'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bolton's Vital Personal Interests 

Fifty-nine former US diplomats have written to the chairman of the foreign relations committee urging the commitee to block the appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. Here's the Guardian:

Chief among the objections was Mr Bolton's stated view that the UN "is valuable only when it directly serves the United States".

In addition, Mr Bolton was criticised for his record as US arms control supremo.

He had an "exceptional record" of undermining potential improvements to US national security through arms control, the diplomats complained.

Among the most senior signatories was Arthur Hartman, former ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and assistant secretary of state for European affairs under President Richard Nixon.

Princeton Lyman, a former ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria, Monteagle Stearns, US representative in Greece and Ivory Coast, and Spurgeon Keeny Jr, Jimmy Carter's deputy director of arms control, also signed the letter.

Mr Bolton requires approval from the foreign relations committee - made up of 10 Republicans and eight Democrats - before being told he can head to the UN's New York headquarters.

The text of the letter doesn't appear to be online anywhere -- if someone finds it please leave a comment.

I'd like to see if the ex-diplomats' letter raises what I think should be the biggest beef against Bolton: he isn't just skeptical of the worth of the UN, he is on record arguing against the very notion of international law.

See for example Bolton's little rant "Kofi Annan's UN Power Grab" in which Bolton rails against Annan for proposing the radical doctrine that actors in the international theatre should behave according to laws of acceptable behavior upon which they have all agreed:

On a visit to the war zone, Annan said at the time: "Unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy." Subsequently, in the secretary general's annual report to the U.N. membership, Annan returned to this theme, arguing that "enforcement actions without Security Council authorization threaten the very core of the international security system...Only the [U.N.] Charter provides a universally legal basis for the use of force. " These are sweeping -- indeed breathtaking -- assertions, made all the bolder by the fact that the U.N. Charter describes the secretary general as merely a "chief administrative officer."

But not only is the Annan doctrine limitless in its purported reach, it greatly inhibits America's ability (and everyone else's, for that matter) to use force to protect and advance its vital national interests. Such a limitation was never seriously advanced, and certainly not accepted, when the Senate considered the U.N. Charter in 1945. Indeed, during the Cold War, Americans would have greeted such statements by a U.N. secretary general with derision. Why did President Clinton allow Annan's assertions to go unrebuked and even support them, albeit implicitly, during his address to the General Assembly?

The Annan doctrine is clearly the result of post-Cold War wishful thinking. The absence of a visible threat, previously supplied by the Soviet Union, has led dreamers in the international strata to believe that force is no longer a serious option for responsible nations, except to swat the occasional dictator and prevent human rights abuses. The somewhat less dreamy do not ask such naive questions, but nonetheless see in the Annan doctrine an opportunity to dramatically limit the military autonomy of nation-states, particularly the United States.

Here's what I never get about people who believe that international law is a bad idea: Why do they believe that national law is a good idea? Aren't the internal laws of, say, the US just the naive fantasy of dreamers who believe that force is no longer a serious option for responsible individuals? Don't laws just greatly inhibit powerful people's ability (and everyone else's, for that matter) to use force to protect and advance their vital personal interests?

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