Sunday, August 28, 2005

Our Man at the UN

John Bolton has begun his new job at the United Nations in just the fashion predicted: with controversy and ill feelings. With just a few weeks until a major UN summit, Mr. Bolton has savaged the 36 page working document for that summit. In the process, he has seriously upset our closest ally, Great Britain.

The Guardian reports on the coming confrontation.

Britain will join an international alliance to confront George Bush and salvage as much as possible of an ambitious plan to reshape the United Nations and tackle world poverty next week .The head-to-head in New York on Monday comes after the revelation that the US administration is proposing wholesale changes to crucial parts of the biggest overhaul of the UN since it was founded more than 50 years ago. was revealed this week that Mr Bush's new ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was seeking 750 changes to the 36-page draft plan to be presented to a special summit in New York on September 14 to 16. Mr Bolton's amendments, if successful, would leave the plan in tatters.

The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that Britain was standing behind the original plan, putting it at odds with Mr Bush.

The concern in British and other international circles is that the American objections, if adopted, would severely undermine the UN summit, the biggest-ever gathering of world leaders.

A source close to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan said it was too early to declare the UN plan dead. "Bolton wants to knock down the plan and start from scratch," the source said. "He will find that his opinions are not shared by most of the rest of the world."

The nature of the changes demanded by Mr. Bolton certainly come as no surprise, given the bent of the current administration. Neither is the response from the rest of the world:

The U.S. draft significantly reduces a section on poverty in favor of bolstered sections on strengthening free-market values and spreading democracy. It deletes mention of institutions and treaties the United States opposes, such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto treaty on global warming. The draft also deletes a proposal that nuclear powers dismantle their arsenals but strengthens passages on fighting terrorism.

U.S. officials say that the 11th-hour introduction of their many amendments was not an act of sabotage but simply a result of a lengthy interagency consultation in Washington. But others criticize the U.S. for being nearly silent during the months of negotiations this year.

In short, said Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, the U.S. revision takes the conflict between U.S. interests and those of developing nations and rival powers straight into the spotlight of the UN stage, yet asks other nations to work together to protect the U.S. agenda. The question is, how much is the United States willing to give?

I think it clear that the administration intends for the upcoming summit to fail. Mr. Bolton is not noted for his negotiating skills, merely his bullying tactics. The US is clearly not "willing to give" one bit. The result in the short term will be the failed summit and none of the needed changes to the United Nations. The result in the long term will be to isolate the US from not only contenders to our superpower status (China), but also from our most faithful allies (Great Britain and Europe).

Once again, this maladministration has squandered an opportunity for improving the world. The political capital the President claimed after the 2004 elections looks to have been completely depleted on the world stage.

Once again: this Administration can't do anything right.


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