As Senator Ponders Stance, Bolton Presses On

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - His nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations may be at stake in the Senate, but John Bolton is not shy about critically evaluating the world body and the work it faces.

In a speech in Nebraska Friday, Bolton spoke about a "crisis in confidence in the institution," at a time of challenges posed by North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, and conflicts in the Middle East and Sudan.

"This is a time where, despite the unprecedented level of activity in the Security Council and in the United Nations more broadly, the system is deeply troubled by governance and management flaws that could compromise our ability - the ability of the international community - to achieve the objectives that we are seeking," Nebraska's Fremont Tribune quoted Bolton as telling an audience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"That's why we think reform of the U.N. is so critical."

Bolton also referred to reports about sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and to concerns about funding of the U.N.

A central dilemma at the U.N., he said, was "the disjunction between voting power and budgeting contributions," the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

(According to assessments based on the 192 member states' relative "capacity to pay," the U.S. contributes more than one-fifth of the U.N.'s operating costs -- more than the amount paid by the other four veto-wielding permanent Security Council members put together.

Meanwhile, attempts by Japan (which pays 17.1 percent) and Germany (8.5 percent) to win permanent council seats have been blocked. China (2 percent) has spearheaded opposition to Japan's bid.)

Scott Paul of Citizens for Global Solutions, a group running a "Stop Bolton" campaign and linked to the World Federalist Association, expressed outrage of Bolton's Nebraska speech.

"He didn't once discuss the importance of the United Nations or its key place in U.S. foreign policy," Scott wrote on a campaign's website.

"He didn't cite a single success story, despite S-G [secretary-general Kofi] Annan's recent [Mideast] diplomatic trip, the cease-fire resolution in the Middle East, recent progress on Darfur, or any of its invaluable ongoing humanitarian, environment, democracy-promotion, or development work."

Bolton's critics accuse him of being acerbic and blunt, of focusing too much attention on the U.N.'s weaknesses and not enough on the need to build consensus at a time of numerous crises around the world.

Democratic opposition in the Senate last year saw President Bush appoint Bolton during a congressional recess, an appointment that in the absence of Senate confirmation will expire at year's end.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was Thursday scheduled to discuss and vote on the matter, but the move was postponed after Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, a liberal frequently critical of Bush, reportedly made it clear he would oppose Bolton.

The Rhode Island senator has written a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice linking his support for Bolton's nomination to Bush administration policy on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute - policy Chafee regards as overly lenient towards Israel.

Bolton is a strong supporter of the Jewish state.

'Defender of U.S. interests'

Chafee faces a tough primary battle Tuesday against conservative rival Stephen Laffey, the mayor of Cranston.

Political analysts say because Rhode Island is regarded as liberal - 60 percent of the state's votes went to Sen. John Kerry in 2004 - Chafee is seen as standing a better chance of holding the seat for the GOP than Laffey would. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is backing Chafee.

Laffey criticized his opponent for the Bolton move, saying "once again, Senator Chafee has demonstrated how indecisive he is on the critical issues."

Laffey called the U.N. envoy "capable and effective," and said even previous critics of Bolton "have admitted that the ambassador has proven himself over the past year as an effective leader and defender of U.S. interests."

While Citizens for Global Solutions and other Bolton opponents have praised the nomination holdup - the "Stop Bolton" campaign thanked Chafee for "taking such a thoughtful and deliberate approach" to the matter - Chafee's stance continues to draw critical reaction from the envoy's supporters.

Investor's Business Daily in an editorial accused Chafee of "placing petty political interests before the country's," while Foundation for the Defense of Democracies president Clifford May was quoted as saying Chafee's stance "raises very serious questions about his judgment."

Earlier, Heritage Foundation scholars Nile Gardiner and Brett Schaefer argued that Bolton had "shaken up an institution that has for decades been resistant to change and cast a revealing light on an elite U.N. establishment that has long thrived amidst a culture of complacency and secrecy."

"The last thing the United States needs is a weakened ambassador on the U.N. Security Council as it embarks on some of the toughest negotiations since the end of the Cold War," they said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he expected the Senate committee may take up the nomination issue again early this week.

"We are very hopeful that John will get an up or down vote in the Senate and we would urge everybody to vote in a positive way on John's nomination."

See Earlier Story:
Senators Consider Whether Bolton Has a Future at UN (Sept. 7, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow