Question and answer

In her column on John Bolton today (“Bolton has common sense — that’s why Democrats hate him”), Mona Charen refers to an essay by Bolton on the United Nations: “The Creation, Rise and Fall of the United Nations.” The essay was published as chapter 3 of a Cato book edited by Ted Galen Carpenter, the libertarian foreign policy commentator. Bolton’s chapter is an interesting essay that sheds additional light both on why the Bush administration wants Bolton to represent the United States in the United Nations and why the Democrats would prefer that he not do so.
Also of interest is Senator Biden’s attempt to use the essay in his examination of Bolton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We’re all cognizant of Senator Biden’s way with a question, but there is an artistry here that compels attention:

BIDEN: [L]et me speak about the U.N. if I may for a moment.
As you know, Chairman Lugar and I have been working to improve the federal civilian response to post-conflict reconstruction stabilization crises that we now face and we’ll face in the future. And we strongly support the new Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department, which really the overwhelming credit should go to my colleague from Indiana.
The mission statement of that office outlines, and I quote, “failing and post-conflict states pose one of the greatest national and international security challenges of our day. Struggling states can provide breeding grounds for terrorism, crime, trafficking and human catastrophes and can destabilize an entire region.”
Now, that’s the mission statement of the office.
You have stated on the record, unrelated to that office, before — and as a matter of fact, in your capacity — well, I believe the date was in ’97, you said, quote, “What should be relegated to history’s junk pile at the first opportunity is this chimerical Clinton notion of U.N.,” quote, “peaceful enforcement in nation- building and enlargement. Those unworldly concepts have resulted in American personnel and resources being committed to U.N. operations far removed from vital American interests.”
And that was in “The Creation, Rise and Fall of the United Nations,” a speech I believe you delivered.
How do you define, in that context, America’s vital interests?
BOLTON: Well, I don’t think you have that quote accurately, Senator, but I won’t…
BIDEN: Well, no, that’s very important. I do not want to in any way misrepresent what you say. Let’s get everything really straight.
BOLTON: And I would say…
BIDEN: With all due respect, I don’t want to put you in a spot, say something you didn’t say.
“Creation, Fall and Rise of the United Nations,” John R. Bolton, when was the speech made?
BIDEN: And what’s the name of the book?
Chapter three of a book entitled, “Delusions of Grandeur.” And I want to read it again. It says, “Traditional peacekeeping, together with the often important role of agencies of the U.N. system, play in international delivery of humanitarian assistance can work and should be continued. Although peacekeeping has had only limited use throughout much of the U.N. history, it is an option that we should preserve for appropriate use, such as the U.N. disengagement observer force along the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.
“What should be relegated to history’s junk pile at the first opportunity, however, are chimerical Clinton notions of U.N.” — internal quotes — “‘peace enforcement, nation building and enlargement.’ Those unworldly concepts have resulted in American personnel and resources being committed to U.N. operations far removed from vital American interest. These concepts are based on misreadings of what happened in the world and in the U.N. in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” end of quote.
Now, my question to you is — here’s the cover title of the book, “Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention,” edited by Ted Galen Carpenter, “Why We Shouldn’t Give the U.N. More Power,” Cato, 1997.
BIDEN: Now, my question is to you — and I’m going to run out of time very quickly obviously — and let me be more precise.
The United States strongly endorses the recent U.N. Security Council resolution to send 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Sudan to support north-south peace agreement. Is this an example of an operation far removed from the vital interests of the United States?

Bolton’s answer is admirably clear: “Absolutely not…” If you, unlike Senator Biden, are interested in the rest of Bolton’s answer to the “question,” the transcript of the answer is available here.
Bolton’s essay concludes with an elegantly concise statement that provides a refreshing contrast to Senator Biden’s question:

The UN has arisen, fallen, risen, and fallen again in our esteem,all in just 51 years, and especially in the last 11. The UN was anadmirable concept when conceived; it has served our purposes from time to time; and it is worth keeping alive for future service. But it is not worth the sacrifice of American troops, American freedom ofaction, or American national interests. The real question for the future is whether we will know how to keep our priorities straight.

Bolton’s 1997 conclusion appears prescient in 2005.


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