April 12, 2005 | Commentary on International Organizations

The Right Pick

The fireworks start this morning: Sen. Dick Lugar's Foreign Relations Committee begins three days of what promises to be grueling, partisan hearings on President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be America's ambassador to the United Nations.

The knock on Bolton is that he's supposedly "anti-U.N." In fact, his criticisms have always been inspired by the U.N.'s ideals - and therefore scathing about its corrupt reality.

The United Nations is a mess, rocked by scandals and failure. The president picked Bolton because America needs a firm, outspoken statesman at Turtle Bay - someone who can advance American interests and drive U.N. reform.

There's no doubt Bolton will shake things up - that's just what the doctor ordered.

Opponents are gearing up for a classic Washington confirmation fight. They'll try to rake Bolton over the coals - dredging up his past negative statements about the United Nations, allegations by at least one State Department intelligence analyst of "bullying" over WMD reports and anything else they can lay their hands on.

Expect Bolton to be grilled about the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs and his opposition to a number of treaties including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - neither of which serves American interests.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a definite "no" vote on the committee, last week said that opponents "have a chance" of persuading one of the committee's Republicans to join them. That person is Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), a moderate who is a big fan of the United Nations.

The Foreign Relations Committee has 10 Republicans and eight Democrats. A Chafee defection in this Thursday's vote would produce a 9-9 tie, effectively killing Bolton's nomination.

But Bolton has plenty of support, too. After meeting with the nominee last month, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who has often criticized the administration, beamed that Bolton's "experience and knowledge will serve him well."

And last week, former U.S. secretaries of state Eagleburger, Haig, Kissinger, Schultz and Baker, former defense secretaries Carlucci and Schlesinger, former U.N. ambassador Kirkpatrick and former national security advisor Allen jointly urged the Senate to confirm Bolton.

"We must have an ambassador in place whose knowledge, experience, dedication and drive will be vital to protecting the American interest in an effective, forward-looking United Nations," they wrote to the committee. Bolton has a reputation for being highly effective. He "knows how to get things done," noted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in announcing his nomination last month.

In his current job, Bolton implemented the Proliferation Security Initiative, an innovative 60-plus nation program that led Libya's Moammar Khadafy to end his WMD program. He negotiated the Moscow Treaty, reducing Russian and American nukes by two-thirds, too.

And during an earlier administration (Bush 41), Bolton had a great run as assistant secretary of state for international organizations.

Responsible for Foggy Bottom's U.N. policy, he achieved the passage of the "all means necessary" U.N. resolution opposing Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and implemented much-needed U.N. management and budget reforms.

Most notable of all, he led State's successful efforts to repeal the odious U.N. resolution 3379 - the "Zionism is racism" slur - after 16 years on the books.

Bolton is going to need that same sort of drive at today's United Nations. The 191-member organization is reeling from revelations of rampant corruption in the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, and sexual abuses by its "peacekeepers" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Standing in the dark shadow of deadly inaction in Rwanda and Bosnia, the international body is also under fire for its failure to halt ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan, and the ongoing Congo massacres.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan admits the organization stands in desperate need of reform. He has suggested some reform initiatives - but he's on the verge of being tossed into the East River himself.

The United Nations won't achieve the reform it needs without strong, engaged American leadership. That's where a rock-solid guy like John Bolton comes in.

The United States is the U.N.'s biggest donor, paying over 20 percent of the budget. We need to start getting a decent "return" on the $2 billion a year that U.S. taxpayers send to the United Nations and its affiliates.

We also need an ambassador in New York who can tangle with the increasingly powerful (and confident) Chinese, the ornery Russians and the (always) cranky French on the Security Council.

It's not a moment too soon for strong, effective - bold - American leadership at the United Nations. The world's largest international institution is in serious need of some "tough love" - and the smart money says John Bolton is the right man to give it.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. E-mail: peterbrookes@heritage.org

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

First appeared in the New York Post