- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Skeptics can be forgiven for suspecting President Bush has decided to cash in his U.N. chips and just play around in the international agency for laughs.

He has nominated veteran diplomat John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Among his many credentials for the job, one is unique: He doesn’t believe it exists. “There is no such thing as the United Nations,” he once said.

Perhaps he meant that in the abstract sense because Mr. Bolton is clearly aware the U.N. is there in the physical sense of a building on New York’s East Side. One of his celebrated observations about U.N. headquarters was, “If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” Maybe not, because 28 stories would still be left.

Another celebrated reform he offered was that the governing 15-member Security Council would be much more efficient if its numbers were reduced — to one, the United States.

Mr. Bolton, currently the State Department’s top arms-control official, is notoriously blunt, disdaining the customary diplomatic niceties. (A loose cannon to control loose cannons, get it? Never mind.)

Senate Democrats, who collectively probably spend not more than 10 minutes a month thinking about the United Nations, are officially aghast at Mr. Bolton’s nomination and say he will recklessly and needlessly upset the Europeans and other partners we need in multilateral coalitions. If I were the Democrats, I would not be going to the country saying Mr. Bolton’s a bad guy ‘cause he irritates the Europeans.

I’m looking forward to what he has to say about a U.N. Commission on Human Rights chaired by Libya with Cuba, Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe among its members.

The North Koreans once refused to talk to Mr. Bolton because he called their Dear Leader a “tyrannical dictator” who had made life “a hellish nightmare” for the North Korean people. What? Just because the starving proletariat was reduced to eating grass? Anyway, how can you not like a guy the North Korean called “human scum and a bloodsucker”?

The Bush administration has offered various rationales for rolling a human hand grenade into the General Assembly. (Symbolically, Mr. Bolton, who will be bringing the rare mustache into the upper reaches of the Bush administration, keeps a model of a hand grenade on his desk.)

One is “tough love”: Mr. Bolton will offer the kind of straight, no-nonsense, words-of-one-syllable direction the U.N. needs if it truly wishes to reform. But “tough love” is a term of American psychotherapy that probably doesn’t translate well, if at all.

As Cesar Mayoral, Argentina’s U.N. ambassador, put it, “I think any nomination, any designation, is to send a message. I don’t know what is the message.”

Another rationale is the “Nixon goes to China” sort of thing, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it when she announced Mr. Bolton’s appointment. That’s unfair to Mr. Bolton. When President Richard Nixon went to China to exchange baijiu toasts with the communist leaders of a slave state, it pretty much represented a repudiation of what he seemed to stand for the previous 26 years.

Mr. Bolton has consistently said the United Nations is an ineffectual and at times even dangerous organization, and having a few belts of sorghum brandy with the human-rights reps from North Korea seems unlikely to change that.

If Mr. Bolton has a problem as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, it is likely to be motivation. As a reward for a job well done, his predecessor got sent to Iraq.

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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