This news is already two weeks old, but its implications will last longer than two weeks. I am talking, of course, of the resignation of John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN since August 2005, when the President used a recess appointment to get Mr. Bolton on the job. I guess I won't have to tell Americans that Mr. Bolton could have stayed in function, even despite the changed power balance in Congress, had it not been for Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), who refused to lend his vote to the Republicans in the Senate's Foreign Relations committee. Outgoing Secdef Donald Rumsfeld once remarked that if you are not criticized, you're not doing your job well, and by that standard Mr. Bolton must have been doing a hell of a job. Read, for instance, how a certain Spencer Boyer of the Center for American Progress, whatever that may be, comments on the Ambassador's departure:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - John Bolton's resignation today as the US Ambassador to the United Nations is a positive development for the United States. Mr. Bolton was a diplomat who lacked diplomacy. His antagonistic ways tarnished the United States' relationships at the UN and denied him the political support in Washington he would have needed to keep the job. President Bush now has an opportunity to nominate an ambassador committed to reform of the institution in a positive way and who understands why the UN matters and how it can advance the national security goals of the United States
... committed to reform of the institution in a positive way... but, IIRC, it was Bolton who, upon assuming the function of UN Ambassador, threw on the table 750 amendments to a 29-page blueprint aimed at restating the ideals of the UN and proposing necessary reforms. 750 is a huge number and may indeed suggest contempt for the UN rather than a serious will to come up with valuable suggestions for reshaping "the world's government". At the time the media preferred to highlight the sexier amendments - like, e.g., the US's proposal to delete all references in the new UN chapter to the Holy 0.7 Per Cent of GNP To Be Set Aside By The Rich Countries For Third World Development. Picking out this amendment is, of course, a not so thinly veiled stab at America - because, after all, if the man in the street reads that the US does not even want to put a cipher that low on a development goal, it surely is the birthplace of heartless capitalism. In my opinion, and I do not say that to flatter DowneastBlog's US readership, the 0.7% Holy Cow is a hoax and the States have long since discovered that. Donations to developing countries do not help. The act of giving a drunk a buck he'll very likely spend on a Bud, will not lift him out of poverty, though it may give the donator a warm and fluffy feeling. It is no different with the 0.7% of GDP to be donated by the richer fellas at the UN Table. I can tell, because I could tell you a (nasty) thing or two about Belgian development aid. On the other hand, introducing free market reforms, privatizations, implementation of capitalist principles: these are the tools that will lift developing countries out of economic misery. And indeed, Bolton's amendments referred to the so-called Monterrey Consensus, a 2002 summit in Mexico that focused on free-market reforms and which required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief (can't see what's wrong with that, btw). Free market reforms are a proven means to make countries wealthier - as a matter of fact, a little known free market feat which happened only recently, namely new free trade legislation between most arab countries, immediately led to surging trade volumes and investments. It's things like that which will lift countries out of poverty, not some ludicrous vow to spend some stupid percentage meant to help, so to say, but in reality to cheaply buy one ounce of good conscience and two and a half ounces of frikking moral superiority.
Among those 750 amendments were also US suggestions on the Milennium Goals, the International Criminal Court, Climate Change and Nuclear Disarmament, but like I said, all of these sexy topics offered MSM at the time plenty of shooting opportunities to depict the US's UN envoy as a bully. The ICC? Golly, what sane person could possibly be against something noble as an ICC? But the folly of the ludicrous universal jurisdiction law in Belgium and Germany led thus far to Powell, Bush I and now Rumsfeld being threatened with lawsuits. Can someone possibly imagine what an ICC with jurisdiction over US citizens or US military personnel would be capable of? But what MSM wisely chose to ignore was that the UN Draft for Reform was at times written in such poor English that Bolton himself had to correct typos (changing "accordin" to "according" on one occasion), or that from the start he profiled himself as a champion for more ethics in the UN alleys (indeed succeeding shortly thereafter to revise the upper limit for gifts to UN employees from 10,000 US$ to just 250 US$.)
Now, all that was late summer 2005. We are sixteen months down the road now, and Bolton has to go. But in the sixteen months of his tenure, he was able to leave more than an imprint, indeed, proved himself to be an essential thriving force, in three domains:
A.) HUMAN RIGHTS.
Bolton has worked tirelessly to push for greater action by the U.N. Security Council and the international community over the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, which has claimed over 250,000 lives. He played a key role in UNSC negotiations, pressing for more protection for the refugees against the Janjaweed and for targeted sanctions against Sudanese officials implicated in the murders. He also steered the US away from joining the UN's new Human Rights Council (the successor to the UN Human Rights Commission), on the grounds that it makes no sense to talk human rights violations with human rights violators: the council's members included experts in the field like Algeria, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
This summer and fall, the UN's Human Rights Council proved itself to be a worthy successor to its predecessor (the UNHR Commission, which included murderous regimes such as Burma, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe), since in three consecutive "Special Sessions", Israel was lambasted while the real agressors and provocators got a blanco check. And then we do not even talk about the Council totally ignoring the continuous state-sanctioned human rights abuses in Belarus, Burma, Cuba, China, Iran, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.
Some may argue that Bolton was wrong in not securing a seat for the US in the UN Human Rights Council. I disagree. By participating, the US would at the same time have been blocked and vetoed time and again. By contrast, painful though it may be for the sufferers from human rights abuses in the countries mentioned, a policy of non-participating has (hopefully) shown the world what a freak cabinet a Human Rights Council is when it is run by butchers.
B.) UN REFORM.
Bolton helped establish a General Assembly consensus on reforming the U.N. resource management and budget process, improving oversight, reviewing United Nations mandates, and reforming human resources management. He led an effort to cap the U.N. budget at $950 million, pending progress on U.N. reform. Partly due to Bolton’s efforts, the U.N. created an Ethics Office, mandated financial disclosure for U.N. officials, and increased resources for the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
A little known fact is also that Bolton was able to build coalitions in the UN. He forged one of 50 nations in the face of strong opposition by the so-called G-77, the Group of 77 Nations, some kind of a developing world counterweight against the G-8. Keep in mind that Ambassador Bolton's coalition was responsible for a staggering 87 percent of the U.N. regular budget, which made their demand for management reform all the more reasonable. Unfortunately, G-77 opposition ultimately succeeded in delaying and blocking the reform effort, with the General Assembly eventually approving a U.N. budget beyond the $950 million limit. Be that as it may, that does not diminish Bolton's qualities. I can't imagine someone else from the western world standing up like he did and demanding rightful transparence for usage of its funds.
C.) NUCLEAR ARMS PROLIFERATION.
Since becoming US Ambassador at the UN, John Bolton has been at the forefront of the battle against proliferation of nuclear arms technology. He was instrumental in the adoption of three key UNSC Resolutions, 1695, 1696 and 1718. The first one, 1695, condemned North Korea’s test-firing of long-range ballistic missiles and urged an immediate return to the six-party talks. With regards to Iran, he played a key role in warning the international community of Tehran’s continuing enrichment of uranium and has tirelessly pressured the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to toughen its position on Iran’s nuclear activities. This led to UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which called on Iran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development" by the end of August or face possible sanctions. Then, when North Korea tested its first nuclear device on October 9, 2006, John Bolton successfully led U.S. efforts to rally international support for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposed military and economic sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear test in October.
Of course, these days getting resolutions passed seems an excercise in futility. On the one hand, we have a Middle Eastern dictatorship of which the leadership, and not just Ahamdinejad, have vowed to destroy Israel. On the other hand, we have an Asian dictatorship which has actually tested a nuclear bomb and which also has launcher systems available. It is as good as certain that there are profound links between both regimes - Iranian military personnel is said to have been present at the missile launching over the Sea of Japan. And then one sees how difficult it was to even get the UN impose restrictions on NK buying luxury goods.
That said, one cannot but admire the tenacity with which John Bolton tried to stomp to life the dead hippopotamus which the UN had become under Kofi Annan's reign, especially so during his last months in office. Sadly, it is not his countless working hours and frantic coalition building trying to contain two dangerous maniacs, which we remember from last summer. Rather, it is the speech of yet another madman, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who, before the UN General Assembly in September, referred to President Bush with: "Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here." And yet again, after crossing himself: "Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today."
And to top it all off, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, the usually somber president of the General Assembly, adding: "He's quite a character..." And laughing.
The killing in Darfur began in 2003. By summer 2004, there were an estimated 70,000 dead and 1,000,000 refugees (the numbers would rise to 250,000 and 2,000,000 respectively by fall of this year). Countless eyewitnesses confirmed the same scenario over and over and over again: villages bombed by the Sudanese Air Force, the survivors machinegunned by Sudanese gunships, then ethnic cleansing by janjaweed, including murder, rape and the burning alive of their victims... all of this with the support of the Sudanese Army. In Turtle Bay, in that same fateful summer of 2004, now more than two years ago, the UN Security Council voted in favor of a resolution threatening to impose sanctions if the Sudanese government did not stop atrocities in Darfur by the end of August. Elfatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa, Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the resolution for failing to recognize "improvements on the ground" and for pre-judging efforts by Sudan and the African Union to resolve the conflict peacefully, adding "The intention is there, the will is there, it's the pre-judging I'm worried about.". Earlier that year, in May, after Sudan had been elected to the UN Human Rights Commission, that same Erwa, before his appointment a.o. a Major General in the Sudanese Army and a Sudanse mukhabarat bigshot, had commented on the American Abu Ghraib PR snafu "that he was very concerned about human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib."
In a perfect world, it would be Elfatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa leaving the scene, preferably covered with tar and feathers, and with the Mother of All Spiked Boots planted squarely in his fat ass, and not John Bolton.
But, obviously, this is not a perfect world.