- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Even if Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton weren’t two of the more farsighted thinkers in the Bush administration, appointing them respectively to the World Bank and the United Nations would be worthwhile just for the pleasure of watching the Europeans, Democrats and media stew over it.

The assumption seems that, with things going his way in Iraq and Lebanon and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, President Bush needs to reach out by stiffing counselors who called it right and appointing more emollient types who got everything wrong.

Each to his own. But, as I see it, the question isn’t why Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Bolton should hold these jobs, but why Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac, John Kerry and assorted others still hold their jobs.

Still, if you’re to play the oldest established permanent floating transnational crap game for laughs, might as well pick an act with plenty of material. What I love about John Bolton, America’s new ambassador to the U.N., is the sheer volume of “damaging” material. Usually, the Democrats and media must rifle through decades of dreary platitudes to come up with one potentially exploitable infelicitous sound bite. But with Mr. Bolton, the damaging quotes hang off the trees and drop straight into your bucket. Five minutes’ casual mooching through the back catalog and your cup runneth over:

The U.N.? “There is no such thing as the United Nations.”

Reform of the Security Council? “If I were redoing the Security Council, I’d have one permanent member… the United States.”

International law? “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law.”

Offering incentives to rogue states? “I don’t do carrots.”

But he does do shtick. I happen to agree with all the above statements, but I can see why the international community might be throw its hands up and shriek, “Quel horreur.”

It’s not just the rest of the world. Most of the American media are equally stunned.

The New York Times wondered what Mr. Bush’s next appointment would be: “Donald Rumsfeld to negotiate a new set of Geneva Conventions? Martha Stewart to run the Securities and Exchange Commission?”

OK, I get the hang of this game. Sending John Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N. is like … putting Sudan and Zimbabwe on the Human Rights Commission. Or letting Saddam’s Iraq chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Or sending a bunch of child-sex fiends to man U.N. operations in the Congo. And the Central African Republic. And Sierra Leone, and Burundi, Liberia, Haiti, Kosovo, and pretty much everywhere else.

All of the above happened without the U.N. fetishists running around shrieking hysterically. Why should America be the only country not to enjoy an uproarious joke at the U.N.’s expense?

That’s why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be “diplomatic.” I mentioned a month or so ago the late Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s bon mot: Diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way.

In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as means to an end. Not anymore. None of John Bolton’s detractors is worried his bluntness will jeopardize the administration’s policy goals. Quite the contrary. They’re concerned 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 civilized world, the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn’t matter if there is any global warming or, if so, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it.

It only matters that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the International Criminal Court, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud program, and anything else involving the United Nations.

That’s what John Bolton had in mind with his observations about international law: “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so — because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.”

Just so. When George Bush the elder went through the U.N. to assemble his Stanley Gibbons coalition for the first Gulf War, it may have been a “diplomatic triumph” but it was also the biggest single contributing factor to the received wisdom in the decade and a half since that only the U.N. has the international legitimacy to sanction war. That in turn amplifies the U.N. claim to sole global legitimacy in a thousand other areas, big and small — the environment, guns, smoking, taxation.

Yet the assumption behind much of the criticism of Mr. Bolton from the likes of John Kerry is that, regardless of his government’s foreign policy, an ambassador to the United Nations must at some level be a U.N. booster.

Twenty years ago, then Secretary of State George Shultz welcomed Reagan administration ambassadorial appointments to his office and invited each to identify his country on the map. The guy who had just landed the embassy in Chad would invariably point to Chad. “No,” Mr. Shultz would say, “this is your country” — and point to the United States.

Nobody would expect a U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union to be a big booster for the Soviets. And, given that in a unipolar world the most plausible challenger to the United States is transnationalism, these days the Shultz test is even more pertinent for the U.N. ambassador: His country is the United States, not the ersatz jurisdiction of Kofi Annan’s embryo world government.

Reporting on the Bolton appointment in the Financial Times, James Harding wrote, “Mr. Bush is eager to re-engage with allies, but is unapologetic about the Iraq war, the policy of pre-emption and the transformational agenda.” “Unapologetic”? For what, exactly, should he apologize? The toppling of Saddam? The Iraq election? The first green shoots of liberty in the desert of Middle Eastern “stability”?

When you unpick the assumptions behind James Harding’s sentence, Mr. Bush’s principal offense is remaining “unapologetic” about doing all this without the blessing of the formal transnational decisionmaking process.

Good for him. In recent years, I can find only one example of a senior U.N. figure having the guts to call a member state a “totalitarian regime.” It was former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali last autumn, talking about America. Mr. Bolton’s sin isn’t that he is “undiplomatic” but that he’s correct.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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