Bush's Choice of Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to United Nations is in trouble -- Big Time

President Bush named Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the US Senate is having nightmares about approving this alleged hot-head to this important post.

Bolton's government experience stretches through three Republican administrations, and his tough language and willingness to eschew diplomatic niceties have earned him both fans and critics overseas and in the bureaucracy. In Bush's first term, he proved to be highly effective at advancing his strong conservative views within the administration, even when he was at odds with then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and much of the State Department. The post requires Senate confirmation, and Democrats immediately signaled they would wage a spirited confirmation battle. Forty-three Democrats voted against his nomination as undersecretary for arms control four years ago; even some Republicans privately expressed dismay at Bolton's elevation yesterday.

Some U.N. diplomats said they were surprised. European officials said they were puzzled at how the appointment meshed with the administration's recent efforts at consultative diplomacy.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced the nomination, alluded to Bolton's reputation when she noted that "some of our best ambassadors" to the United Nations have been those with "the strongest voices," such as Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Bolton would replace John C. Danforth, who resigned after barely six months as ambassador. An aide to Rice, calling the appointment a "Nixon goes to China" move, said the secretary recommended Bolton to Bush several weeks ago. Rice told reporters Bolton was selected "because he knows how to get things done."

Bolton acknowledged yesterday that he has written critically of the United Nations, saying one highlight of his career was his role in the successful 1991 repeal of the General Assembly 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism, "thus removing the greatest stain on the U.N.'s reputation."

He said he has consistently stressed in his writings that "American leadership is critical to the success of the U.N., an effective U.N., one that is true to the original intent of its charter's framers."

Bolton, 56, served in the administration of George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, as assistant secretary of state for international organizations, and in the Reagan administration as an assistant attorney general. He keeps a mock grenade in his office, labeled "To John Bolton -- World's Greatest Reaganite."

Throughout the current administration's first term, Bolton was often at odds with the United Nations and related institutions.

He spearheaded U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court, declaring that the day he signed the letter withdrawing the U.S. signature on the treaty was "the happiest moment of my government service." He was the force behind Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition designed to halt trade in nuclear materials that bypassed the United Nations. And he pressed the administration's unsuccessful campaign to deny a third term to Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On the eve of six-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear ambitions two years ago, Bolton traveled to Seoul and denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in highly personal terms. He labeled Kim a "tyrannical dictator" who had made North Korea "a hellish nightmare" -- which prompted the North Korean government to call him "human scum and bloodsucker."

Bolton also frequently riled European allies with his uncompromising stands -- and his disdain for their fledging efforts to secure an agreement with Iran to end its nuclear programs.

Bolton often had tense relations with his nominal boss, Powell, though he was viewed by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as a loyal supporter of the president. Bolton played a key behind-the-scenes role in the 2000 Florida recount battle that secured Bush's victory. When Rice bypassed Bolton for deputy secretary of state -- picking instead the pragmatic trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick -- and signaled that a key aide from the National Security Council would take Bolton's arms-control portfolio, it appeared uncertain whether a sufficiently prominent spot could be found for him in the second term.

The United Nations
The United Nations was created after World War II to provide an international forum that would develop positive relationships between countries, promote peace and security around the world, and establish international cooperation in solving international economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems. See the Preamble of the United Nations Charter, which outlines the goals of the United Nations.

The major organizations of the U.N. are the Secretariat, the Security Council, and the General Assembly.

The Secretariat is the administrative center of UN operations, and is headed by the Secretary-General, who is the director of the United Nations.

The Security Council is responsible for establishing and maintaining international peace. Its main purpose is to prevent war by settling disputes between nations. The Security Council has 15 members. There are five permanent members: the United States, the Russian Federation, Britain, France, and China; and 10 temporary members who serve two-year terms.

The General Assembly is the world's forum for discussing matters affecting world peace and security, and for making recommendations concerning them. It has no power of its own to enforce decisions. It is composed of the 51 original member nations and those admitted since, a total of 191.

Preamble of the United Nations Charter
The Charter of the United Nations was adopted at the San Francisco Conference of 1945.

We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends.

To practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and

To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

To insure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

To employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

The Secretariat and the Secretary General
All UN administrative functions are handled by the Secretariat, with the secretary general at its head. The secretary general transcends a merely administrative role by his authority to bring situations to the attention of various UN organs, by his position as an impartial party in effecting conciliation, and especially by his power to "perform such . . . functions as are entrusted to him" by other UN organs.

Also strengthening the office of secretary general is the large Secretariat staff, which is recruited on a wide geographic basis and is required to work exclusively in the interests of the organization.

The General Assembly
The only UN body provided by the Charter in which all member states are represented is the General Assembly. The General Assembly was designed to be a deliberative body dealing chiefly with general questions of a political, social, or economic character. The assembly passes on the budget and sets the assessments of the member countries. It may conduct studies and make recommendations, but may not advise on matters under Security Council consideration, unless by Security Council request.

How the United Nations Headquarters came to New York City
The UN Secretariat Building looming over the controversial piece of asphalt known as Robert Moses

In 1945, after many meetings and lengthy debates, the United Nations decided to locate in the United States. A number of UN delegates looked longingly at the posh suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut. But future U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current president, and other town luminaries feared the UN would destroy that community's character.

"The anti-UN folks raised a lot of money, and they began spreading rumors that camels would walk down the streets," Bernie Udain, then a reporter for a local paper, later recalled. One opponent allegedly hired two men to pretend to be Syrians by wearing fezzes and walking through the town speaking pig Latin, which apparently sounded like Arabic to outraged town denizens. On the other hand, New York City Mayor William O'Dwyer wanted the UN. He recalled later that he thought getting the world body "was the one great thing that would make [us] the center of the world."

A series of Byzantine maneuvering and arcane real estate transactions eventually brought the UN to its nine-acre site on the East River between 42nd and 49th streets - an area that featured slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

When the UN moved into the marble and glass headquarters in 1952, most New Yorkers welcomed it. "New York was wonderful," Oscar Schacter, a former UN legal adviser, told the New York Times on the organization's 40th birthday in 1985. "We were invited to people's houses and given free tickets.


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(Archive - Week of June 11, 2005)

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