Bolton: Soft on the U.N., Law of the Sea Supporter

Bolton: Soft on the U.N., Law of the Sea Supporter

Despite relentless attacks from establishment media like the NYT (who called him the “worst of some bad nominees”), it looks like John Bolton will be confirmed as U.N. Ambassador. Curiously, very few of the news reports of his testimony yesterday highlighted the ways in which this so-called hardliner has adopted pro-internationalists positions. The FT is the only account I’ve seen that points out that:

But Mr Bolton professed considerably more sympathy for UN affairs than some critics may had feared.

He argued in favour of paying the US’s financial dues and said he supported many international legal instruments, including the Law of the Sea, and believed Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, should stay on.

Mr Bolton even acknowledged, somewhat to the concern of Norm Coleman, the Republican senator who has called for Mr Annan’s resignation, that member states bore as much, if not more, responsibility as the secretariat for failures, as in the oil-for-food programme.

“We must never lose sight of the reality that ultimately it is member governments that must take responsibility for the UN’s actions, whether they be successes or failures,” said Mr Bolton.

This sounds very reasonable to me, and I don’t understand why that would be very unreasonable to any progressive internationalist-types, who should be thrilled that the administration’s so-called hardliner far-right diplomat is stuck with a number of very pro-internationalist positions that he can’t really back away from. The yelling here should not be on the pro-internationalist left, but on the anti-internationalist right.

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Chris Borgen
Chris Borgen


Yes, they’re nice words. They’re exactly the words I’d expect to hear from someone who wants to be confirmed. And, as I usually says in reaction to posts that take someone’s words as the same as their actions: let’s wait and see what happens. Will Bolton still feel warm and fuzzy about the U.N. once he takes office? Will he join the Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and support the Law of the Sea Treaty? Perhaps. But, seriously, a few moderate phrases before a confirmation committee don’t erase the volumes of angry rhetoric that came before. Deeds could do that. So, I say, let’s wait and see.

Yuval Rubinstein
Yuval Rubinstein

I can’t tell whether Professor Ku is being willfully naive or whether he’s trying to be too clever by a half. For the record, Bolton gave this exact same type of dissembling obfuscation during his 2001 confirmation hearing for Undersecretary of State. At the time, Senator Kerry sarcastically referred to Bolton’s “confirmation conversion.” But as became evident soon after he was confirmed (and as Carl Ford pointed out in his testimony today), Bolton reverted back to his reactionary ways almost immediately upon assuming office at the State Department.

Thus, as this new article in the American Prospect points out, Bolton will inevitably renege on all the fatuous garbage he’s been spouting these past few days (which, rather curiously, Professor Ku finds entirely convincing) once he gets to the UN, just as he did after his 2001 hearing.