What gives with the nomination of John Bolton as the US ambassador to the UN? There are many more cost-effective ways to piss off the UN than to hire a full-time diplomat. Just when we were done popping the champagne for his departure from State, here he is coming back to haunt the diplomatic world. And it is hard to figure out why either. Bolton did virtually nothing to deserve this promotion in his time as Assistant Secretary of State for arms control and international security. Bolton derailed the painstakingly achieved verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention with a famous lack of tact and without proposing policy alternatives. So now, instead of a having a moderately useful inspection regime to stop the proliferation of biological weapons, we have nothing at all. At least, Bolton says, we are not complacent with a false sense of security. Great. Despite all of its flaws, the protocol to the BWC would have provided a modicum of confidence and protection against the most ghastly weapons invented by mankind. Under Bolton’s watch, the US also bungled nonproliferation efforts in both Iran and North Korea. By way diplomatic inertia on the part of the US, North Korea is now openly pursuing a nuclear weapons arsenal. Bolton’s harsh rhetoric has only served to further poison relations between the DPRK and the US, without doing a fig in getting North Korea back into the NPT. It may be funny to say "I don't do carrots" but at the end of the day, we now got a nuclear-armed country that considers the US a mortal enemy. The same can be said about Iran, which looks closer than ever to acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Bolton’s shop at State showed a consistent lack of initiative and imagination to address the toughest cases of proliferation. Where Bolton did show a great degree of imagination was by declaring that Libya, Iraq, and Cuba among others had active biological weapons programs. In the last four years, these claims have proven to be patently false, embarrassing State Department, compromising the credibility of the US, and plunging the nation into a costly and unnecessary war in Iraq. More recently claims have been made public that Bolton tried to get a CIA officer fired for not agreeing with his assessment regarding Cuba’s purported biological weapons program. What about Bolton’s Proliferation Security Initiative? Did the PSI not help to unravel the Libyan nuclear program and AQ Khan’s nuclear network? Bolton’s attempt to take credit for this success is laughable. Libya’s disarmament was not the result of the interception of the BBC China vessel. Libya disarmed after long diplomatic negotiations initiated under the Clinton Administration. Only once Libya made the political decision to disarm was the BBC China intercepted. And it was not intercepted due to the PSI. Human intelligence sources from the CIA in Malaysia and apparently cooperation from inside Libya’s secret service itself are what led to the singling of the BBC China for interception. The vessel was intercepted in the Italian port of Taranto. Since the vessel was in the territorial waters of Italy, there was no need for the PSI to justify searching the vessel. Every sovereign nation has the right to search vessels while they are in their ports. Therefore the PSI had nothing to do with success in Libya or Pakistan. Even in theory, the PSI will likely be ineffective. As an unnamed military search officer recently said, it is virtually impossible to find a WMD-related widget in a football field-sized container ship. And that is assuming that you know there is a widget in any given container ship in the first place. As Wade Boese of the Arms Control Association recently pointed out, Bolton’s ideological aversion to any form of international law has also become a liability for the US. Bolton seems more interested in keeping the US free from treaty obligation than from the threats of WMD. Oh, and did I mention his close personal ties with the government of Taiwan? Now that conflict of interest should go over well when Bolton addresses China in the Security Council…
To sum up:
Number of false WMD accusations made by Bolton that have damaged US credibility: 3
Number of countries that are likely to have gone nuclear under Bolton’s watch: 2
Number of conflicts of interest Bolton has with foreign states: 1It’s time to pull the plug on this charade.
To hear a counter point see William Kristol's piece in the Weekly Standard. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/470mdmkj.asp .