Casting the First Stone

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Casting the First Stone


Byline: Victor Davis Hanson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The marathon confirmation hearings of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations have become pathetic. Mr. Bolton is supposedly discourteous to subordinates. He was a hands-on-his-hips boss. Heaven forbid, he sometimes bellowed.

The "disclosure" of these supposedly hurtful flare-ups has little to do with Mr. Bolton's fitness to navigate in the United Nations, whose General Assembly includes miscreants from Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Otherwise, Mr. Bolton's occasional gruffness would be seen as a real asset in an international jungle where a murderous Syria sat on the Commission on Human Rights while member states perennially castigated democratic Israel as racist.

So the Bush administration wants to unleash a barking watchdog to patrol the United Nations, reeling from its multibillion-dollar oil-for-food scandal, sexual misconduct among its operatives in Africa, and inaction as thousands perished in the Congo and Darfur. It tires of subsidizing an unaccountable organization that institutionalizes graft, excuses criminality and ignores genocide - but somehow regularly blames its chief democratic patron, the United States.

Mr. Bolton's critics apparently feel such global organizations, for all their faults, nevertheless provide a useful brake on George Bush's exuberance abroad. And now they appear confident their own barroom tactics will eventually wear down the patrician complacency of Mr. Bolton's strangely nonchalant supporters.

Those who roast Mr. Bolton prefer an ambassador who would not rock the boat of multilateralism, or, better yet, lack the zeal and skills even to try - and certainly would not employ Mr. Bolton's characterization of North Korea's Kim Jong-il as a "tyrannical dictator." We last heard such provocative talk when Ronald Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" under the curious assumption it was both evil and an empire.

Blocking the Bolton nomination would send a powerful message to a wounded president to scrap his policy of muscular idealism and instead return to the polite pre-September 11, 2001, past, when the status quo abroad went unquestioned.

Yet if partisanship now defines Mr. Bolton's confirmation, it should be a superfluous debate: Confident Republicans have majorities both on the Foreign Relations Committee and in the Senate at large. In response, the opposition's inquisition hopes to cast enough mud to stain the otherwise squeaky clean Mr. Bolton too much for him to win an assured majority vote from senators who wish to seem, rather than be, principled.

There are several contradictions inherent in this smearing. Mr. Bolton is a proven public servant and was previously confirmed for other government positions in two administrations. …

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