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A bull in a talking shop

Colby Cosh caught a snippet of Condoleeza Rice defending Bush's nominee ambassador to the UN John Bolton on a news show the other day:

T.R. ...the appointment of Mr. Bolton has raised a lot of eyebrows in Europe and around the United States. Comments like these, an interview he gave with National Public Radio. Bolton: "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world." Question: "And that one member would be, John Bolton?" Bolton: "The United States."

And then this interview comment from Mr. Bolton... "There is no such thing as the United Nations. The secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

Why are we sending him to the United Nations?

C.R. Because John is a very good diplomat.

The UN is worth saving, but for that to happen it needs to be splashed in the face with the ice water of reality. Right now, its sole purpose seems to be to lend legitimacy to tyrannical regimes and try to expand its influence. It doesn't look at problems and try to bring together the resources to solve them, it only looks at how it can expand its power base and defend itself from threats. A perfect example is the current struggle in the Security Council on the dispatching of peacekeepers to Darfur. A genocide is going on, but some diplomats in the organization see only an opportunity to push the US into joining the International Criminal Court:
In January, a UN inquiry recommended that 51 suspected Sudanese war criminals be referred immediately to the International Criminal Court. European countries seized on the recommendation to try to get the United States to accept the role of the court. They have rebuffed U.S. efforts to send peacekeeping troops without an agreement on how to prosecute the criminals.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the European attempts to force the United States to accept the international court as blackmail.

"The Europeans are holding the peacekeeping resolution hostage," said one Washington-based U.S. official involved in the impasse. "They are turning the debate to make us look bad, but they are the ones preventing the peacekeepers from going in."

These games go on all the time, mostly underneath the radar. Someone senior that would relentlessly combat these cynical power games could help move the UN back to its initial purpose. John Bolton looks like he might be that man. Here's Mark Steyn:
That's what was so stunning about Bolton. In a roomful of Euro-grandees, he was perfectly relaxed, a genial fellow with a rather Mitteleuropean moustache, but he thwacked every ball they served back down their gullets with amazing precision. He was the absolute antithesis of Schmoozer Bill and Pandering Eason: he seemed to relish their hostility. At one event, a startled British cabinet minister said to me afterwards, 'He doesn't mean all that, does he?'

But he does. And that's why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be 'diplomatic'. Why is that? Well, as the late Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson used to say, diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as a means to an end. Not any more. None of John Bolton's detractors is worried that his bluntness will jeopardise the administration's policy goals. Quite the contrary. They're concerned that the administration has policy goals that it isn't yet willing to subordinate its national interest to the polite transnational pieties. In that sense, our understanding of 'diplomacy' has become corrupted: it's no longer the language through which nation states treat with one another so much as the code-speak consensus of a global elite.

For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn't matter whether there is any global warming or, if there is, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it: all that matters is that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the ICC, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud programme, and anything else involving the UN. It was at the heart of Clare Short's freaky objection to the Aussie American post-tsunami relief effort. 'I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to co-ordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN,' she told the BBC. 'Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority.'

There 's a large number of people that feel the UN is the genesis of a future global government. They'll deny it if questioned on it, but their actions and beliefs speak otherwise. More power and influence for the UN seems to be an key condition in dealing with any international crisis. Given the UN's track record in the past 20 years, I can't think of a worse thing for the world than letting that happen. Hopefully the appointment of John Bolton will start to roll back back this idea.


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