Saturday, November 11, 2006

No (again) on John Bolton.

Just a day after announcing the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush once again raised questions about whether he 'gets it' by insisting that he will push forward with confirmation hearings prior to the new Senate taking over for U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

Bolton, who was appointed last year in a one year 'recess appointment' after the President was unable to get the Senate to agree on him then, won't be confirmed. And Democrats won't even have to filibuster this nomination because Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee, who lost Tuesday and is on his way out, has said that he won't support Bolton's nomination in committee, so that it won't even be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

The reason why not only Democrats, but some thinking Republicans don't support Bolton is the same reason why they didn't support Rumsfeld. It is because Rumsfeld and Bolton have both come to personify the attitude that the Bush administration has taken towards the rest of the world, a 'do it our way or no way' attitude. Quite bluntly put, most of the world perceives the U.S. as an arrogant and immature bully, at least when it comes to foreign policy.

And Bolton as U.N. ambassador, a man who has publically questioned even the existence of the U.N. only reinforces this perception. Toss in the fact that Bolton claimed a few years ago that Fidel Castro was working on biological weapons when there has been exactly zero evidence that this is true. This is not just a small matter for the rest of the world-- it is rightly or wrongly perceived internationally as yet another example of the U.S. administration trying to scare people with bogus claims of weapons of mass destruction. After Iraq, we have no credibility at all on the issue, which is why we are not finding anyone interested in taking more than symbolic action against Iran.

In 1986, a bomb exploded at a West Berlin discotheque frequented by American soldiers. Ronald Reagan claimed that it was an act of terror sponsored by Libya and bombed Tripoli in response. It later turned out that Syrian, not Libyan agents had been behind the bombing. The reason why the U.S. was able to survive this particular botched intelligence call was because at the time, despite some of the excesses of the Reagan administration, we were still working with, not dictating to, other countries, especially those who we considered our allies. Overall the U.S., while not popular in some parts of the world, was nevertheless respected and listened to. That was still the case when President Bush's father put together the Gulf War coalition in 1990 and when President Clinton worked with NATO allies to end the civil wars in Bosnia nad Kosovo. But it is not the case today, and the way the Bush administration clearly has treated the rest of the world, opponents, neutrals and allies alike as subordinates to the U.S. has in effect made us a pariah in the world. Rebuilding the reputation and credibility of America will take a long time, probably at least a generation of full international cooperation. And unfortunately we don't have that time before we will need full international cooperation from other countries in the war on terrorism. In such an environment, to continue to send John Bolton to the U.N., an organization he openly despises and questions even the justification for the existence of, would be rubbing salt in an already open wound with the world.

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