There probably are members of Congress who show greater deference to America’s adversaries than does my representative, Chris Van Hollen, but there aren’t many. In his examination of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton during hearings before a House committee (carried on C-SPAN), Van Hollen took the position that we are having trouble getting China and Russia to support tough U.N. action against Iran because the Bush administration cited prior U.N. resolutions when it went to war in Iraq. In espousing this convoluted argument, Van Hollen hit the leftist trifecta, combining “blame America first” syndrome, the left’s apologist tradition with respect to Communist and other thugish regimes, and mindless Bush-bashing.
I wonder what evidence Van Hollen would adduce for the notion that, had we not invaded Iraq, China and Russia would be prepared to back tough action against Iran. Only someone too naive for public office, or a cheap shot artist, would suggest that the positions of China and Russia on important foreign policy issues are grounded in our conduct, not their own perceived self-interest.
But Van Hollen took things to a more craven level when he asked Bolton whether the Bush administration would assure the Russians and the Red Chinese that if they backed a U.N. resolution on Iran we would not later cite the resolution as support for military action against Iran. In effect, a member of Congress almost seemed to be acting as a self-appointed intermediary between one or more hostile foreign power and the United States government.
Bolton responded that the U.S. would not give Russia and China a say in our decisions about how to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Van Hollen claimed that this is not what he wants. But once we start trading assurances for U.N. votes, it’s difficult to see how we don’t end up with that outcome. And given Van Hollen’s deep suspicion of American assertiveness and his corresponding lack of suspicion of the motives of our adversaries, it’s difficult to believe that this is not the outcome Van Hollen favors.