“British Prime Minister Tony Blair will seek a U.N. resolution to resolve the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas during talks with President Bush in Washington, his spokesman said Friday.” [More]
Writing in Bloomberg News, Amity Shlaes argues that the opposition to Ambassador Bolton’s re-nomination is born from a conviction that he does not possess the right temperament for the job. “Doesn’t play well with others,” writes Shlaes. “That’s the charge against John Bolton…. Other UN diplomats don’t like him. They complain about him the way preschool teachers complain about an irritating child — too loud, too pushy.”
With respect to Ms. Shlaes, Bolton’s temperament is not the issue here. Among the many reasons to question the wisdom and utility of Bolton’s re-nomination, the fact that he does not possess the social graces typical of other diplomats in Turtle Bay is beside the point. Rather, questions about Bolton’s nomination are grounded in profoundly substantive critiques of his one year tenure as Ambassador. In issue after issue, Ambassador Bolton has undermined many of the interests he purports to serve. And in no subject is this clearer than UN reform. Ambassador Bolton is arguably among the most vocal proponents of reform in Turtle Bay. But as Barbara Crossette pointed out in Foreign Policy, Bolton too often stakes maximalist positions on relatively minor issues, thereby sacrificing larger reform to his own idiosyncrasies. For example, by opposing the mere mention of Millennium Development Goals in the 2005 World Summit outcome document, Bolton sent months of negotiation in a tailspin just weeks before the summit in September. (Bolton only dropped the issue once Secretary Rice smoothed things over in a conference call with Kofi Annan and an irate UK foreign minister Jack Straw.) In the end, the final document was a watered down version of many of the goals the United States-and other proponents of reform-hoped to achieve.
Similarly, Bolton often fails to signal America’s bottom line at critical points of negotiation. During discussions over the structure and mandate of the new Human Rights Council, our best allies at the UN were bending over backwards to accommodate the administration’s concerns. However, Bolton failed to articulate America’s red lines during crucial meetings prior to the vote on the council. As a result, Bolton failed to achieve a proposal that the United States could support.
Bolton’s preference for brinksmanship is also damaging to America’s long term interests at the United Nations. There was a near crisis stemming from a budget stand-off in June, and this became a diplomatic disaster for the United States. For one, this tactic backfired and strengthened the hand of the opponents to reform who successfully stalled much progress on reform in a General Assembly vote in May. Further, it isolated the United States, contributing to the steady erosion of American influence in Turtle Bay.
Bolton has been unable to achieve many of his stated goals on reform. But he has contributed to an atmosphere at the United Nations is becoming increasingly contentious and polarized. It is these substantive critiques, not questions about his temperament, which Senators must consider as they vote on his nomination.
“The United Nations has very limited access to deliver aid to Lebanon, and a halt to fighting is crucial to tackling a dramatic humanitarian problem, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.“Humanitarian action is based on access, and access is always very limited when a conflict is still going on,” Guterres told reporters on a visit to war-scarred Sri Lanka. “For our action, to have an end of the hostilities is of extreme importance.”
“It is still a very limited access,” he added. “This is a very dramatic humanitarian problem if you compare with other situations, especially taking into consideration the speed of this displacement process.”
An estimated 750,000 people have fled their homes in Lebanon in the face of Israeli bombing raids. Guterres said around 200,000 people have left the country.” [Full story]
“More than 250,000 child soldiers are still participating in armed conflicts around the world and tens of thousands of girls are being sexually exploited by combatants, a senior UN official said.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, told the UN Security Council: “Since 2003, over 14 million children have been forcibly displaced … and between 8,000 and 10,000 children are killed or maimed each year by land mines.” [More]
Alertnet: “U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Israel on Tuesday to investigate what he termed the “apparently deliberate targeting” by Israeli defense forces of a U.N. observer post in Lebanon. The Israeli air strike killed four U.N. military observers who were part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, U.N. and Lebanese officials said.”More coverage:
Bloggers on the story:
As I survey the commentary on the current crisis in Israel and Lebanon from traditionally anti-UN media outlets like Front Page Magazine and the New York Sun, it has become clear that UN critics have a decidedly polarized view of the United Nations’ role in armed conflict. According to these critics, anything less than the full support of the military objectives of one party to a conflict is evidence that the United Nations supports the opposing side. So if the Secretary General and his staff do not lend support to the Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon, then they must be Hezbollah sympathizers.But choosing sides during a conflict of this nature is simply not something the United Nations does. Rather, the duty of the General Secretariat in a crisis like this is to reduce the suffering of civilians caught in the conflict. So when Jan Egeland says that both sides have violated international humanitarian law, it does not mean, as the anti-UN hordes would have it, that the UN is a tool of Hezbollah. Rather, as the United Nations top humanitarian official, he is foremost concerned about the well being of civillian non-combatants.
In this case, the Secretary General has concluded that an appeal to end the violence through a cease-fire is the best way to reduce suffering of the civilian population of northern Israel and Lebanon. And to that end, the United Nations is opening lines of dialogue like no other entity can. A three member UN team has met with top officials from both sides, and there is talk of envoys being sent to Iran and Syria–countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. By not taking sides, the United Nations is playing an indispensible role in this crisis.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.