Bolton Nomination Splits Capitol Hill

By Pomper, Miles A. | Arms Control Today, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Bolton Nomination Splits Capitol Hill

Pomper, Miles A., Arms Control Today

President George W. Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations has divided members of Congress along party lines. But it is unclear if Democrats will have any more luck in derailing Bolton's nomination to the new post than they did four years ago when Bush tapped the conservative favorite as the Department of State's point man on arms control and nonproliferation issues.

Bolton, currently undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, has long been a close political ally of top conservatives, such as former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Sen. Jon KyI (R-Ariz.), and served Bush as a lawyer during the Florida recount of the 2000 presidential elections. But he has drawn fire from the political left and from some Republicans for his vocal and often colorful criticism of the value of international organizations and multilateral treaties in addressing security concerns.

Still, on March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that Bush was nominating Bolton to the high-profile UN post. She championed Bolton, who has served both the current president and his father in senior-level State Department posts, as a "tough-minded diplomat." Four days later, Bush announced his intention to nominate a former Rice aide, Robert Joseph, to succeed Bolton.

"Through history, some of our best ambassadors have been those with the strongest voices, ambassadors like Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan," Rice said. Rice touted Bolton's record as undersecretary of state. In particular, she cited his development of the Proliferation security Initiative, to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related goods to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern; his role in prodding Libya to give up its nuclear and chemical weapons programs and some longer-range missiles; and his part in crafting the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which pledged to cut within a decade the number of strategic nuclear warheads operationally deployed by the United States and Russia to 1,700-2,200 warheads apiece.

Controversial Record

Yet, that record has drawn criticism from foreign diplomats, Democrats, and some Republicans who say that Bolton is an odd pick for the UN post, given his cutting remarks about many forms of multilateral diplomacy and his opposition to many multinational arms control agreements and extended negotiations.

In his current position, Bolton has been blamed by Democrats and some U.S. allies for helping to block efforts to negotiate an end to Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. He is also seen as slowing efforts to secure and dismantle Russia's Cold War arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and related delivery systems and helping to torpedo efforts to establish a verification protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

They worry that handing Bolton a UN platform will obstruct tentative moves by the Bush administration toward a more diplomatic approach. North Korea's failure to abide by its nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments is already before the UN security Council, and key European nations have recently signaled a new willingness to consider referring Iran's case to that body if Tehran moves forward with its efforts to develop a uranium-enrichment program.

"This is a disappointing choice and one that sends all the wrong signals," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "At a time when President Bush has recognized we need to begin repairing our damaged relations with the rest of the world, he nominates someone with a long history of being opposed to working cooperatively with other nations."

In addition, some administration officials have raised questions about Bolton's willingness to challenge his direct superiors.

In Bush's first term, Bolton clashed routinely with secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage over nonproliferation and arms control policy, aides said, often siding with the Department of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney over his putative superiors. …

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