Thursday, May 26, 2005

Conflict Over Bolton is Really Conflict of Ideologies

On Thursday evening, the Senate was unable to secure enough votes to stop debate on John Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador. Of course we all know what this means. There’s another filibuster on.

Actually, Democrats claim they aren’t filibustering, they just want the White House to release several secret documents that may or may not demonstrate improprieties by Bolton during his tenure at the State Department. (Charging RINO has been on this story better than anyone and his most recent comments can be read here and here.)

Bolton’s nomination has become quite the political tug-of-war, as both sides try to make an ideological statement via this rather average career diplomat (who, by all accounts, is not very diplomatic). What this comes down to is do we want a confrontational relationship with the U.N. or do we want a conciliatory relationship? All the other talk about improprieties and bullying are side issues that skirt the real ideological conflict this nomination represents.

Indeed, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), has argued that it’s Bolton’s confrontational take on diplomacy, much more so than the man’s personality or past deeds, that make him a bad choice. Which is why unless these secret documents reveal a horribly improper behavior, they won’t matter. The Democrats and Voinovich won’t win this unless they convince enough Republicans that Bolton’s confrontational attitudes are wrong for the U.N.

But the problem is that President Bush chose Bolton explicitly because he shares and would represent Bush’s own confrontational views. To reject Bolton is to, in reality, reject the Bush administration’s strategy of dealing with the UN. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where six Republicans would so clearly reject Bush’s policy preference. Even though many Senators might agree that Bolton is not the perfect candidate, he does represent Bush’s worldview and would be a fair, if overly harsh, representative of current U.S. policy.

In the end, the Bolton nomination is a face-off between those wanting a conciliatory foreign policy and those wanting a confrontational foreign policy. Baring any stunning revelations about Bolton’s past and assuming the Democrats are serious about not filibustering, the Senate will almost certainly confirm Bush’s appointee and, in doing so, his policy. If they don’t, Bush might as well dredge a lake for himself in Crawford, because he’ll be a total lame duck.


At 12:33 AM, Blogger weldon berger said...

I'd argue that the primary reason Bolton is a lousy fit for the UN or any other job that requires dealing with other countries is his penchant for so dearly wanting information reinforcing his biases that he tried to get fired people who wouldn't tailor their analyses to suit him.

Given that our credibility with other countries is a bit tarnished at the moment, it seems just the slightest bit insane to appoint as our representative to the world someone with a rep for at best distorting intelligence and at worst, as per Cuba and banned weapons programs, just making it up.

And now that there's a document circulating in which two very senior officials of our closest ally remark that Bush had already made up his mind in July of 2002 to invade Iraq, well before he went to the UN, and in which one says that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy, the appointment seems to be just purely a stick in the eye.

Americans apparently don't care much about these things, or at least the American press don't, but Bolton isn't going to be the Ambassador to Americans.

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a gross exaggeration to call the anti-Bolton camp "conciliatory". This is not confrontational vs. conciliatory - that is basically a "smart" way of saying, strong vs. wimpy.

What's at stake are a series of incredibly and increasingly volatile int'l situations, and whether the US will be able to navigate these tough waters.

The Bush doctrine is not confrontational, it's revolutionary. It is so fundamentally a break with the past and the mainstream conservative doctrine; we need to acknowledge that before it's too late.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Actually, I did not mean to imply a strong/weak comparrison. I meant conciliatory by its definition: Done or said to appease somebody, to bring about agreement, or to restore trust or goodwill. (and appease should be read to basically mean "compromise" in this case)

I think that's a fair description of the kind of relationship the Democrats would prefer with the U.N.

I personally think we could use a more conciliatory approach in foreign relations. Although I think confrontation is also needed. My biggest problem with Bush's foreign policy is that he and his staff have seemed to over rely on confrontation, even with allies. Which is why both Bush and Rice had to do what was pretty much a goodwill tour through Europe earlier this year.

Even the administration seems to realize they may have been too forceful. And yet Bolton is still the nominee. Odd.


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