Bolton and the UN

The United Nations needs help – badly. It needs some tough love and serious reform. John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee to the post of United States Ambassador to the United Nations, is just the man to deliver that message.

The United Nations has been plagued with troubles. There is the Oil for Food scandal where it is alleged that upward of $20 billon was siphoned off the program set up to aid the people of Iraq during Saddam’s brutal rule. The money was used to bribe U.N. officials, people in high posts of foreign governments, including that of France, and even Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo. There is the legacy of inaction during the genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing genocide in Darfur. And, without American action in Bosnia and Kosovo, it is likely that the United Nations would have done nothing but deliberated and issued condemnations while genocides occurred there.

John Bolton has been blunt and harsh in his criticism of the United Nations. He has said that, “If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a difference” and that, “The U.N. should be used when and where we choose to use it to advance American national interests, not to validate academic theories and abstract models. But the U.N. is only a tool, not a theology. It is one of several options we have, and it is certainly not invariably the most important one.”

In addressing the many faults of the United Nations, Bolton will seek not to destroy the organization, but to strengthen it. America has for some time sought to reform the Security Council, which reflects the balance of power circa 1945. Germany, India, Japan, and Brazil all deserve permanent membership. The United Nations should also end the obscene practice of having such countries as Libya chair the human rights commission. At the secretariat level, Kofi Annan should hire staffers based on merit, not nationality. There are undoubtedly other initiatives that Bolton will likely seek, but the end goal of reforming the United Nations should be that if the secretary building lost 10 stories, it would make a difference.

Appointing Bolton is a reflection of Bush’s belief that the United Nations is ineffective and needs change. Although he has been confirmed for high government positions four times before and served in those posts with distinction during three administrations untainted by scandal, he faces serious resistance from Senate democrats and liberal Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

The Senate should confirm Bolton quickly so he can get to work on the daunting task of reforming the United Nations. No more Mr. Nice Guy.