Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Lagniappe: Bolton Heading to the UN - Well, John Bolton is now Bush's guy at the United Nations, thanks to his recess apointment. For liberal Democrats and sensible Republicans who opposed Bolton, the good news is that, by his own admission, Bolton, as a part of the UN, is himself now "irrelevant."


Kira Zalan said...

“The UN Charter is fundamentally a political, not a legal document. On finances it amounts to little more than an ‘agreement to agree.’”
– Op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1997

Jimmy Huck said...

Kira - Thanks for the comment. A couple of questions: Do you think the UN is worthwhile as an idea? If not, what meaning for you does Bolton's appointment have?

Kira said...


Expensive ideas are only worthwhile if they are based on true premises. The premise that countries would or should act against their own interests is false.

Bolton is the big middle finger from the President. :)

Jimmy Huck said...

One might argue that cooperating in a concert of nations to resolve problems bigger than one country can handle alone (i.e. the war on terror) is very much to act in one's own interests. Nevertheless, I would have to say that keeping the U.S. mission in the UN alive and sending Bolton there officially as a paid employee of the U.S. taxpayer is a pretty expensive way to give the middle finger to the UN. You'd think that if Bush pulled the U.S. out of the UN and gave the middle finger to the UN in the old-fashioned way (i.e. a simple hand gesture), that would be a much more efficient and effective way to make the point, don't you think?

Kira said...

The UN has done little, if anything, to "fight" the war on terror. Then again, I wouldnt expect anything more from an organization that puts Sudan on its human rights commission. Or an organization that would allow kidnapped Israeli soldiers to be tortured and killed because they wanted to stay neutral between Israel and Hezbollah (a State and a terrorist organization!!!)

The way terrorism is really being fought is not covered by the media. That is, the effective operations under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), in which countries participate voluntarily, and which have intercpeted numerous arms traffickers. Or the intelligence gathering and sharing mechanisms between countries' law enforcement departments. These are not activities sponsored by the UN, because in reality the UN is little more than a platform for the human rights abusers and terrorist sponsoring countries to loudly blame the West for their predicaments (for which they are in no way responsible... ever)

So, perhaps its an expensive middle finger. But no president wants to be the one to destroy the UN by pulling out... I'm not sure how much Bolton gets paid, but it couldn't be any more than the aid we have been sending for decades to Africa, to fund the Mercedes driving dictators, through the UN. Or the money we spent overflying and policing Iraq during sanctions, while UN officials were undermining our efforts by fattning their pockets.

I guess I think of it as a worthy trade-off for all the things we no longer fund for the UN. But besides the middle-finger effect - Bolton also won't take crap from people. He will remind them who pays the bills. I think that is exactly what we need after decades of wishful non-sense.

Kira said...

I meant "Intercepted"*** I hate bad spellers. :-)

Jimmy Huck said...

"So, perhaps its an expensive middle finger. But no president wants to be the one to destroy the UN by pulling out"

Kira - I'm very much enjoying our conversation. Thanks. But I still don't really understand why you would want the UN to cease to exist, but then praise Bolton's nomination to the US. Whether it's by "pulling out" or by "sending Bolton in", the end result is the destruction of the UN with Bush being held responsible. Isn't that what you hope Bolton's job is? It is much more efficient and cheaper to destroy the UN by pulling out. But maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Maybe I'm hearing you make the claim that the UN is somehow worthwhile as an institution if it can be "cleaned" properly. But, then, you'd be admitting that somehow, someway the UN (or the idea of the UN, at least) is worth the effort, wouldn't you?

BTW, for all its problems, the UN does a lot of good. It eradicates disease, mitigates poverty, and promotes development. I do think the UN is worthwhile and that the US interests are served by participating in the UN. I also agree that the UN badly needs reform. But I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Kira said...

Yes, the UN has been credited with alleviating suffering in third world countries. However, the same UNICEF we collected pennies for in grade school, is plagued with corruption. And it was the US military that provided the necessary infrastructure to deliver aid to Tsunami victims.

Religious-based/private charities do much better work for mitigating poverty. And investment promotes development, not rhetoric. The UN doesn't loan people money to start businesses, nor does it promote free trade agreements...

Still, we are so attached to the institution... like an unhealthy dependent relationship. We can't imagine anything taking its place, and believe that even if it is abusive - its better than nothing.

I would be surprised if anyone could fix such a monster of corrupt, politicized bureacracy.

But if anyone can lay the smackdown - its Bolton. This is because he sees the UN for what it is - not the ideal we wish it was.

I too am enjoying our discussion :)

Jimmy Huck said...

Well, it is becoming clear to me that underneath all your rhetoric against the UN, in principle you support something akin to it ("the ideal we wish it was"). I think you do value the idea of some international concert of nations as a potential good. And I suspect most pro-Bolton supporters do as well, regardless of what anti-UN rhetoric they espouse. Perhaps you think Bolton can turn the UN into the "ideal" you long, but that's a far cry from saying that the idea of a UN is intrinsically worthless or counter-productive to US national interests. I just wish more would have the courage enough to admit that the idea of a concert of nations to serve national as well as global interests is a valuable idea and that Bolton is the person they think will give it its value.

kira said...

I'm sorry if my "rhetoric" led you to that conclusion. I thought I cited specific examples of what is wrong with the UN... therefore making it an argument rather than rhetoric

I do think that nation-states must interact with eachother, and they always have and always will.

But to create an institution that ignores the reality of the world in which these nations interact (for example, in principle giving Botswana the same say as the United States), is wishful thinking. And it is plagued with scandals (see today's WSJ and NYT). If it were a company or a charity it would be shut down long ago, with its senior management arrested. But, its the UN. And we refuse to let go.

Yes, I'll go so far as to say that we don't need the institution. Getting rid of the United Nations will not mean that nation-states will cease to cooperate. Instead, there may be more productive interaction, without the bureacracy of a useless and corrupt institution.

If we are discussing our wishes - then I wish that people would face the facts and stop living in a wishful world.

On the issue of Bolton - Bush won't get rid of the UN, unfortunately. He is trying to build some bridges right now - so be it. But if we must play with them, lets send in the kid who won't get bullied.

Jimmy Huck said...

Where would hope be in this world if we weren't bold enough to be wishful about it? I'd rather be wishful than cynical.

Regarding Bolton, I think there is a big difference between sending in the kid who won't be bullied, versus sending in the bully himself. I think we've done the latter and I'm not sure it will redound to the best interests of our country. We'll see how Bolton behaves in the UN and with the latest things going on in Iran, we'll have an excellent opportunity to observe.

On another point, I've got your blog bookmarked and I'll plan to engage you there regularly since you have done me the courtesy on my blog. Thanks.

Kira said...

Its been a pleasure, please do visit me :-)

But I get the last word: Where would this world be without action? Hope doesn't bring us much more than a panacea. Reality, as painful as it may be, must be confronted.

See you at kirazalan.net