Reform at the United Nations is stuck because Bolton has other problems!
The appointment of America’s new Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton by President George Bush during a congressional recess without consent of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations suggested urgency and particular faith in Bolton.. Sharply critical of a United Nations recently rocked by the worst scandal in its history, it was expected that Bolton would move decisively on reforms. Adopting the verbal swagger of his friends in the Department of Defense, Bolton talked of his pleasure at being in such a “target rich environment”. Being quoted as threatening the withdrawal of the US share (twenty percent) of the financial support of the UN to force reforms, added to Bolton’s aggressive, take- charge image.
The news accounts reported Bolton’s style and his threats, but did not mention what reforms Bolton was favoring. In order to get some enlightenment we called the US Mission to the United Nations in New York and talked to Mr. Ben Chang, a foreign service officer assigned to Ambassador Bolton as spokesman.
Mr. Chang was quick to dispel the impression that the ambassador was pursuing an “aggressive agenda”. Mr. Chang presented a bland Mr. Bolton who was only trying to help enact reforms that had been formulated several years ago, long before Bolton’s taking office. The content of these reforms have been on the United Nations web site for some years. “Mr. Bolton is only one of several ambassadors to the UN who is urging greater haste in the adoption of these reforms”, Mr Chang said. Mr. Bolton has not, he assured us, threatened to withdraw the financial support of the United States. On the contrary, Mr. Bolton has only suggested not ratifying the new budget until the reforms are officially adopted. This in the US Government is known as a “continuing resolution” and is no more than a respite permitting resolution of unfinished business before ratification of a new budget.
Given the bland image presented by Mr.Chang and the necessary, but scarcely ambitious or innovative program of the new US Ambassador, naturally leads to the question of why President Bush considered this appointment important enough to ignore the will of the US Senate.
It is interesting to note in this connection that Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defence and one of the authors of the invasions Iraq and Afghanistan, whom Mr. Bush recently moved over to the World Bank, had adopted a similar bland image while at the Pentagon as Bolton is now being assigned at the UN. In both cases it is necessary therefore to follow their acts rather than their words.
The fact is that the United Nations are now particularly important for the Bush regime’s foreign policy objectives. Together with Israel, having successfully insured that Iraq will not pose a threat, the United States has now turned next to the Syria- Lebanon coalition and to Iran. It is axiomatic that the most serious threat to Israel is the alliance of any two adversaries. As a consequence the US pushed to have Syria end its occupation of Lebanon and called for a pro- Western government in Lebanon. At the same time the US tried to identify Syria as a supporter of the Iraqi insurgency citing the long common border and the ease with which arms and combatants could be moved into the Mesopotamian Valley. With its forces spread thin and its inability either to quell the insurgency in Iraq or to withdraw the US has been unable to repeat unilateral action against Syria. This time the US-strategy with the support of Israel was to go through the United Nations to get approval for sanctions against Syria and with luck perhaps license for UN backed military intervention. This is the work that fell to Ambassador Bolton.
With the backing of the US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, Bolton was able to get Great Britain and France to join in persuading the UN to mount a special inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Harriri of Lebanon. The investigation to this date has pointed to the Assad regime in Syria and the only surprise so far is that the Syrian Government from the outset did not invite all of the investigators to Damascus to treat them with the traditional Arab hospitality. Bolton has also been prodding the UN to unleash nuclear inspection teams on Iran, deeply suspected of using its reactors to develop atomic weapons against Israel.
With officials of the State Department already calling for “regime change” in both countries Bolton has his work cut out for him in the sacred halls of the world body. Great Britain at best will be a reluctant ally at this point and France can be relied upon to follow its own interests and no more. Russia and China have already gone on record as resisting any move to apply sanction to Syria prior to full investigation Harriri’s assassination and it is likely that their position will not change after the investigation. It is likely that both China and Russia, because of their increasing interdependence with Iran, will also resist backing sanctions on Iran as it moves ahead with its nuclear program.
What does all this mean in view of the desperate need for UN reform? Bolton will certainly have his hands full with trying to get the organisation to back US-Israel foreign policy objectives and has shown little interest so far in the substance of the UN reforms. He has pledged his support and he has promised to hold up funding if progress is not made, but there is little evidence that the US- Ambassador will have any deeper interest. There is virtually no interest or oversight in the US Congress either. This comes at a time when the UN is needed more than ever and when the reforms that have been lingering for years now should be enacted to recast both its mission and culture.