The man who once said “[t]here is no such thing as the United Nations” is the best man to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. On Monday, President Bush nominated John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, to succeed John Danforth at a time when the United Nations was never in more need of a good dose of reality. “American leadership is critical to the success of the U.N.,” Mr. Bolton said on Monday, “an effective U.N., one that is true to the original intent of its charter’s framers.”
Mr. Bolton has been a vociferous U.N. critic. That’s all to the good. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice notes that through history, “some of our best ambassadors have been those with the strongest voices, ambassadors like Jeane Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.” Indeed, Mr. Bolton has done more for the United Nations’ image in the world than its self-styled defenders in Congress. In 1991, he played the central role at the State Department in the repeal of the 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, “thus removing the greatest stain on the U.N.’s reputation.” Between 1997 and 2000, he volunteered as an assistant to James Baker, the former secretary of state who was then a U.N. envoy to the Western Sahara.
At his Senate confirmation hearings in 2001, Democrats pilloried Mr. Bolton for what they characterized as his “soft stand” on weapons proliferation — one of the most serious issues facing the United Nations. But as undersecretary, Mr. Bolton saw through highly successful non-proliferation efforts, including the Proliferation Security Initiative; negotiating with Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction program; and as chief negotiator of the Treaty of Moscow he helped create the largest nuclear disarmament effort in history. North Korea once called him “human scum and bloodsucker” after he rightly described Kim Jong-Il as “tyrannical” and North Korea “a hellish nightmare.” It’s that sort of honesty that will make Mr. Bolton’s presence at the United Nations refreshing.
The Democrats are stockpiling some of Mr. Bolton’s more colorful remarks about the United Nations in preparation for his confirmation hearings, as if speaking the truth to the weak and waffling disqualifies him for the post. Sen. John Kerry says Mr. Bolton represents “just about the most inexplicable appointment the president could make to represent the United States to the world community.” Mr. Bolton apparently doesn’t pass the senator’s famous “global test.”
This is a debate the administration should welcome. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan no doubt sat up straight on word of the Bolton nomination, maybe even as straight as some of the dictators and kleptocrats in the General Assembly. With a certain understatement, Miss Rice announced the appointment with the assurance that “He will be a strong voice for reform.” We agree.