Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton resigns

Great work, Steve Clemons. America thanks you.

This headline from the NY Times made me laugh:

At the U.N., a Mixed View of Bolton’s Tenure

On the one hand, we had:

[Mark Malloch Brown, the deputy secretary general] had angered Mr. Bolton during the summer by accusing the United States of “stealth diplomacy” — turning to the United Nations when Washington needed it while showing public disdain for the institution.

At the time, Mr. Bolton demanded that Secretary General Kofi Annan “personally and publicly” repudiate Mr. Malloch Brown’s remarks, but Mr. Annan stood by them.

Brown is a Brit--installed by one of our closest allies--and he visibly can't stand Bolton. Bolton completely alienated Annan, also selected with US support 8 years ago.
A year ago, at a monthly lunch for Security Council ambassadors, Mr. Annan signaled how deep the divide had become by chastising Mr. Bolton for trying to “intimidate” him.

Here are the good things diplomats had to say about Bolton:
Security Council ambassadors said they respected Mr. Bolton’s professionalism and command of the subject matter, and thought he had represented the Bush administration’s foreign policy goals well.

Keep in mind these are diplomats--congenitally incapable of giving offense directly--most of whom thought the Bush administration's foreign policy goals were batshit crazy. Some compliment!

This is about as close as you'll hear a diplomat come to complaining about a colleague:
On the other hand, they said his manner, often described as abrupt, unyielding and confrontational, had alienated traditional American allies and undercut American influence.

In the end, Bolton failed in his stated goal to engage in meaningful reform of the UN because he was such an abrasive asshole. You can't be an effective diplomat if you don't believe in diplomacy. Sending Bolton to the UN was like sending Strom Thurmond to reform the NAACP or Dick Cheney to reenergize the ACLU. Thankfully in the end the Republican Senators who would have had to sign on to this madness wouldn't do it. Chalk up one more wasted opportunity for Bush's legacy.

Update: Matt Yglesias puts his finger on one reason Bolton's effort at the UN was doomed to fail: he didn't want to reform the UN so much as destroy--or at least eviscerate--it.
Bolton and his biggest fans think the UN is a menace. Not that the UN is a flawed institution that sometimes can't or doesn't accomplish everything one might like. Rather, it's a menace. Not something that should be improved, but something that should be wrecked. Hit, in other words, with a wrecking ball. People who believe that a "strong American presence" in Turtle Bay means strident efforts to destroy the institution.

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