's Turtle Bay.
Instead, he has been roundly abused, and though the odds are that the full
Senate will ratify his nomination, the non-endorsement of Bolton by the Foreign
Relations Committee and the gauntlet of abuse he has been forced to run will
certainly hurt his ability to do the job.
How is it that a man who presided over one of the greatest thefts in history,
as Kofi Annan did with the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq, is still
virtually untouchable? How is it that he's considered worthy of honor, while
Bolton, who can claim credit for some genuine American diplomatic victories (such
as the U.N. vote to rescind its infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution), is
treated like a pariah?
The answer, of course, is politics.
Everyone, even Kofi Annan, knows that the United Nations must be reformed.
Though why anyone should think to entrust this task to the man who let the
crooks and bigots have the run of the place is beyond me.
The problem here is that the out-of-control partisanship that has infected
virtually every corner of our political life has extended to every aspect of
American foreign policy as well. Since Bush wants Bolton, those who oppose Bush
oppose his man. And in the present culture of cut-throat, zero-sum, Capitol
Hill warfare, that means Bolton must be destroyed.
For the president's Democratic foes, that's a critical mistake on two
counts. It's both bad policy and bad politics.
First, by painting Bolton as the devil incarnate for his tough-guy style,
they are sending a message to the international community that Americans are not
united behind the cause of a complete housecleaning at the United Nations.
A short list of its faults would be too long for this space, but let it
suffice to say that under Annan's genial leadership, an already rotten institution
got even worse.
On top of its lack of accountability for the billions stolen and siphoned to
Saddam Hussein and his Swiss, French and Russian partners on Annan's watch,
the United Nations has remained a bastion of tyrants who use the world body's
good offices, such as its so-called Commission on Human Rights, to protect their
own infamous practices and denounce the right of Israel to defend itself.
Taking their cues from the despicable 2001 festival of anti-Semitism in
Durban, South Africa, the nongovernmental-agency universe remains one where
terrorism against Jews is lauded, and Israel is the only nation whose actions are
worthy of censure. And the United Nation's refugee agency dedicated to helping
the Palestinians has been used as an auxiliary for terror organizations.
Which is exactly why Americans need to send a man like Bolton there.
A CRITICAL MISTAKE
The United Nations is still too important for the United States to ignore.
For all of its flaws, it still has the capacity to help, and on those occasions
when Third World politics are kept to a minimum, it has done a great deal of
good. Even if it were desirable to pull out, it's probably not feasible.
But by adopting the stand that being tough on the United Nations is a
disqualifying attribute for an American diplomat, senators like Delaware Democrat
Joseph Biden have undermined any hope for a bipartisan foreign policy.
Even more to the point, are Biden and the Democratic leaders who have chosen
to target Bolton really crazy enough to think they can advance the interests
of their party in red states, or solidify their hold on the Jewish vote on the
basis of their unwillingness to countenance rudeness to Kofi Annan?
Are they nuts? This is exactly the sort of foolishness that has lost the
Democrats the support of enough centrists to put the GOP in control of the White
House and both houses of Congress.
If the Democrats are tailoring their foreign policy stands to please
extremists like George Soros and the rest of the MoveOn. org crowd, they are shooting
themselves in the foot.
What the Democrats and the country need is to remember that the model for
Bolton's brand of blunt but effective diplomacy was Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
whose memorable tenure as U.S. representative to the United Nations earned him
many of the same criticisms as those directed at Bolton.
It's worth noting that for all of his status as an early hero of the foreign
policy neo-cons in the 1970s, Moynihan was a proud Democrat. If the current
supporters of that party want to win on foreign policy, they should be trying to
channel his restless and courageous spirit, not throwing bouquets at the
likes of Kofi Annan.