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Emanuel: Ambassador Bolton could help save United Nations from itself

Story updated at 12:26 AM on Thursday, August 3, 2006

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its second hearing in as many years on the nomination of John Bolton as permanent representative to the United Nations. Much like last year, the man who is President Bush's choice to be America's voice at the United Nations is facing strong partisan opposition.

Bolton's fate is uncertain. He's serving the one-year, non-renewable term of a recess appointee; thus, he will be out of a job at the end of the year if Senate Republicans cannot garner the votes to prevent a Democrat filibuster.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who objected to Bolton's nomination last year on grounds he was "abrasive" and a "bully," has resumed his opposition. He's now calling Bolton an "ineffective bully," in effect lamenting Bolton hasn't been abrasive enough to single-handedly turn the United Nations into an efficient, equitable and effective operation over the course of his 10-month term, in the face of concerted international opposition.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who torpedoed Bolton's chance of Senate confirmation last year by withdrawing his support, is backing Bolton this time, making it likely the nomination will make it out of committee on a party-line vote. While always careful to note Bolton "is not perfect," Voinovich, unlike Dodd, gives the ambassador credit for making progress at the United Nations.

At the hearing, Bolton's direct answers often revealed more about the lack of knowledge of the carefully prepped questioners than the nominee. Bolton's exchanges with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., over multilateral negotiations with North Korea highlighted the former presidential hopeful's ignorance of international diplomacy, as well as of history.

"Why not try bilateral (negotiations) and get the job done? That's what the Clinton administration did," asserted Kerry. "Very poorly," Bolton immediately rejoined, "since the North Koreans violated the Agreed Framework almost from the time it was signed."

There is little doubt Bolton's U.N. colleagues share the Democrats' distaste for the man sent to, in effect, reform the world body. However, as world events continue to erode the influence wielded by - and the respect afforded to - the United Nations, it's becoming increasingly apparent it's in the best interests of America, and of the United Nations, to have Bolton serving as representative of the international organization's strongest nation.

The U.N.'s record and prestige have taken a beating in recent years. For example, the UN Human Rights Commission's job is to "examine, monitor and publicly report ... on major phenomena of human rights violations worldwide." But the legitimacy of a group with such human rights stalwarts as China, Cuba, the Sudan, and Zimbabwe is laughable at best. The commission has been called a "rogues' gallery of human rights abusers" by Human Rights Watch, which has been friendly to the United Nations in the past.

Peacekeeping operations and sanction enforcement have been a similar disaster. The oil-for-food scandal was a recent example, as was the refugee sex trade conducted by U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda and the organization's inability to act on Darfur. Another blow came last week with Israel's insistence on having a NATO-led coalition in the region in the event of a cease-fire, rather than the traditional acceptance of a U.N. peacekeeping force. Such a force has tried, but failed, to bring peace to Lebanon for the past three decades. Israel's vote of no confidence in the United Nations was met by surprisingly little world resistance, suggesting other nations also think the United Nations' relevance is diminishing.

If the international community considers the U.N. irrelevant, then it effectively has no purpose. Bolton's presence there, speaking on behalf of open, above-board operations and enforcement of otherwise empty resolutions, legitimizes the organization to an extent, as does the readiness and ability of a strong United States, which can act decisively if need be.

Whether Bolton can dig the United Nations out of its deepening hole is uncertain. However, those who believe the United Nations is necessary should stand behind Bolton's confirmation. If he's rejected by the Senate and replaced by someone who will simply maintain the status quo, an increasing number of member nations will turn to other bodies to resolve conflicts, and the United Nations will continue on its path toward irrelevancy and impotence.

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran who served in Iraq, is a senior at the University of Georgia. He serves as public-relations director for the UGA College Republicans, the largest student political organization in the country. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the UGA College Republicans.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 080306

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