The Case for Bolton?

Is there a single good reason to send arch-unilateralist John Bolton to the United Nations? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to present a few when she announced Bolton’s nomination last week. As we show below, not one holds up to scrutiny:

CONDI’S CLAIM: “John played a key diplomatic role in our sensitive negotiations with Libya when that nation made the wise choice to give up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.”FACT: According to Newsweek, talks with Libya “succeeded only after the British managed to sideline the Bush administration’s top arms-control official, John Bolton. … [A]fter a tense session in London, the British complained that Bolton was obstructing talks. Washington agreed to keep Bolton at home. The assurances that Libya sought were quietly given.” FACT: Bolton opposed the very strategy eventually used to encourage Libya to disarm. “In a 2000 law review article he warned that the effort to isolate Libya via prosecution of the terrorists it sponsors and the UN sanctions ‘marks the final collapse of United States policy against Libyan terrorism.’”

CONDI’S CLAIM: “John was the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Moscow, which was signed by Presidents Putin and Bush to reduce nuclear warheads by two-thirds.”FACT: The Moscow Treaty has been harshly condemned by nuclear proliferation experts (in part precisely because it does not reduce nuclear warheads, as Rice claims; it merely requires a change in their operational status). The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists referred to the treaty as the “jettisoning of predictability, verifiability, irreversibility, and mutual accountability as objectives in our nuclear relationship with Russia.” An essay for the prestigious American Acadamy of Arts & Sciences detailing the treaty’s “glaring inadequacies” charges that “If this agreement were seriously expected to carry any burden whatsoever, it would not pass even the most rudimentary scrutiny.” For more on the failings of the Moscow Treaty, read this primer by the Union of Concerned Scientists.CONDI’S CLAIM: “Through history, some of our best ambassadors have been those with the strongest voices, ambassadors like Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”FACT: “[C]omparing Bolton to Moynihan ignores fundamental differences in their views of international law and misrepresents Moynihan’s position on the U.N.”FACT: “[John Bolton] may do diplomatic jobs for the U.S. government, but John is not a diplomat.” — Jeanne Kirkpatrick, 2003CONDI’S CLAIM: “John helped build a coalition of more than 60 countries to help combat the spread of WMD through the President’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).”FACT: According to the Arms Control Association, “The initiative does not empower countries to do anything that they previously could not do. Most importantly, PSI does not grant governments any new legal authority to conduct interdictions in international waters or airspace.”FACT: Critics say the initiative has yielded no major successes. Though some point to Libya as evidence of a PSI breakthrough, a “closer examination of the record shows PSI played no role in Libya’s decision to disarm.”FACT: The legitimacy of the PSI has been undermined by the administration’s refusal to press the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This treaty — negotiated more than 20 years ago — has been ratified by 145 nations, including the other members of the Proliferation Security Initiative (who insist that it provides the only legitimate international framework for the initiative). Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has repeatedly criticized the administration for failing to push senators to ratify the treaty.