Sunday, May 15, 2005

Why we need Bolton

There's been a short Mark Steyn drought of late, but it's over. He's got a wicked new column out; with his usual wit and humor he evicerates the opponents of John Bolton's nomination to be the U.S.'s ambassador to the U.N. Right in the middle of this piece he makes a point about perceptions:

Thus, Bolton would have no problem getting nominated as U.N. ambassador if he were more like Paul Martin.

Who? Well, he's prime minister of Canada. And in January, after the tsunami hit, he flew into Sri Lanka to pledge millions and millions and millions in aid. Not like that heartless George W. Bush back at the ranch in Texas. Why, Prime Minister Martin walked along the ravaged coast of Kalumnai and was, reported Canada's CTV network, "visibly shaken." President Bush might well have been shaken, but he wasn't visible, and in the international compassion league, that's what counts. So Martin boldly committed Canada to giving $425 million to tsunami relief. "Mr. Paul Martin Has Set A Great Example For The Rest Of The World Leaders!" raved the LankaWeb news service.

You know how much of that $425 million has been spent so far? Fifty thousand dollars -- Canadian. That's about 40 grand in U.S. dollars. The rest isn't tied up in Indonesian bureaucracy, it's back in Ottawa. But, unlike horrible "unilateralist" America, Canada enjoys a reputation as the perfect global citizen, renowned for its commitment to the U.N. and multilateralism. And on the beaches of Sri Lanka, that and a buck'll get you a strawberry daiquiri. Canada's contribution to tsunami relief is objectively useless and rhetorically fraudulent.

I whole-heartedly support sending a clear-thinking, reform-minded representative like John Bolton (especially if he's also a foul-mouthed bully!) to the U.N., which deperately needs a thorough spanking. However, unlike many of Mr. Bolton's supporters, I'm not particularly optimistic about his chances of real success, in the sense of achieving real reform. Call me a pessimist if you like, but I don't see how a single member of the U.N. can force substantive changes in the way the U.N. does business, whatever their alleged leverage and whoever their representative is. The other members have too much of a vested interest in discomfiting the U.S. (at minimum) and in actively opposing the U.S. (at worst). The balance of power in the oddly constructed world of the U.N. is a complex thing, but even at the hub — the Security Council — these anti-U.S. forces hold sway (think China, France, Russia). On the whole, countries act in their own perceived self-interest, and all too often that means anti-U.S. actions, whether overtly counter to our interests or in the form of mere "friction" (making it harder to get what we want done). I expect Mr. Bolton to be nominated, and I expect him to make lots of noise and to provoke a few kerfuffles, and I look forward to the resulting entertaining press and blogospherics. But I am pessimistic about the chances of him provoking substantive change...

No comments:

Post a Comment