The selection of John Bolton by President Bush for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations raises doubts about how seriously this nation takes the world body, given the boisterous criticisms Bolton has leveled in the past. This is the same man who told the World Federalist Association that "there is no such thing as the United Nations," later adding, "If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
More troubling than Bolton's disregard for the United Nations are allegations that he tried to coerce intelligence analysts into providing evaluations that fit into his conservative world view. Carl Ford Jr., a former chief of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, criticized Bolton Tuesday for that inclination. Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton abuses his authority with subordinates, especially those whose analyses he disagrees with. But, as Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee pointed out, analysts criticized by Bolton kept their jobs.
This country has had a number of effective ambassadors to the United Nations, and some, such as Jeanne Kirkpatrick, took a combative approach. But none had a track record of dismissing the whole idea of the United Nations and pouring scorn on it the way Bolton has.
To be fair, Bolton, currently undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, might be effective in challenging some of the more egregious aspects of the United Nations. This is, after all, an organization that has been guilty of waste and corruption, placed states such as Libya, Sudan and Cuba on its Commission on Human Rights and passed blatantly anti-Semitic resolutions.
Bolton would not be our choice, but the president has the right to choose the members of his team. Perhaps more to the point, as Bolton himself has pointed out, he would be implementing administration policy, not creating it. We would have preferred a nominee who wouldn't be the human equivalent of a sharp stick in the eye to the world community. But in the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary, the president has the right to name the people he wants to diplomatic posts. Bolton just clears that low bar.