John Bolton at the U.N.
MADRAS, India — President George W. Bush begins his second term by promising to follow a multilateral approach to international affairs. Then he nominates a strident unilateralist, John Bolton, for the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This is a new standard in Orwellian doublespeak even for an administration that often insists black is white.
As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs during Mr. Bush’s first term, Mr. Bolton spearheaded efforts to wreck weapons-control initiatives such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. If Mr. Bolton does become envoy to the United Nations, he will have a platform from which he can endlessly proclaim his disdain for international institutions. After all, this is the person who once declared “there is no such thing as the United Nations.”
What is even more disturbing is that this particular nomination appears emblematic of a further shift toward unilateralism in U.S. foreign policy. … Given these circumstances, the Bolton nomination can only be described as a gratuitous snub to the rest of the international community.
An Israeli attack on Iran?
OSLO — Iran’s atomic program has long been a thorn in the side, especially for the United States and Israel. The latter, according to Britain’s Sunday Times, has detailed plans for attacking Iranian nuclear facilities as a last resort. …
Such an attack would be hard to carry out without a silent U.S. endorsement and could have catastrophic consequences.
Iran has answered that its nuclear program is for peaceful power production, which is Iran’s right. … But suspicion that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program has been strengthened. …
The EU countries and Russia may be willing to use stronger methods against Iran if negotiations fail. How strong remains to be seen.
The death of Aslan Maskhadov
MOSCOW — The death of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov buried whatever hope for peace had been left after years of violence in this republic. Even with Mr. Maskhadov alive, these hopes were slim, given his limited control over large factions of rebel forces and the Kremlin’s distaste for negotiations.
This career Soviet army officer, however, was the only moderate rebel leader who could have been reasoned with. Mr. Maskhadov not only had voiced his readiness for negotiations, but also had recently demonstrated his ability to enforce a cease-fire. He had condemned terrorism, though the Kremlin had dismissed his condemnations as a propaganda ploy and sought to link him to every major terrorist attack. Having won the only more or less fair election in the history of Chechnya, Mr. Maskhadov had a certain legitimacy and was a symbol for all proponents of an independent, secular Chechen state.
Beijing and Hong Kong
TOKYO — Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s departure from Hong Kong’s top position symbolizes an increasing political intervention in the former British colony by Beijing, which assured the island territory a high degree of autonomy at the time of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
… Mr. Tung’s poor performance as Hong Kong’s political leader disappointed the Chinese leadership. He was slow to end domestic economic turmoil arising from the Asian currency crisis, which struck in the year Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule. Mr. Tung’s delay in making preparations to prevent the spread of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003 cost a number of lives in the territory.
China may want Hong Kong’s new chief executive to stabilize the island’s political situation. Its wish is probably to see the new Hong Kong leader enjoy the support of Hong Kong residents… .
If China fails to see this transpire, it could further undermine the domestic and international trust in its one-nation, two-systems policy. China’s policy toward Hong Kong has reached a crucial stage.