Thursday, 17 February 2011

Our anti-Bolton at the U.N.

In December, I wrote a longish piece about John Bolton, the Republican foreign-policy whiz. (Actually, he whizzes on other issues as well — so to speak.) In that piece, I mentioned that Bolton called Jim Baker “the best secretary of state since Dean Acheson.” One thing about Baker, said Bolton, was that he was the president’s man in the State Department, not the State Department’s man in the White House. That makes a very, very big difference.

Bolton also said this — something that did not make it into my piece (which is here, by the way): Colin Powell, unfortunately, became the State Department’s man, largely. To some, this made him a hero. To others — to people like Bolton and, well, me — it made him something less.

And you know what a lot of us said about Bolton himself, when he went to Turtle Bay: At last we had a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., not a U.N. ambassador to the United States. For years, the job of our ambassador at the U.N. was to represent the world body to Americans. Bolton, bizarrely — where does he get these notions? — represented Americans to the U.N.

All of this came to mind when reading this column by Claudia Rosett, the intrepid, indefatigable, and brilliant journalist who is one of the world’s foremost experts on the U.N. (and because she is an expert, she is a critic: To know the U.N. is to be appalled by it). Under Obama, of course, we again have a U.N. ambassador to the United States. Her name is Susan Rice. She is an anti-Bolton, meaning the Secretariat must love her.

Rosett ended her column, “If, as Rice says, a big part of the job of America’s envoy to the UN is now to market the UN to Americans, then why not just streamline the process? Close down the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York, hand over the budget to the UN itself, and let Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon hire Susan Rice as his special envoy to American taxpayers.”

As much damage as Obama and his team can do, and have done, on the domestic front, they can do more in foreign policy, I’m afraid. This administration can’t end soon enough, for me. Is it January 2017 yet? (Just kidding — the humor of pessimism . . .)

You know one of the reasons Rice is all hot to lobby for the U.N.: We have a new sheriff in town — a new House, and I am thinking in particular of the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Bizarrely, she takes the role of oversight seriously: She is wondering what U.S. millions are accomplishing at the U.N. This has Susan Rice and other U.N. advocates rather nervous. Ros-Lehtinen has this strange notion that the U.S. should not be funding — certainly overfunding — an anti-American and anti-Israel swamp.

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